“Don’t go, Lucy!” She screamed. Yet Lucy couldn’t hear Amanda screaming through the double paned window.
Amanda stood on the window sill looking across the snow-covered path as another of her friends was going home to a new family. She was still dreaming of her old home with mama and daddy and longed for the memories to be real once again.
It was so unfair, the 8-year-old girl thought as she climbed down the window sill of the community room in the orphanage.
Amanda could hear a couple of the workers in the hall as she stood at the door of the community room of Sparta Orphanage in Monroe Wisconsin.
“We’ve been was filled to capacity due to the flu epidemic for so long,” one said. “It’s nice to see an older child being adopted.”
“I wish I could be happy about it,” the other one said. “With the farming community so close-“
She turned her head to see Amanda standing at the door
The headmistress tried to hide her smile as Amanda was shuffling her shoes in the doorway, and made noises with saliva running through her teeth. The headmistress remembered Amanda had told her how the sound made her uncle laugh when he heard it. He was their only living relative yet he couldn’t take them all in as he was only 18. The headmistress had angrily fought for Amanda yet her uncle was still turned down to take the children in because of his age.
The headmistress spotted Amanda scraping her shoes on the concrete and politely asked her to stop. Amanda despite her own sorrowful emotions liked the headmistress. She generally cared about her and her siblings.
“I want to go to the room.”
“I’m sorry Amanda but our sleeping quarters are off limits until after lunch. Why don’t you go back to the playroom with the other children?”
Amanda had shut the others out of the playroom when she saw her friend leave. The room seemed dark to her at the time.
“I don’t want to. I want to be alone!”
Tears streamed down her little face. The headmistress looked at her tear stained face and had compassion for the young child.
“Amanda, why don’t you come and sit with me for a while?” The headmistress asked. “I’m sure there are a coloring books and some crayons in there.” The headmistress took Amanda’s hand and the two of them walked back to her office.
As the headmistress, the worker and Amanda walked down the hall to the head mistress’s office, the two women continued talking “Is there any way we can get more clothing for the children?” The worker asked. “Each child has had only one outfit that they came with and one set of night clothes.
The headmistress and the worker closed the door to the office leaving Amanda inside with the coloring book and crayons. “ For most of the children When the authorities came to pick up the children that were all they can with.” The headmistress stated to the worker, shaking big her head.
As Amanda sat at the headmistress’s desk, she could still hear every word. Her daddy promised he would be back for them. She held on to that promise, even though her older brother had told her that Daddy had died of the flu as well as Mama.
Amanda had been at Sparta for three months. She was still mourning the loss of her family as were her two brothers and sister. She was angrier then they were as her sister and one brother were too young to understand.
It was twenty years later and Amanda was now married and raising two children, a young boy of five and a young girl of three. Her husband Peter worked with his brother on their farm. Amanda woke up every day and felt blessed with her little family.
Amanda had taken her children to the park for the afternoon. The morning chores were done, and the day seemed fine for a picnic they were having a lovely time as she was teaching her children how to sit properly on the blanket eating their sandwiches. Her daughter Susie got up and in her three year way of walking tripped over a rock and tore her new stockings. Amanda scolded her daughter for it, ignoring the scraped knee and grabbed her and plopped her back on the blanket.
Amanda knew immediately she was wrong for doing so.
As much as she tried she couldn’t let go of her anger. And there was a lot of it. She discovered she had taken it out on others over the years.
She was adopted after a year in the orphanage. Her younger siblings were adopted before her and it made her angry that they didn’t choose her as well taking both of them. Her older brother left the orphanage one night, telling Amanda that he was looking for work and would return for her and the others. He never returned before any of his siblings were adopted out to other families. She used to fantasize that he would come back just in the nick of time before she was adopted. Now her fantasies were that he was out looking for her and her siblings.
The family that took her in were nice enough, but they were more concerned with their own lives and tried to give love to Amanda but it was limited at best. Her adopted mother was harsh and demanding, leaving Amanda to walk as if on eggshells most of the eight years she lived with them. She didn’t see too much of the husband as he worked long hours at the mill in town.
