Chapter 52: Joyous Celebration

Mitch was the first one up on Sunday morning and quickly discovered why the puppy had settled down so quickly. He stealthily turned to go back to the bedroom and laid down beside Amy, gently pulling the golden strands away from her face and tucking them behind her ear as he softly kissed her cheek and quietly whispered, "Darling, wake up. You need to come see something."

Amy sleepily turned her face to him and said, "Good morning, Love. What is it?"

"Just get up and follow me."

Amy dawned her robe and took his hand. Mitch put his finger to his lips motioning for her to be quiet as they tiptoed past the kitchen. Pointing, he revealed to her why the puppy had settled so quickly the night before. There was Lyndy curled up beside Skye with a blanket she'd pulled from the couch. Amy quickly signaled for Mitch to take out his phone and get a picture. She was glad it was a brand-new bed, and she hoped that the puppy would learn quickly to do his business outside, as the adorable sight they had discovered would not do for school mornings. Lyndy would need to get restful sleep on weeknights.

Amy went back to get dressed while Mitch started breakfast, then she came back out to assist him. As the sound of work in the kitchen caused Lyndy to stir, she awoke rubbing the sleep from her eyes, and Skye popped up to start licking her face. Mitch and Amy heard soft giggling and looked over to see the sleeping duo had aroused, and Lyndy was loving on her puppy.

"Lyndy, be sure you take Skye out first thing."

"Ok, Daddy," she answered as she yawned, wrapped the blanket around her, and took the puppy outside, explaining as she went that he'd been crying last night, and she came down to comfort him.

By the time mistress and puppy came back inside, Doc and Ginny had joined to help in the kitchen, and breakfast was almost ready. Everyone pitched in to get the table set and the food served. They all sat down together, and Mitch asked Doc to lead them in prayer. They had a happy but quick breakfast, and when everyone was finished, Amy suggested that Lyndy take her Gram upstairs to help her pick out a dress to wear to church. Ginny did and told her that she would come back up and help her with her hair after she could get ready as well. When Doc, Ginny and Lyndy were all three ready to go, they left for the church.

After they walked out the door, Mitch and Amy turned to look at each other, and they suddenly realized it was the first time they'd had time to really feel like they were alone together since returning from their honeymoon. Life had seemed like a whirlwind of adjusting. Mitch took the rare opportunity to engulf his bride in his strong arms and capture her sweet lips in a passionate kiss. When they came up for air, Amy grinned at him and playfully said, "My dear cowboy, you'd better slow down, or we won't be ready for our company."

Mitch flashed his lop-sided grin that sent butterflies aflight in his beautiful lady, causing Amy to think again as she relented, "Well…I guess we could at least take a few minutes to cuddle."

That was all Mitch needed, and he swooped her up to carry her to the couch, Amy giggling delightedly, where they reveled in showing affection and lavishing sweet kisses for as long as they dared in order to complete all the other tasks that needed to be done in preparation for the special day ahead. It had been nice to refresh those sweet memories when it was just the two of them. Oh, how sweet was their love! Though part-way through, they were interrupted by a curious little puppy.

Amy put him in his pen while they went to complete morning chores, though Zeke and Charlie already had a good head-start on them. They came back inside to Skye's excited greeting, showed him how to wait by the door for them to let him out, and praised him when he took care of business.

Mitch cooked the chicken in a skillet, diced it, and placed it in the crockpot, then began mixing the ingredients for the sauce. He added the cream sauce and turned it to high. Meanwhile, Amy straightened, vacuumed, dusted, and got out the China and silverware to serve everyone on. Normally, they would have just gone with paper plates, but they wanted today to be extra special. They also figured out what serving dishes they might need for the toppings. Since it was a stack-up meal, they decided to go buffet-style. Mitch set up an additional table that would allow them all to be seated together for Sunday dinner. Since Amy still had not had a chance to ask Ginny about fancy napkin folding, she decided to roll each set of silverware in its own napkin, making it easy for everyone to pick up a set as they served themselves. Mitch had picked up a six-pack and some sodas just in case, so when he started to ice the drinks, he suggested Amy go ahead and shower and get ready, then he would take his. Shortly before time for guests to begin arriving, Mitch turned the crockpot to low.

