Revisit Old Friends in Blessing in This Heartwarming Series Conclusion
Deborah MacCallister, head nurse at the Blessing hospital, has loved Toby Valders since her school days, but she's had enough of their on-again, off-again relationship. Toby truly cares for Deborah, but he's never felt like he could commit to marriage or a family.
When Anton Genddarm, the new schoolteacher, comes to town, the young women of Blessing see a chance to force Toby's hand with a little strategic matchmaking. But real sparks fly between Deborah and Anton, and she finds herself in an even more complicated situation. The attention she gets from Anton makes Toby do some serious soul-searching, but is it too late?
Then Deborah receives an invitation to study the latest advances in nursing at a hospital in Chicago, and she faces a hard choice. To leave or stay? Should she give up on the dream of Toby and accept the interest of Anton?
About the Author
Lauraine Snelling is the award-winning author of over 70 books, fiction and nonfiction, for adults and young adults. Her books have sold over two million copies. Besides writing books and articles, she teaches at writers' conferences across the country. She and her husband make their home in Tehachapi, California. Learn more at www.laurainesnelling.com.
Read an Excerpt
From This Day Forward
By Lauraine Snelling
Bethany House PublishersCopyright © 2016 Lauraine Snelling
All rights reserved.
When will it be my turn?" Deborah MacCallister paused to sniff a spray of lilac. Heavenly!
Ingeborg Bjorklund looked up from the abundance of lilacs she was arranging in a bucket, her second, to set by the door to the sanctuary of Blessing Lutheran Church. "Ah, Deborah, what makes you say that?"
Deborah reached for another lilac branch to insert into the vases she was filling for the altar. "All the others have married but for me. Some even twice, like Sophie and now Anji. I ... I always dreamed of being married, and look at me, an old maid."
"And you are how old?"
"Only twenty-five and you are the supervising nurse at the hospital. That's a lot of responsibility, and certainly more than your fair share of drama and excitement. So many girls dream of that."
Deborah laughed. "True. And you know I love my job." Oops. Here was a ladybug among the leaves. She certainly did not belong in the church. Deborah seized her with two fingers and gently carried her to the door. Ingeborg was right that she led an exciting and useful life. But Ingeborg did not know how Deborah really felt, deep down inside.
The community considered her a member of the Solberg family, and most of the time, she did too. And yet, not really. Not like their natural children.
Ingeborg was right, but in a way she was wrong too. She talked about drama as if it were always a good thing; it was not, not always. Oh my, no. When Deborah's pa and Manda and Baptiste went to Montana all those many years ago, leaving half the family behind, that was dramatic but not good. How many nights did Deborah lie in bed, wishing her pa would come back to take over the ranch again?
Deborah scissored out a dead twig that was spoiling the bouquet. Drama? Dear Zeb MacCallister stopping by a soddy dug into a hill near the Missouri River, probably hoping for a meal, only to find two young girls with no parents in sight. That was drama. Zeb did his best for the orphans. When he married Katy Bjorklund and they adopted Deborah and her sister, it was almost like having a whole family again.
That was it, right there. Whenever she thought of those years, deep in her heart, that was what she wanted. Love and laughter and good hard work to build that ranch.
But then Katy died and the light went out of the world for Zeb. And then the circus brought disease to town and people died. Why did drama and heartbreak so often go hand in hand?
"There now, how is that?" A smile trembled on Deborah's lips as she pointed to the explosion of purple and white that filled the vase to bursting with spring. With a bouquet on either side of the white-painted traditional Norwegian altar, and more on the side railings, spring and joy danced together.
Ingeborg cocked her head, studying it. "So lovely. I always think spring is my favorite season, and then fall slips in with the painting of the leaves and the cooler weather, and I think fall is my favorite. And of course I love summer too, with the garden and the berries."
"And the white and sparkles of winter, until it drags on too long and sends one more blizzard and we all dream of spring." Deborah gathered up the few remaining stems of lilac.
"We humans are so funny, I often think God must just shake His head and chuckle; but sometimes, especially with the children, I can see Him laughing in love."