Walking to school every morning with her friend Emma and Peter was her highlight. Peter was 6 years older than her and after graduation, he left to go find work to help support his parents. Amanda thought he would leave her too, but six years later when she graduated from school with Emma, Peter was there.
He still says he loved her from that day forward. He knew she wasn’t happy at home, and proposed a few weeks later.
They bought a small farm and she grew vegetables and tended the orchard while Peter worked in the town at the mill during the day and then the farm at night, what he didn’t finish in the morning.
Today was to be a special day but Amanda felt her anger to Susie was unwarranted but the damage was done. She gathered up the blanket, toys and the picnic basket and put Susie in the stroller and had Pj walking beside the stroller. The walk to the farm was not far but she enjoyed the walk as it calmed her thoughts and softened the anger.
Dinner was fried chicken mashed potatoes and green beans from the garden. The bread she let rise while they were at the park was now in the oven.
The kitchen was small and she found she liked small. The rooms at Sparta Children’s home were large to house many children. When she was adopted it wasn’t unusual for Amanda to find more comfort in her closet than in her bed. Unfortunately, her adopted mother never understood and scolded her many times for sleeping on the floor in the closet.
As the evening was starting to get dark, Amanda could see Peter from her kitchen window and waved at him. She heard a scream and turned to see Susie had touched the stove burner and burned herself. Amanda lost her temper for the second time that day with her daughter.
Peter came in while Susie was screaming in her room from the pains of her burn. Without saying a word while Amanda was in the kitchen, wiping the table, her eyes red from crying herself, he walked into Susie’s room and checked out her hand. It was a slight burn and he went into the kitchen to get some butter to soothe it. “You couldn’t do this yourself?” He mumbles as he returned to Susie’s bedroom.
Dinner was quiet between Amanda and Peter. Peter by nature was a quiet man. He worked hard on the farm and at the mill in town giving him a sense of satisfaction. He loved his family with all his heart. but Amanda still puzzled him as much as he loved her. His sister Emma was Amanda’s best friend during high school. Emma had always told her brother there was a sadness that seemed to darken Amanda’s spirit from time to time. Emma knew Peter’s soft heart and knew that the love he had for Amanda was more of cherishing her as she was.
They made small talk throughout the evening before bed. Susie had laid in her father’s arms most of the evening.
The next morning was the same as other mornings. Amanda was up before dawn, gathering the eggs for breakfast and milking the cows. Susie was up and bright and cheery as if the events of the previous day hadn’t happened. Amanda bandaged her hand before breakfast and since it was Susie’s prominent hand, Amanda fed her. Peter Jr. had eaten and was playing outside on the front porch. Peter came out of the bedroom, kissed Amanda and Susie grabbed a piece of toast and started out the door. He grabbed a sweater off the rack by the door and put it on covering his dark green suspenders that held up his jeans.
“Things going better this morning?” He asked as he started towards the door.
“Much better,” Amanda responded.
As Peter looked at her he saw the young girl he fell in love with many years ago. The darkness that Emma had told him was gone and she looked as if the sun rose just for her today.
“Amanda, there’s a women’s quilting bee at the church this morning. You should go. Might be nice to be around other women once in a while.” Peter said as he put on his coat.
“I don’t know. What if the children get into things?”
“Emma is coming over to pick you up in an hour. Be ready.” Peter closed the front door behind him and Amanda watched as he walked out to the truck. Amanda had not heard him be that firm with her in a long time.
She gathered Peter Jr from outside where he was waving goodbye to his father as he drove down the long driveway.
After washing him up and putting him in a chair in the living room, she did the same with Susie. She pulled the long strands of her curly blond hair in a ponytail leaving the shorter strands in the back of her neck falling down gracefully. She sat Susie in the chair next to Peter Jr.
“Now let me get dressed. Aunt Emma will be here soon. And Peter Jr I’m sure she is bringing Harold with her.”
Emma arrived on time and helped Amanda put the children in the back seat. Emma never said anything about how docile the children were nor the small bandage on Susie’s hand.
They arrived at the Lutheran church in Stanley where other ladies were meeting. Amanda knew several of the ladies knew from Sunday services. There was a new lady who had moved to the town that Emma had invited.
