Becoming his mail-order bride is a challenge worth overcoming. How can they save each other with God’s words?
Elise is a young and affectionate woman who has dedicated herself to fending for those in need. She unwillingly leaves the orphanage in which she grew up and she becomes a mail-order bride in the Wild West. Looking after the ranch, something she doesn’t know at all, and caring for a husband, who is always preoccupied with his work, are two obstacles Elise does not know how to overcome. How can she trust in God’s plan when every day is a new challenge?
John is a hardworking and self-made successful ranch owner. Placing an ad for a mail-order wife is the only solution to find a wife who will not stay with him because of his wealth. But, coming all the way from Boston, he managed to build his own ranch business, something that doesn’t sit well with important people in the town. Elise turns out to be the wife he never thought he would deserve. How can he let go of his fear to trust people and open up to God’s will to dedicate himself to her?
John’s reluctance to be part of the community will trigger rumors of illegal activities. However, it is through Elise that John will realize the power of letting go and trusting God to show him the right path. How will they let His light to fill their hearts even when push comes to shove?
Sister Kinney folded her hands in her lap and looked at Elise from under her habit. “The time has come, Elise. I get the sense that you feel it as well,” she said.
“Please, Sister Kinney, you don’t mean that. I don’t feel it. I’m not sure where you came up with this idea that I am supposed to…that this is anything I might want,” Elise said plaintively.
“But you are a young woman with so many prospects. A young woman who has every right to hope for a husband and children. They are great blessings from God. I know that you are not seeking to live the life of a nun like me,” she said.
“Maybe not, but that hardly means I want to go and leave you, that I am hunting for marriage,” Elise protested.
“Maybe you aren’t, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be. This is what’s best for you, Elise. I really do believe that,” Sister Kinney said.
“But…why?” Elise was still stunned by her mentor’s gentle but firm suggestion.
“Because the time has come, and I can feel it in my spirit. When I pray for you, I feel that the Lord is telling me to let you go,” she replied.
Elise took in a deep breath, but she was too shocked to say anything. Whatever Sister Kinney sensed, Elise had not been striving for at all.
“Sister, I…” she trailed off.
“You deserve a husband and a family, Elise. The life of a nun is not for everyone. You were never bound for this life. It was not a vow that brought you here,” Sister Kinney pointed out.
Elise swallowed, not sure if she really wanted to think about it the way Sister Kinney was saying. She didn’t want to leave the convent. She didn’t know what was out there for her beyond the orphanage and felt sure she didn’t want to.
It had been such a long time since she had been outside in the real world. Although she had been allowed to leave, of course, it was always for just a short time. Never before had she made her own way in the world.
“Please, Elise, do not look at me that way. I know that you have a life here, that this is where you feel that you belong. But that is not what we want for you, what I want for you,” Sister Kinney implored.
“But…why?” Elise asked, not having prepared for the conversation.
“You have given so much of yourself for the sake of the other children here. For many years, we have seen your devotion and we have been grateful for it. We love you for your selflessness. But, at last, you must begin to think about yourself. You must consider your own future,” Sister Kinney stated.
“Why now?” Elise asked miserably.
Sister Kinney sighed. “For some time now, I have felt the Lord prompting me to speak to you on this matter. Perhaps it was my own selfishness that wished to keep you here, but alas, I must let you go free,” she said quietly but with resolve.
“Just like that? You would send me away?” Elise sounded forlorn.
“I would send you out into the world to do marvelous things, Elise. I would send you to your future, your destiny,” Sister Kinney said kindly. “You will make a wonderful wife and a wonderful mother.”
Elise stared at Sister Kinney. She could barely comprehend what it was that she was hearing. The silence stretched for a long moment, but it was all she was able to give.
It was difficult to confess, but the truth was that Elise had never really considered these things. She had never considered that she might have a chance to go out and be on her own. She never considered that she might have a chance to marry and have children of her own.
No, her plans had been to stay exactly as she was.