Deborah watched Ingeborg. "You really see Him, don't you?"
"In my mind, I guess I do." Ingeborg seemed to smile at an invisible Father. "God has become so real to me through the years."
"Was it always this way?"
"No, I don't think so. I have believed in Him since I was little, but learning to accept His love and guidance, to trust Him with all that I am, has grown through the years. Now I want to walk right beside Him, seeking His face like He tells us. I think of Inga and how when you are walking with her, she is either pulling ahead to see something, or dragging behind to study something else she found. I think we are all like that, and I don't want to do that anymore. I want to walk right beside Him, looking up to see His face and letting Him do the leading."
"Trust is a big word, isn't it?"
"Ja, it is. It is so human to want to go our own way and then say, 'Oh, by the way, God, please bless what I am doing.'" She wagged her head, smiling at the young woman who was watching her so seriously. "Dearest Deborah, you have grown up with a wise man for a substitute father, and he and I have learned to believe this way."
Deborah nodded. "Almost losing Johnny last summer was terribly hard on him. In fact, I wonder if sometimes his faith wavered. There were many nights he didn't sleep while he and Mary Martha kept vigil at the hospital. We all prayed so hard."
"I know you were a big help with the younger children."
"When I wasn't on night duty. That is one problem with being a nurse."
"Patients need round-the-clock care. And being the supervisor, I know, just adds to it. You have to fill in if someone else can't be there."
"I am grateful that doesn't happen often. But with that diphtheria epidemic, I was so afraid more of our people would come down with it. The wisdom of Astrid and Elizabeth and their contacts with the hospital in Chicago are what saved the rest of us, and getting that antitoxin here so quickly." Deborah heaved a sigh. "I learned so much, but then I am always learning something new."
"So true. We all are." Ingeborg stood up straighter. "But back to your situation. I'm not going to call it a problem, just something for God to work out."
"Seems like a problem to me." Deborah picked up some leaves and blossoms that had fallen to the floor. "But today I will be glad for Anji and Mr. Devlin — er, rather, Reverend Devlin." She frowned. "That seems stiff. Does that church call their pastors Reverend or Mister or what?"
"I heard John say that some are called Rector."
"Rector?" Deborah's eyebrows disappeared into the fringe that curved over her forehead. "I heard some ministers are called Father."
"That is the Catholic faith. The Jews are called Rabbi."
"This can get confusing." Deborah looked around the sanctuary. "I think we are all done here. At least the blossoms will stay nice for church tomorrow." She inhaled. "And the whole sanctuary smells heavenly." She looked at the lilacs in her hand. "I'm going to put these as a bouquet on Ma's table."
"Good idea! Mary Martha does love flowers. We'd better hurry." Ingeborg looked around the big room one more time, and then gently closed the doors.
Three hours until the wedding started.
* * *
"Now remember, you children will be sitting right in the front row of the sanctuary, so no fidgeting during the ceremony. Understand?" Anji Moen stared right at Annika, her youngest.
Melissa, her eldest, who had just turned eleven, said, "Don't worry, we'll all be right there too, and Annika will sit by me, right?"
Annika nodded. "I'll be good." She twirled to enjoy her new dress. "How come my dress is pink and Melissa's dress is yellow?"
"Because this is spring and these are spring colors. And yours is really peach."
"I like mine better."
Melissa rolled her eyes, just barely putting up with her five-year-old sister. "Let me tie your bow again. Twirling like that made it get tangled." She grasped Annika's shoulder.
"Ouch! Ma, Lissa is being mean."
At Anji's feet, her younger sister, Rebecca Valders, tugged at Anji's skirt. "There. I sure don't know how that hem got so crooked." Rebecca stood and set the pincushion on the table by the window.
"Ma is like me, she can't stand still either." Annika giggled with her hands over her mouth.
Gilbert, Anji's son, who would turn ten next month, wandered into the bedroom. "Do we have to call Mr. Devlin Pa?"
"That would be proper."
"But we already have a pa, or rather we had one. Do you think he's watching us from heaven? What if he doesn't want you to get married again and us to leave Blessing? He liked being in Blessing better than Norway."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because I heard him say that one day. He and some lady had an argument."