As the group each sat around the frame with needles in their hands, sewing careful stitches in the double wedding ring quilt, she found what they were sewing was to be a gift for the newest lady. She was to be married in the next month to the minister of the church.
She talked a lot about grace. As Amanda listened, she kept an eye at her children who were playing quietly under the quilt.
“I lost my family in the flu epidemic in the late teens. I was only 6 years old and I remember being in the children’s home up in Monroe as many others. There was a headmistress that was my saving grace as she took me and several others under her wings even though it was against the rules of the school. The beds were in one large room for the girls and one for the boys. You can image the overflow because of the flu. We were just a number.
I was adopted within a few months and was raised in a farm home as a maid to the owner of a farm. I worked long hours in a house that I never felt home in. I never felt loved by anyone there and so filled with emotions a young girl should never have”. She brushed back a hair that fell in her face.
Amanda did not realize she was staring at the young woman. She didn’t notice that Emma had stopped sewing and had picked up Susie from under the table and was hugging her.
The lady continued. “There was a Mennonite group that came to work on the farm from time to time and on Sunday mornings while everyone was off I would walk into town to the church they had in a tent.
I listened to stories from the bible like Joseph who was sold by his brothers to a caravan and the. Sold to Potifer. I could relate to Joseph and I made a vow I would be the best servant my owner had and that was what I was. I befriended a young girl who worked in our fields with her family when my chores were done. Her mother taught me stories as we worked and I learned how to use my circumstances for His glory. When I was 17 I was put out as the depression was just starting. I asked to stay on for a place to live and I would work to pay for my room and board. I worked in the kitchen for the owners.
One day their cousin from Iowa came to visit. He had just finished seminary there and came for the summer at the request of his parents to help out his family. As you know he is now your pastor.
As a child, I was not aware how advanced in age the owners were and knew at this time their time was short. They both died later that summer.
My fiancé was given the farm and we started dating shortly after. As you know I’m to be married next month.
“I learned a lot during that time. God never left me alone at the time of my family’s death, or when I was placed in an unlovable home. I learned from the mistress of the children’s home that I was lovable.” Tears were forming in her eyes. No one was sewing at this time. “The Mennonite church showed me that God was with me despite my situation that I couldn’t control. God was not the one who sent Joseph into his situation and He didn’t put me in mine. He did, however, shower me with grace as I learned to go deeper into His love for me.”
Amanda pondered on what the guest had said. She wanted so badly to hear more as it very closely mirrored her own experience.
Lunch was sandwiches and soup that the ladies brought to share. Amanda made a note to bring her vegetables from the garden to the next one. She watched as the pastor came and the lady left with him.
They finished sewing the quilt by late afternoon. It was a beautiful lavender and green throughout the quilt which was made of cotton that the women had gathered and pieced together. There was a closeness to these women that as Amanda ride home with Emma longed for. Only Emma knew where she came from and they never talked about it, but Emma knew the story touched Amanda’s heart.
That evening Amanda read the story of Joseph. She saw the betrayal Joseph went through and felt the sting in her own heart when Potifer’s wife lied about him and when the baker never mentioned what Joseph did for him. She looked at the story and saw what the lady had said. God was not in control of Joseph circumstances but He covered him with grace to withstand it.
How many times had she believed that God put her in Sparta home? Or to live with the family that she did. What if it wasn’t God who did that but the circumstances of the events that were never what He had deemed for a person’s life? Could it truly be that simple?
For the first time, Amanda prayed for God to forgive her for her thoughts of Him. She prayed for a new understanding of what His grace was.
It was a tough journey that Amanda was on learning what God’s’ grace was to be. Things from her past came up over the years. She had two more boys in the next few years and the farm grew. At times she leaned on her own fears, sending the children to school when they got the flu, still bouts of anger with the children and sometimes with Peter.
Years later as she laid in her bed in the nursing home, she still remembered about God’s grace. She didn’t blame herself for the things that she did in raising her children as she learned to ask for forgiveness from the Father. As she took her last breath she thought she heard “well done, good and faithful servant”