Meanwhile, when Doc and Ginny arrived at the church building, they helped Lyndy find her Bible class. She felt at home because Rebecca and Cody were there, which made her even more excited that she'd come. She really liked her Bible class teacher, Mrs. James. Then when class was over, they went in with the congregation to worship service. She enjoyed the singing, and when it was time for the sermon, Ginny pulled out paper and pencil for her and wrote down several words for her to listen for as the minister spoke. She put tick marks by the different words each time she heard the preacher use them.*

When they arrived back at the house, Lyndy immediately went to Skye to pick him up. "Hi little buddy, did you miss me? I missed you! I got to tell Rebecca and Cody and my teacher about you."

Then she went to Ginny, and they whispered to each other as something was exchanged between them from Ginny's bag. Lyndy quickly headed upstairs and hid the something in her closet. Mitch and Amy could tell she'd had a good time. Doc and Ginny reported that she did very well. Lyndy heard them talking as she came back down, and she asked Ginny for her paper to show them the words she'd kept track of during the sermon. Mitch remembered his mom doing that with him and smiled.

It wasn't long before guests began to arrive. Tim and Jessica were the first, and when Lyndy saw them come in, she ran to hug them. Tim picked her up, and she pulled Jessica into their hug. Then she leaned back and said, "Grandpa, I've really missed you guys!"

"Honey, we've missed you, too! We're so glad we get to spend the afternoon with you!" Tim answered.

Tim sat her down, and she went to the window to watch for more guests. When she saw her GG and Gram-Lisa head up the driveway, she hurried out onto the porch to wait for them. When they got out and started up the walkway, Lyndy ran to them and jumped into Jack's arms taking his face in her hands and said, "GG, I've missed you and Gram-Lisa so much!" and she hugged his neck, then reached out her arm to pull Lisa into the hug with them. When she pulled back, she looked from one to the other and said, "I think we need to plan a time for me to come spend the night. Can we?" she pleaded.

"I bet we could arrange that before too long," Jack drawled as he looked to Lisa getting the signal for agreement. And Lyndy hugged him again before he sat her down.

The guests began to arrive, greetings were exchanged between all, and everyone was glad to see Doc and Ginny again. When each family arrived, Lyndy had to immediately take them over to meet Skye. Of course, everyone thought he was just precious, especially Carson!

Caleb made a side comment to Mitch and Amy, "Thanks a lot guys! You know, of course, that Carson is going to be bugging us for a puppy of his own from now on," he said chuckling. Mitch and Amy both just shrugged their shoulders turning their palms up in a 'What can we say?' gesture.

Mitch indicated that there was a cooler of ice, and a cooler with some drinks already. Those who had brought drinks added them to the cooler. Tim and Jessica supplied several bottles of the Moscato d'Asti wine to serve with the Crème Brûlée. They had iced them at home, but Mitch pulled out a decorative wine cooler to place the wine bottles in until it was dessert time. Within a short time, the buffet of food was spread, and everybody gathered around in a circle as Mitch suggested they hold hands, and he led them in a prayer of thanksgiving for the food and their time together. This was an unfamiliar experience for most, but they were starting to realize that the influence of Doc and Ginny's faith ran strong in Mitch, and they were seeing a leadership trait they'd not really recognized in him before. Though unaccustomed, they found it refreshing. Mitch and Amy encouraged everyone to begin filling their plates with instructions to start with their choice of rice, then the creamed chicken, and then to stack on top whichever toppings they'd like. Amy and Cass helped Lyndy and Carson with choosing their toppings and got them settled. Mitch and Amy waited until all their guests had been served before filling their own plates.

Everyone was pleasantly surprised at the new menu experience, and the meal chatter with these intertwined families was lively and spirited. The elder Cuttys were happy to catch up with all the doings since the wedding. Once all were finished, several pitched in to help with putting away leftovers and cleaning up while others visited in the living room or meandered out onto the patio.