"Gilbert, the things you come up with."
"Where is Joseph?" Rebecca asked. Joseph had been born between Gilbert and Annika.
"Out playing with Benny."
"Out playing where? I told you all to stay in the house so you could keep clean." Anji turned to her sister. "Can you go call him?"
"Them, you mean." Rebecca looked up at the clock. "I'll send Joseph back in and then get dressed. Lissa, can you read to the younger ones, please? You all want to look nice for the wedding, don't you?"
Melissa nodded and took Annika's hand. "Come on, we'll go sit in the parlor. Gilbert, are you coming?"
"I guess. I'll be glad when this is all over," he muttered just loud enough for his mother to hear. He stopped at the door. "When we move away, we won't see Benny anymore. Why can't I stay here with Tante Rebecca?"
Anji started to scold him, but instead sat down in a chair and beckoned him over. "Gilbert, I know you don't want to leave Blessing and all your cousins, but you will make friends in Michigan. Our house will be right near Lake Michigan, and there are lots of trees and hills, more like we had in Norway. You'll be able to go fishing and even hunting, maybe. Thomas said there are boys there just your age, and the people are very friendly."
"But here we have our family." His blue eyes shimmered with tears. "We might as well go back to Norway."
Ah, my son, one day you'll have to, but not now. She smoothed his hair back with both hands. "You look very handsome. Can you keep a secret, if I tell you?"
He glared at her from under his brows. "I guess."
"Thomas said there's a dog living at the house and he needs a boy to love him. And there are two cats."
"Will we have a horse too?"
"Ja, Thomas has a horse that can be ridden or hitched to a buggy. It sounds like a fine place to live. You and Joseph will share a room that looks out to the lake, and the girls' room will look over the garden. And we will have an extra room for company. Maybe one day your cousins can come there to visit."
"How could Benny go on a train?"
"Knowing Benny, he could do anything he sets his mind to." Anji paused to listen. "I think it's time to go to the church. After the service we will have cake and ice cream."
"Can we go fishing after?"
"Probably not today. We have to finish packing so we can catch the train on Monday."
"I packed all my stuff in that box you gave me."
"I know, you have been very helpful." She stood up.
"What about our garden? We got some of the seeds planted and the lettuce and peas are up. The onions too."
"Onkel Toby will have a fine garden. Now, go wash your hands." She looked up to see Joseph stop in the doorway. Oh, please Lord, get me through this day. "Joseph, come with me." The tone of her voice brooked no argument.
By the time she'd scrubbed the dirt off the knees of his pants, tucked his shirt back in, scrubbed a dirty spot off his shirt, and washed his hands and face, he was squirming.
"I told you to stay in the house to stay clean and you did not mind me." She hung up the washcloth, grabbed a comb, wetted his hair, and combed it — again. "Now it's almost time to leave for the church, so go listen to the story Lissa is reading aloud."
"Is Benny going to the church too?"
"Ja, we are all going." She pointed to the stairs. "Go! Sit!"
* * *
"How can a grown Irishman be feeling almost terrified?" Thomas Devlin stared at his friend and officiating pastor.
John Solberg fought to keep a straight face. "I think marriage sounds wonderful in the courting phase — you're in love and all is well. Or at least in your case, it finally became well. Thoughts and dreams are great, but when it comes down to the actual ceremony, your life flashes before your eyes."
Devlin stopped his pacing and asked, "How be ye so wise?"
"I've not only been there myself, you know, but I have performed the weddings for many, and I can't think of a man — or woman — who hasn't had a panicky feeling when that music starts to play Some manage to go through with it stoic as can be, and others nearly pass out." He thought for a moment. "In fact one did."
"Man or woman?"
"The man, actually I think his collar was too tight."
Devlin barked a laugh. "Well, me collar is not too tight, but I do want to get this shindig on the road. I'm sure I'll feel better after we get started."
"Breathe deep and think about something else while I go check on Anji. I'll come back for you, and we'll go wait at the front just like we practiced. You performed weddings in the old country, didn't you?"
