Sometimes there are wonderful background characters who pop up in a story. For me, that was Rochelle Keim, known to her younger family and friends as Aenti Chelle in the Seasons of Pinecraft series. For books one and two (A Season of Change, and A Path Made Plain), she stepped up to be a good friend, a listening ear, a caring hostess.
But until I started paying more attention to her, all I knew about her past was that something hurt her a great deal had led her to Pinecraft, the Amish-Mennonite village in the city of Sarasota, Florida.
I knew there was a man in her past, someone she thought she would never see again, and until now had not entered her world until his own path in life changed.
I sat down one night, wondering what in the world besides geography kept them apart for so long.
It wasn’t easy to learn. Rochelle, bless her heart, had spent her adult life taking care of other people and downplayed her own heart issues. She was one sweet yet tough nut to crack.
I knew Rochelle had once studied to be a nurse after she’d finished her childhood education, but then quit her studies and moved to Pinecraft.
I learned how she came to Pinecraft and became a successful business owner, employing a number of cleaning staff that had an excellent client list.
And then, one day, at the beginning of her story, A Promise of Grace, Chelle realized she was tired of cleaning up after other people and decided to go back to nursing school.
When Silas Fry reenters her life, it’s during a period of change for her too. There’s almost twenty years of living life that separated them both, not to mention a marriage, children, his missionary pilot work in Mozambique, and her quiet and orderly life in Pinecraft.
In A Promise of Grace, Chelle’s past and present unfold at the same time, along with Silas’ own struggles, past and present.
Have you ever wondered what you’d say to a younger version of yourself? At times I wonder how I’d react if I ever encountered an older version of myself, trying to give me advice.
Silas and Rochelle both remember what it was like to be young and in love. But now life has tempered them both and they are strangers with a past, realizing that what lies before them is the possibility of a love rekindled.
Now, here’s a snippet from A Promise of Grace:
Of all days for the washer to break down, and her with a pile of laundry. Rochelle Keim hauled the laundry basket from her house to the van, and plunked it into the back. Part of her kapp caught on the edge of the van’s hatch and the kapp, including hairpins, nearly slid off her head. Ow.
The village of Pinecraft had its own Laundromat, the only one Rochelle knew of with its own set of clotheslines—bring your own clothespins.
Betsy and Emma, her Amish nieces a couple of times removed, were busy with a morning of wedding planning. How Rochelle wished she could have joined them. But no, she said she’d take care of all the household laundry, including bedsheets, towels, and clothing. Afterward, she had one cleaning client to visit, Emma had her own clients to serve, and Betsy was needed back overseeing business at Pinecraft Pies and Pastry.
Rochelle tried not to sigh. The action wouldn’t change anything. Some days, she was tired of cleaning up after other people, herself included.
She fetched two more baskets of laundry, one of them sopping, from the house, then slammed the van’s hatch closed.
She had already placed a call to Henry Hostetler, one of Pinecraft’s handymen and contractors extraordinaire, about checking the washing machine if he had a spare moment. But the older man was busy finishing replacing a roof, and promised to stop by on the way home just before suppertime.
Rochelle drove through Pinecraft’s sunny streets, giving the occasional three-wheeled adult cycles wide berth. Most people walked or bicycled the village’s streets, nestled on both sides of Sarasota’s busy Bahia Vista Avenue, and flanked on one end by the meandering Phillippi Creek.
Thankfully, she tucked her van into one of the few parking spots. She wouldn’t have to lug her laundry too far. An Old Order Amish woman, Rochelle couldn’t recall her name at the moment, moved her tricycle with its little trailer out of the way. The woman waved and smiled, then mouthed a gut morning.
Rochelle returned the wave and smile. She reminded herself she was blessed to live in such a place as Pinecraft, where Amish and Mennonites of all orders and fellowships converged, most of them during the winter months. A few, like her, called the village home year ’round. Right now, the place was what some might call the proverbial ghost town.
But she couldn’t imagine herself living anywhere else. The only other home she’d known was Ohio, and she’d severed ties with that part of her life a long time ago. Her parents, formerly Amish, left their order when she was but a girl, and joined the Mennonite church.
Even her father didn’t quite understand why she’d uprooted herself and moved to Florida when she was barely twenty.
“God will guide your path; don’t be hasty,” her father had said.