For all her life, Elise had just believed she would go on the same as she always had been.
She simply thought that she would stay at the orphanage, helping the way she always had. She had even thought that she might one day take over the running of it, once Sister Kinney herself was ready to retire.
Learning that Sister Kinney had quite a different plan, Elise was taken aback. Furthermore, the fact that it had been a thought of Sister Kinney’s for quite some time was a shock of its own.
“I understand that you are hesitant, Elise. But I urge you to consider this. I see every chance for you to have a happy life yet. You may come to find that you were made for marriage, that it suits you very well,” Sister Kinney’s voice was gentle.
“But who is going to help you? Do you not need me to remain here?” Elise asked.
Sister Kinney gave her a sweet, understanding smile. Elise felt as though her motive in trying to refute Sister Kinney’s decision was under question, but she was not going to allow the sister to brush it aside. Not when it was about something this momentous.
“Elise, please do not trouble yourself with that. I am going to be perfectly fine and you know it. There is no reason for you to put your own life on hold for me,” Sister Kinney reassured her.
“But how am I to just find a husband and leave? Does it not take time and effort, consideration even, to find someone to marry? I don’t even know any men,” Elise said, crestfallen.
“I have heard it from sisters in other orphanages around the city and beyond that there are opportunities to find a husband quickly and easily. Elise, they have spoken of young ladies who sign up to be brides for men who are searching for just that,” Sister Kinney explained.
Elise was horrified by the idea of running off to be with a man she didn’t even know, leaving all that was familiar behind her.
“Anyway, it is just a thought. I will not force you to do anything, but it could be an option for you to consider. Regardless, I don’t want you to feel forced into anything,” Sister Kinney concluded.
Elise remained quiet for a moment longer, but when she looked up into Sister Kinney’s eyes, she saw tears welling up there.
“Truly, Elise,” she said, her voice breaking. “Truly, you are like a daughter to me. If you choose to remain here, I hope you know that there will always be a place for you in this orphanage. I wouldn’t dream of casting you out.
“It will be very difficult, having you leave us after all this time. But to be truthful, I have spent a good deal of time in prayer with the Lord over this matter. I do believe, in my heart, that this is what He wants for you. I must abide with that, even if it is painful for me,” she continued.
Elise nodded, her mind racing.
“What is most important is that you do the same. You must seek God’s will for yourself, you must find peace in your own heart on this matter. As I said, I will not force you to do anything,” Sister Kinney told her once again.
“Yes, I understand,” Elise murmured.
“Good. In that case, please take the time to consider it and tell me what you feel God is leading you to do,” Sister Kinney urged her.
“I will,” Elise said, hoping with all her heart that the Lord would lead her to stay, to remain in a place where she was comfortable and useful, in a world she understood.
Nevertheless, for two weeks Elise prayed.
On the first day, her prayer was a grumble, merely an attempt at fulfilling her commitment to Sister Kinney. She prayed with honor to the Lord, but no real thought in her heart that she might follow this path that had been presented to her.
The second day, she felt a little bit guilty for not having truly given it any consideration on the first day, so she prayed with a bit more heart.
By the end of the first week, Elise had truly begun to consider that this might be the right path for her to take. It would not be easy, but at least she was fortunate enough to have these options and she could see that it was an option that could lead to a happy, fulfilling life.
Lord, if this is Your plan for me, please guide me in it. I do not know how I can bear to leave these children behind, or Sister Kinney for that matter. I love them all dearly. If it is Your will, if You truly want this for me, give me wisdom. Help me to know that I must do this, help me to come to desire it.
By the end of the two weeks, Elise finally began to find peace in her heart about this life-changing decision that Sister Kinney had asked her to consider.
But what surprised Elise the most was that suddenly, she could hardly contain the genuine excitement growing inside of her. Suddenly, all she could think about was the prospect of a brand new, adventurous life out west.
She thought about the joy of having a husband with whom she could spend her time, enjoying his company and enjoying the wonderful companionship of marriage. She thought about the children that she might have, that she could love as dearly as she loved the children in the orphanage.