"Aye, but being the clergy be far easier than being the groom."
* * *
"The veil feels lopsided." Anji wished there were a mirror in the room.
Rebecca tweaked the veil and reset the hairpin keeping it in place. "Now remember, you cannot talk to Thomas before the ceremony. They say it is bad luck for the groom to see his bride before the wedding." She stepped back to make sure her sister was ready "You look lovely That ice blue makes you look like an angel."
Some angel who nearly scrubbed her young son's face off. Anji kept her thoughts to herself. "Gerald has all the children?"
"No, Clara is taking care of my two little ones. I decided they did not need to be at the wedding, so I asked her to help. Being a bride's matron of honor is about all I can manage at the moment. And I want to enjoy myself too."
Once they were at the church, Anji clamped a hand over her middle. The butterflies now felt more like a swarm of bees inside. Was she doing the best thing for her children? She knew she was doing the best thing for herself. Once she realized that her commitment to take care of Thorliff was finished, she'd been so afraid that Thomas Devlin might have changed his mind. But he hadn't. He said real love was not turned on and off like a faucet, and the thought of facing life without her had made him miserable. But he figured God had other plans for him, for a priest can remain single and still be a good priest.
"Getting on that train and leaving you was the most difficult thing I ever did," he'd said. "Even worse than my discussion with the archbishop that sealed me fate and forced me to leave the auld sod."
Then he had cupped his hands around her face and stared into her eyes, mesmerizing her. And then he kissed her and her world had exploded.
She jerked herself back to the present. She could hear the piano playing. People coming in. "Rebecca, I have a bad case of the jitters." She held out her trembling hand. "What if ..."
A knock at the door spun her around. "Ja?"
"Reverend Solberg here. May I come in?"
"Of course." But when Anji started for the door, Rebecca laid a hand on her arm and shook her head. She opened the door and welcomed John Solberg inside.
"Ah, Anji, you look so lovely When I conducted the wedding for you and Ivar, you were like a shy maiden, and now you are a lovely grown woman with four children. You have been through many hard things and now you are about to start on a new adventure. I want to pray for you, and then we'll meet again at the altar. All right?"
"Ja, I am shaking."
"Brides are nearly always shaking, and usually their grooms are too." He took her hands. "Lord God, today we celebrate the marriage of two of your finest children. You have brought this union about and helped them work out the wrinkles. Bless them, Father, as they join together in holy matrimony, as they become one flesh. Calm Anji and fill her with joy. Remove from her mind the concerns about the children being just so. We love her, her soon-to-be husband and her children. Help them all become a family in their new home, in their new parish. We thank you and praise your name, that this union will bring glory to you. Amen."
He stepped back. "Now I have one very important piece of advice."
"Breathe. Take several deep breaths to calm yourself. Right. Breathe again." He nodded, his smile bringing even more calm. He turned to Rebecca. "Are you ready?"
"Ja, we are all ready."
Anji licked her lips and reached for the glass of water Rebecca had brought her. She took a drink, then another deep breath and blew it out. "I'm ready."
Excerpted from From This Day Forward by Lauraine Snelling. Copyright © 2016 Lauraine Snelling. Excerpted by permission of Bethany House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I didn't like this book. It didn't really tie up loose ends. It seemed odd to me that Manda didn't come back for Deborah's wedding and there was very little resolution to Toby's parents disappearance. It seemed to me a foregone conclusion that Deborah and Toby would get together. All in all it just seemed like she wanted to hurry and finish the series.
Toby Valders has been told that he should propose to Deborah MacAllister but maube it is not should a good idea after all. The is the last book in this great series. Blessing, North Dakota is a wonderful place to live. How is she going to decide what she wants to do with the rest of her life? Maybe Toby has waited to long and he has lost her forever? I give this book a 4/5. I was given this book for a review and these are my opinions.