When cleanup was accomplished, Mitch moved a bar stool in front of the fireplace, then he tapped a spoon on a wine glass to get everyone's attention and asked them all to move in around the fireplace area. He stood before them with Amy and Lyndy at his side.

"Amy, Lyndy and I are all so very pleased and blessed to have each and everyone one of you to join us on this special occasion. Thank you for being here."

He then proceeded to lift Lyndy and seat her on the stool. "As you know, we chose today to set aside to celebrate with all of you the finalization of Lyndy's adoption as my daughter, making us, as Lyndy puts it, a family now 'in every way.'" That statement brought smiles to everyone's face.

Mitch then turned to Lyndy and took both her hands in his, "Sweetheart, on this weekend that you are now legally my daughter, there is much I want to say. I have loved you from the moment I first held you. You were only a baby then, and your Uncle Peter and I had been tasked with babysitting you.** I never imagined that day that I would be privileged to have the honor of being your daddy. Though none of us would have ever wished for the circumstances that brought about the chance for that to happen, I have been humbled that God has allowed me to step into that role for you – your earthly father. Lyndy, I don't know if he could hear me, but I made a promise to your da-da and to God, that night I took care of you while Mama had her girls' night out, that I would do my very best to take care of you. Your da-da gave life to you, but I will be here to help your mama continue to teach you how to live it. He saw your first smile and your first steps, but I promise to be here to dry your tears and to cheer you on with your mama. I promise to provide for, care for and love you for the rest of my life. You will always be mine – my first daughter, and I will love you the same as any other brothers or sisters you might have in the future. God has blessed me with the gift of you and your mama, and you are the lights of my life."

As Mitch paused for just a moment, Lyndy asked, "Daddy, can I say something, too?"

"Of course, you can, Sweetheart."

"You already know how much Mama and I miss Da-da. But you came into our lives when we felt sad, and you made us feel happy again. You helped us have fun, and you filled up our hearts. And you've made our big family even bigger!" she said as she smiled at her Papa-Doc and Gram-Ginny. "I love you, Daddy!"

Mitch leaned in to hug his daughter as she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek that was a bit salty and wet. Amy looked on with teary eyes as did a number of others. Hearts in the room were once again moved by this little girl and her relationship with Mitch. As Tim looked on, he looked extremely thoughtful.

Next, Amy stepped up, and she pulled from behind her back Lyndy's adoption certificate, framed in a beautiful, white-washed oak frame that Mitch had secretly made for her and that would perfectly match the furniture in her room. As Amy handed it to Lyndy, their daughter beamed with happiness. It also reminded her, "Hey, everybody! If you haven't seen my new room yet, when we are finished here, you've got to come see it! Daddy and Mama, this will go perfectly on my wall!" she proclaimed. She hugged both her mama and daddy.

Then Amy moved to stand by Lyndy, and they each took one of Mitch's hands as Amy said, "Mitch, your love and protection of our daughter and me have brought such peace to our lives and hearts. I'm so proud of the daddy you already have been to Lyndy. You love us unconditionally and passionately. You guide and gently teach. We feel your devotion every day. And I know that Ty would approve. Darling, you have brought the magic back into our lives, and we adore you!"

And Amy and Lyndy both reached up to kiss him on his cheeks. Mitch smiled broadly through watery eyes. After taking a few seconds to compose himself, Mitch then called up his parents. "Dad, Mom, will you please come stand here with us?"

They moved up to stand beside Mitch, Amy and Lyndy. "I've asked my dad to please lead us in a prayer before we move into the next part of our time together."

Doc asked everyone to bow with him and began:

"Our dear Father in heaven, what a joyous occasion that we can all be together! Thank you for this precious family You have forged, and for the blessing of this greater family you have given to all of us because of their union, whether by blood, marriage, or friendship…or all of the above. Father, we thank you for Mitch and Amy and for the love and pleasure they now enjoy as they raise Lyndy together, providing her with the benefits of growing up with a mother and a father. Thank you for the gift of adoption. You have demonstrated that to us in your gift of adopting us as your sons and daughters through the sacrifice of your Son. For that we are so grateful! We pray this day Your blessing upon this family of three, and any future children You may choose to place in their care. And we pray for Your guidance in their lives as they grow in love for each other daily. Bless the rest of our time together today. In the name of your precious Son, Amen."