When she thought about leaving the children at the orphanage, however, Elise’s excitement diminished. Knowing what she would be leaving behind, all of her joy was tinged with sadness. Accepting this path, this life outside of the orphanage would mean leaving Sister Kinney and the children behind. They were the only family she had ever known. They meant more to her than anything in the world.
Elise would forever be grateful to God for her adopted family at the orphanage, no matter what choice she made. For all those wonderful years, she would rejoice.
But, she realized, it was time to move on. It was time to live the life that she had been given, to take it in hand and to be free to accept the next phase of it.
“Sister Kinney?” Elise said, entering the office of the orphanage one morning two weeks later.
“Elise, my dear, what is it?” Sister Kinney asked.
Elise winced, anxious to tell Sister Kinney her decision. It was a bittersweet choice that they both had to come to terms with.
“I…I have made my decision,” she said.
Sister Kinney gave Elise a sad smile and nodded. It was clear that Elise did not need to say another word. She knew exactly what the decision was.
“I am truly proud of you, Elise. I know this is a difficult decision, but you are making the right choice,” she said.
“I hope so,” Elise replied tentatively.
“Do not be afraid, Elise. Everything will come together soon enough,” Sister Kinney assured her.
With that, they began looking through the adverts in the newspaper, specifically, men searching for a wife they could love, and protect, and spend their lives with.
It was exciting and nerve-racking all at once. Elise wondered what sort of man she might be marrying, how she would know that he was the right one, and whether she would make the right decision.
They first narrowed down the options to the men who spoke of the Lord. That way they would be certain that this was a priority for them. After that, they narrowed down the age ranges of the men, and then studied those who had any kind of common interests, although the advertisements were very short.
Soon enough, however, they were praying for God’s discernment and guidance to make the decision.
Elise was so thankful to have Sister Kinney by her side, helping her to choose. She would have been so nervous to make a choice like this on her own without the wisdom of someone who had been such a guiding force in her life.
“So, it is between these three men then?” Sister Kinney asked after due consideration.
“Yes, it is. I think any of them would be a good choice,” Elise agreed, although there was one advert that stood out to her among them.
“As do I. Let us pray some more, ask the Lord to show us who it is you are meant to be with,” Sister Kinney suggested, her happiness infectious for Elise, who was still feeling cautious about it all.
But in the end, they both felt a definite certainty as to whom Elise ought to be with. After much deliberation and prayer, Elise was filled with nervous excitement as she wrote her first letter to Mr. John Franklin.
A rancher in Flintfield, Colorado, Mr. Franklin was the clear choice. The one who had made her heart pound a little bit faster than the others. Elise was eager to meet him, eager to learn all that she could about this man.
“Have you finished?” Sister Kinney asked.
Elise smiled with excitement and handed her the letter. “I have. May we send it now?” she asked.
“Indeed, Elise. And whatever comes next, the Lord is with you,” Sister Kinney assured her protégée.
Of that, Elise was certain. It was the Lord who had brought her this far and in a short matter of time, she was destined to make her way to Colorado and become the wife of Mr. John Franklin.
John shifted forward in his saddle. His gaze began to drift from his large, grazing herd of cattle to the surrounding hills and back again, searching from one place to another, ensuring that all of his surroundings were within view.
There were no signs of trouble…for now. But John was well-aware that could change in an instant. Whatever peace he felt was always subject to change, always just a moment away from sending him tumbling down into a mess of chaos.
He certainly hoped that he would not see it that day.
Crossing the main creek that supplied water to the valley, he could hardly fool himself enough to deny that it had begun to dwindle. The water, which most commonly flowed along at a steady pace, was lessening—showing a creek-bed of dirt and stone along the edges of the water.
Just the day before, he had arrived at the communal grazing lands. After chatting with Nat Langford, his foreman, they both thought it would be wise to send Nat upstream to investigate if there was anything untoward. After all, this level of dissipation was significant.