From This Day Forward is the fourth book in the Song of Blessing series. I have read all the other books in the series and always enjoy returning to Blessing. That being said, if you haven't read any of the series, you might want to start at the beginning. The series follows many of the same characters throughout their lives, and this book continues with the tradition. Blessing is a growing small town that is not with out its problems, but also sounds like an amazing place to live. If something needs to get done they make it happen, and they always help those in need. This story follows several main characters, as they live their daily lives and do the best they can. Deborah has always loved Toby, but it doesn't seem like he will ever return the favor. Talking to her friends, she decides that she needs to make some decisions. Placing her life in Gods hands sounds easy, but Deborah is finding it harder and harder to wait for her happy ending. Like most women, she is ready to start a family, and wants that to be with Toby. But when a new man comes to town, she finds herself drawn to him as well. What is Gods will for her life? Will she wait for it to be revealed? Or take matters into her own hands before He can show her? I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Historical fiction. I enjoyed learning more about new inventions that came along, and how they learned to use them. And I always enjoy the people of Blessing. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions expressed are my own.
This book gives a wonderful glimpse into the lives of people who populated the small towns in Mid-America in the early 1900s. Many readers who are familiar with Lauraine’s Bjorklund family novels, set in Blessing, North Dakota, will enjoy this fourth book in “The Song of Blessing” series. Each book features a different person in or involved with the Bjorklund family, a family readers are bound to fall in love with. From This Day Forward features Deborah MacCallister, who is the head nurse at the Blessing Hospital. Deborah is 25 and is watching as many of her friends are marrying and having children. She wonders if it will ever be her turn. She has had a crush on Toby Valadez, since their school days, but he often seems standoffish, and she wonders if he is the right person for her to marry or if God has someone else in mind for her. Thorliff Bjorklund, whose wife recently passed away, has thrown himself into his work to the detriment of his children. Can anyone reach him? Also a pack of dangerous wild dogs are living on the edge of town. How can they be stopped? There are more twists and turns that will keep you guessing, and if you enjoy historical fiction, you’ll love this book as well as many other series about the Bjorklund family.
Lauraine Snelling brings us the 4th installment in her Song of Blessing series. I would say that reading the previous books would be helpful when reading this book. This is the first book of Ms. Snelling's I have read so at the first of this book I felt somewhat lost as to the characters. Needless to say the first of the book was somewhat difficult to get into, but I pressed on and soon was immersed in the story. This is Deborah MacCallister's story. She is the head nurse at Blessings Hospital and I found her very interesting since I, myself, am a nurse. It always fascinates me about the medical field historically. This story focuses on family and the strong values brought from Norway. We find that Deborah has loved Toby Valders since she was a young girl, but their on again off again relationship leads one to believe that maybe Toby isn't as committed as Deborah. Deborah makes a decision that she will give Toby through the summer, but at the end she will decide whether to give up on him completely. This is a sweet plot that flows effortlessly. Though the pace is consistent I also found it somewhat slow. I love the community and how they come together. This is a well written story and brings a variety of secondary characters that are well integrated. I wish I had of read the first books of the series so I would have gotten the full impact of the series. **I received this book from the publisher as part of their book bloggers program. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Readers who are familiar with Lauraine Snelling’s Song of Blessing books will love this book as a chance to reunite with the lovable Norwegian immigrant citizens of Blessing. Those who are new to the series will want to get the whole set and spend more time with the Blessing family and friends. For those unfamiliar with the Bjorklunds of Blessing and their many adopted family members, a diagram of the family tree is included to help sort out the connections. The people in Blessing work hard and nurse heroine Deborah MacCallister is no exception. The object of her affection, Toby Valders, is possibly the hardest worker in town and has little time to spend with anyone, including Deborah. Things can change and they do and then, watch out. The characters in this series are uniquely made. All work hard, including the children. There is an attitude of respect as well as love among these people and readers will want to linger in Blessing. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own. I recommend this book for adults and teenage readers who enjoy historic fiction with a little romance.