Rochelle smiled at her father’s words as she tugged the first load of laundry from the back of the van. She’d used those same words when providing counsel to her younger Amish nieces. However, haste hadn’t goaded her to leave her family in the Midwest.
With the age of forty growing closer, day by day, month by month, with half a lifetime of years behind her growing up in Ohio, she wondered if she’d have listened to herself when she was her nieces’ ages of twenty and twenty-two.
Lindi Peterson says
Lynnette–I can’t imagine what I would say to a younger me! I was crazy and wild–I think it would be to think about your future–don’t mess things up. And I would probably tell myself to go to college–something I wish I would have done. :)
Lynette Sowell says
I sometimes think of it — but I don’t know if I would listen to myself. :) Thanks for stopping by…
That sounds like a beautiful story, Lynette! And I love the cover.
Lynette Sowell says
I’m not sure I’d say anything to a younger me. Do I have regrets? Sure, but my past is what makes me who I am today. If I changed something then I might not have my family, or it just might be different, and I wouldn’t want that.
A Promise of Grace sounds great, Lynette. Congrats on your new release.
Lynette Sowell says
Thanks, Ginger. :)
Kimberly Rose Johnson says
Good question. I think I might tell my younger self not to stress so much, but really I’m not sure. I am the product of my past, my mistakes taught me lessons that make me who I am, so. . .
JoAnn Durgin says
“Have you ever wondered what you’d say to a younger version of yourself?” Wow, what a GREAT question, Lynette. I like Kimberly’s answer about being the product of my past, and yes, the mistakes that come with it. I guess I’d tell myself to try and relax a little, and that sometimes things take time. Another would be that you can’t change other people but you can change your own attitudes and behaviors. A few times in my life, I’ve had regrets, but overall I wouldn’t change a thing since even my mistakes have brought me to where I am today, and that’s a pretty nice place. I’m blessed. Like you do in your new book, I adore taking a secondary character and “fleshing out” his or her story to bring them into the limelight and allowing them to shine. “A Promise of Grace” sounds fabulous, and I wish you the best with it. Blessings!
Lynette Sowell says
Thanks for stopping by, JoAnn. I’d tell myself a few things but I don’t know if I’d listen to my older self when I was younger. :)
Valerie Comer says
I’d tell myself to relax and embrace the life and love God has given me. Quit stressing. Quit thinking I have to be better to be loved. God is good!
Lynette Sowell says
Yes, I’d definitely tell myself to relax and quit stressing. :)
Lee Tobin McClain says
How cool that there’s an Amish community in Florida! And an older heroine. Can’t wait to read this one!
Merrillee Whren says
I’m with Ginger. I’m who I am because of the choices I’ve made. I think it’s interesting to think back and wonder what would have happened if I’d made a different choice when my life came to those forks in the road.
Autumn Macarthur says
I love reunion romances, and older heroines. I need to write one myself, soon!
Great question, what would we say to our younger self, and some great answers too. :) Like you, I don’t know my younger self would listen. I’ve certainly made some mistakes I regret, and would do differently if I had a do-over. But as KImberly and JoAnn and probably others too said, those mistake made us who we are. If we hadn’t made those wrong choices and messed up, would we be the same people we are?
Maybe the mistakes have helped make us understanding, and compassionate, and less judgmental of others’ mistakes. Maybe the really big mistakes (mine was staying angry and apart from God for way too long over things that didn’t go how I hoped), have even brought us closer to Him.
I’d like to think so anyway, thought that could be wishful thinking!
Diane Adams says
I’ve been sitting here thinking this over for a little while. Given the opportunity of a do over, I think I would do things differently. Would I still be me? Maybe a better me? On the other hand, maybe a worse me! I guess it’s a good thing that I’ll never have the option.
I love what one of my friends calls ‘hen lit’ – books with older heroines. I will definitely add it to my TBR list!
So … would I or wouldn’t I change my past … I really think I would!
Trixi O. says
I don’t think my younger self would have listened to my older self……was way too stubborn and did things my own way no matter what….lol!! Time has tempered that and I’ve learned too, that my past has made me who I am today. I often wonder why I had to go through some things, but I can see God’s hand in everything and the strength He has given me through it all. I don’t think I would want to change a thing now, I have a testimony to tell of how God has sustained me in all of life :-) And God can and has used my past to help minister to others who are going through the same things. :-)