It had been pretty hot, but he thought the rain from the previous months would be more than enough to make up for the current dryness. Was the height of summer enough to drain it like this? He was still new enough to this life that he figured he shouldn’t go making assumptions about it.
Maybe it had been hot enough to cause such a disturbance, but no matter what, John was starting to wonder if he was going to have a problem on his hands. After all, his herd needed to be watered. What would he do if the creek dried up?
Turning his gaze back to his flourishing herd, pride welled up inside his chest. The creek was forgotten. For the moment, that was Nat’s responsibility.
John couldn’t deny the deep sense of self-satisfaction he felt, knowing that he had worked so hard to achieve all that he had built.
His life as a cattle rancher was more than simply promising. It was the occupation of his every waking moment. It was the lifeblood that pumped through his veins, even if he had not been born to it.
He had started with no experience, no resources. And now, he had all of this that was spread out before him.
If only his father could see him now, in that moment. It was hard for John to believe how quickly the past five years had gone by.
He had not been home since that day he stunned his family by informing them that he was leaving everything behind and heading out west to become a cattle rancher.
They had not believed him at first, thinking it a foolish notion that had overcome him. (Perhaps he had gone mad.) Perhaps he had forgotten who he really was.
But none of that was true. John knew himself, now more than ever. He knew his own heart, his skills, his longings. He knew success and triumph like he never had before.
Regardless of his previous experiences—or lack of them—he knew that this was where he belonged. He knew that he was always destined for this work.
One day, he hoped, his family would see that.
John took a deep breath and let out a low whistle. “There’s a whole lot of land out there. If only I had enough cattle to fill it,” he said to himself, dreaming about the day when he might have an even larger herd to his name.
One day, he hoped that he would have the largest herd in Flintfield and in all of Colorado. He hoped ranchers for miles and miles would know his name, would know that he was a man to be reckoned with.
He would have to continue working hard. This was no time to get lazy or cocky. After all, he was about to be a family man. John knew he couldn’t risk the chance that he might end up being unable to provide for that family.
With that, his thoughts turned to Elise Jensen and a faint smile curved the corner of his mouth. What little he knew of her had already impressed him and the photo that she had included showed that she was beautiful.
Whereas he had jet-black hair and green eyes with a strong, handsome nose, Elise had delicate features. He couldn’t tell for certain in the black and gray of the photo, but she certainly had dark hair, long and curly. Her eyes looked to be a little bit darker than his, but he wouldn’t know until he saw her.
Even if he had wanted to ask her all manner of questions about herself through their letters, John had restrained himself. Some of those silly little details were better left to find out in person.
And soon he would have the chance to do just that. Because he had made a choice for himself, a choice for the sort of woman he wanted to marry.
There had been a few young women who had responded to his advertisement for a wife, but there had been only one Elise Jensen and John believed that he had made the right decision, even if he did not yet know much about her.
John could hardly help the pride that swelled within him when he considered the fact that he had chosen his own life for himself, for once. Not only that, but very soon he was going to be married to a woman of his own choosing, as well. Not one that his father had picked, or that his mother had managed to convince that he would be a good husband.
No, he had sought out a wife and he had found one, without another soul’s opinion on the matter.
It was a surreal feeling that she would be arriving so soon after they managed to get back to the ranch. John almost felt that he should rush to return, as if that would bring her there sooner. He knew that it didn’t work that way, that no matter when he returned, she would come when the train arrived and not a moment sooner.
Still, his excitement was overwhelming, and John couldn’t help wishing that he had a little bit more control over her arrival.
Hearing a sound up ahead, he snapped back to the present. Nat was approaching off in the distance, riding his horse back toward John.
“What do you think?” he called while Nat was still a little way off.
Nat rode up to him and dismounted in a smooth motion, like a man who had spent his whole life riding horses. “I rode upstream, all the way out of the valley and at least a little further, ten miles or so,” he reported.
“And? What did you learn?” John prompted.