To this date, there hasn't been a novel or book from Lauraine Snelling, I didn't like, until this one unfortunately. Since From This Day Forward is part of a series, and this is book 4, I found it difficult to grasp and understanding any of the relationships that this novel launches into. Perhaps if I had read them in order, it might make better sense to me, than merely jumping into it. I absolutely LOVED the cover of the book and since Christian Historical Romances are usually my favorite genre to read, I was disappointed I couldn't connect with any of the characters in this novel. Even more than a third of the way into the novel I struggled to find any reason to continue as it seems more and more characters were introduced and overlapped that I couldn't find any one I could relate to and follow until the closure of the novel. I hate when that happens, but in this case it did. As much as we hope that all novels will connect with readers who pick them up, this was one time, when no matter how much I struggled to stay with it, I couldn't. Most of the time, a reader needs to identify with a character or perhaps their struggle and I was really hoping that would be with Deborah who has a deep seated desire to become a nurse to help our her community, but it didn't last. When you read the premise of the novel is sounds wonderful but since there are so many characters introduced in the first third of the book, it makes it difficult to understand just who is with whom or related to whom. Oh how I wanted this one to work for me, but it didn't. This is one case where picking up a novel already well into the series, just doesn't work. I received From This Day Forward by Lauraine Snelling compliments of Bethany House Publishers and Net Galley and would have to rate this one a 3 out of 5 stars. I am hoping that if you have read the other novels in the Song of Blessing Series, than this one will make more sense to you than it did for me. If you haven't read any, I would recommending starting at the beginning because all the previous Lauraine Snelling novels are usually some of my favorites.
From This Day Froward is book 4 in the Songs of Blessing series written by Lauraine Snelling. This is Deborah and Toby's book. Deborah and Toby have been friends since childhood when Toby would dip Deborah's hair in ink. Both have gone away to get their adult lives in order and come back to Blessing. Deborah is a nurse at the local clinic/hospital and Toby runs a construction company. The community is growing and along with that there is a need for the school to grow. Toby along with other men of the community are adding onto the school for the deaf. They are putting in very long days, with some even working 7 day weeks. Through this time, Deborah leaves food at Toby's house so he has something easy to eat when he gets home and for breakfast. But Toby takes Deborah for granted. He knows where she is and know that he could visit her anytime he wants to, but he just does not take the time. Along with the growth of the schools, there also is need for more teachers. Anton comes to town to be one of the teachers. There is a box social fundraiser and Anton out bids Toby for Deborah's box. And when Deborah goes away for hospital training Anton and Toby both write to Deborah. Toby begins to wonder if he has taken her for granted too long and wonders if she will chose Anton over him. Just like all the other author's stories based in Blessing, this book is totally wonderful. I love how the author just keeps adding stories about this community. I enjoy being able to catch up on Ingeborg and her extended family. It is so fun to see how much her children have matured and to hear about their families. It was sad to read about the passing of David Gould's wife. But I truly hope the author has a story planned for Ingaborg and David. I really enjoy that this is a Christian Historical Fiction story. It is a clean story with a little Biblical references but the actions of the community members are those of love, caring and generosity. I received a copy of this book from Revell Publishing and I have written an honest review.
This is book four in the Song of Blessing series, it can be read as a stand alone book, however I feel you will be a bit lost. There are a lot of characters in this book and it can get a little confusing if you do not know the history of their families and can keep them all straight. The entire series is a great series so I would recommend reading them all in order. Lauraine Snelling does a great job at weaving so many different families, story lines and history all wrapped in one series. Each character has issues of their own they must deal with the consequences of choices they make. If you have read the entire series it is great to catch up with many of the characters from previous novels. The main focus of this novel is Deborah and Toby. Deborah has loved him forever, yet is it time to move on. Toby is a little harder to figure out, it was fun to watch him struggle, grow and decide what it is he actually wants. I was given a copy of this novel from net galley for my honest opinion.
We are back in Blessing, North Dakota and back with our dear family from Norway. Most all we come to know and love are back and we are continuing on with their lives. Some of our dear ones leave right after the book begins, and others find their way home. In this book we have Deborah still wearing her heart on her sleeve for Toby, but will that man every realize what a gem she is, and before he looses he to another. Come and enjoy the warm-hearted fun of fishing with Mor and the children, and landing a big catfish. Ah, how I wish I were there! I received this book through Net Galley and Bethany House Publishers, and was not required to give a positive review.