“Honestly, I didn’t see anything suspicious. I’m sure that if there were any beaver dams, any felled trees, I would have seen them. I was right along the creek, but there was nothing,” he said.
“So, what could it be?” John asked.
“Must just be the time of year, John. It’s been a hot few months. I honestly can’t think of anything else that could be causing it,” Nat admitted.
“So, it was like this the whole way? No part of the creek had a better resource than this?” he asked in disappointment.
“Nope. The whole thing was pretty slim. I know it’s going to be tough, but we will make it. The herd will be all right, so long as it doesn’t get worse,” Nat said.
But John wasn’t so certain. With all of his efforts to build his herd, to become successful, was he now going to lose everything because of a drought?
“Are you all right?” Nat asked.
“I’m worried, Nat. I’m worried that we are going to lose our herd to this,” John said, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Don’t fret. Not yet, anyway. There is still plenty of time to see things turn around. And I can’t imagine it’s going to get any worse than this,” Nat said.
“You think? I know I haven’t been at this for very long, but it looks bad to me,” John replied. In truth, he was gravely concerned by it, but he didn’t want to show that he was so worried. It would only make him look weak if he admitted that.
“It does. You have reason to be anxious. But we still have time to stay here and to consider where we might go next if things get worse,” Nat pointed out.
“I suppose you’re right. No use getting worked up this early about it,” John agreed, although he still felt uneasy.
“In that case, what would you like to do for now?” Nat asked.
“Let’s set up camp. I’m eager to observe how our cattle get along here,” John said.
“As you wish, John,” Nat replied, getting to work building a small stone wall to line a fire.
John continued to stare out at the landscape—the rolling hills and the green pastures that surrounded them. It was beautiful. It was always beautiful. He couldn’t believe that there was a place in all the earth that was this exceptionally lovely, nor that he had ended up here.
He was glad to be away from the city, now more than ever.
“You think it’ll be an easy night?” Nat asked.
“Good question. I want a hands-on night watch. Around the clock. Can you let the others know?” John asked.
“Will do,” Nat replied.
“Good. I don’t like the way things have been lately,” John declared.
“Nor do I. Ever since Boone lost his herd, things have been a mighty chaos,” Nat agreed.
John nodded. With all the cattle rustlings that had been happening in the previous months, he didn’t want to take any chances. All the ranchers in the area were tense, anxious. And each one suspected another and then another.
“Right, I’ll go rally the men and we will come up with a night watch schedule. Anything else you want me to take care of?” Nat asked.
“If you can get Thomas to whip up some grub, that would be ideal,” John said, turning his gaze from the field and making his way to start the fire.
“I sure will. You need any help with that?” Nat offered.
“No, thank you. I’m all right,” John said, getting to work straightaway.
He had learned to start a fire within a couple weeks of coming out to Colorado and it was something that still filled him with pride, the moment he saw that first spark.
As he got the fire going, he let his thoughts drift again. No longer did he need to stew over droughts, and rival ranchers, and organizing his ranch hands.
Now he could relax and think more about his soon-to-be bride. Soon enough, he would be able to share this life with her. He would be able to show her the joy and excitement of nature and what life is like outside of where she had been.
He would be able to take care of her, and spend time with her, and give her the peace of knowing that she had a husband who would always do what he could to look after her.
Things were certainly not always going to be easy, he had no doubt about that. Just as it had taken him some time to adjust to life as a rancher, it would take her time to adjust to being a rancher’s wife. But he had been eager to begin this life. Was she? Regardless of how she would do, fitting in to this new life, John wanted to make sure that he eased her transition.
When he asked himself why now, why this was the time to marry and bring a wife into his life, he thought that it likely had something to do with the fact that he was now settled. He had grown comfortable with where he stood in his life as a rancher and how much he had learned.
It was time to bring in a helpmeet, someone who could be his companion, who could help him with things around the house, but also share his heart. John was ready for her. And he hoped that she was ready for him.
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