"Thanks, Dad." Then turning to them, Mitch continued, "Dad and Mom, I believe God's hand was at work, even though we didn't know it, when I was able to reacquire our family ranch. I had no idea the joy that awaited us because of that decision. The Bartlett family has a tradition with their fireplace at Heartland that we'd like to also implement with our family here at Whispering Meadows. Anytime a new family member is added, they choose a stone from the fireplace to be named for them. Since this home was yours originally, we want the first two stones of the Cutty family to be yours."

Doc and Ginny were overcome with emotion at this sweet gesture of love by their 'kids,' and Doc, choking back his feelings, managed to get out "Thank you, Son. We'd be honored," and parents and son hugged.

Mitch stepped back motioning, "So please pick out your stones, and then the three of us will pick ours."

Mitch helped Lyndy down from the stool, and the new family began choosing five stones as a beginning of their tradition.

Everyone looked on with joy and a few tears, but Jack felt especially proud that a legacy begun by his family was being carried on by Mitch and Amy with theirs. When all the stones were named, everyone clapped, and congratulations and hugs were given around the room. Before they broke to mingle, Mitch announced, "Now, I believe Jessica has a very special dessert to share with all of us, so we'll let you know as soon as it is served."

The ladies moved to the kitchen to get the dessert ready. Tim asked Mitch if he could have a moment, and they moved out to the patio. Tim rested his hand on Mitch's shoulder as he began to express from his heart, "Mitch, I know I've given you a hard time in the past. I guess some of that is natural for fathers, but I know my nature leans too far that way more often than it should. In getting to know you better over this past year, and giving you a chance, I just want to say how proud I am to be your father-in-law! The love I see you shower on Amy and Lyndy at times overwhelms me. And the wisdom and depth of character you exhibit consistently was on full display today. I once told Ty that he was the real deal, and I see that same spirit in you, and for that, I am most grateful. Amy has been so fortunate to have two such strong men love her. Thank you for caring so deeply for our girls. You are already a wonderful father, and I'm confident that will only grow more as the days go by. And I just want to sincerely thank you for the confidence you and Amy demonstrated in Jessica and me when you asked us to be your backup for Caleb and Cass. I pray to God that plan is never, ever needed, but it meant the world to be asked. At the same time, like I said, if there ever comes a time that you and Amy feel another arrangement would better suit your family, you will not hurt our feelings should you feel the need to change it. But always know that we feel very honored."

Mitch looked at Tim with glistening eyes as he was surprised yet felt greatly validated by Tim's acknowledgements and his being so vulnerable with him. He placed his hand on Tim's opposite shoulder and said, "Tim, thank you. Sincerely, what you've said means so much. I really appreciate it. And may I add, I'm really happy for you that you and Jessica found each other, and also that you have been able to reconnect with Shane. Though I didn't have the chance to know him as a kid, I was very impressed with him in the short time we got to spend together, and I'm sure it means the world to you to be back in his life."

"It does…it really does. And I hit the jackpot with Jessica!"

"Well, I have to agree with you there," Mitch answered, and they both chuckled, shook hands and pulled each other into a manly hug, husband to husband and father to father. Then they went to join the others. By that time, the Crème Brûlée had been plated and the wine made ready for serving, and of course, juice boxes were supplied for the kids. As they sat down to the table to enjoy their dessert, Lyndy took her first bite, and a deep look of satisfaction came over her as she looked toward Mitch with a twinkle in her eye and said, "Mmmm, Daddy, this is scrumpdiddlyumptious!"

Mitch answered back as they shared their inside joke, yet to everyone's laughter, "Yes, Sweetie, your mom and I totally agree with you, it is scrumpdiddlyumptious!" he said with a wink.

And Carson mimicked them, "Scrumpdiddlyumtious!" as he held his fork in the air, and they all giggled. Which meant, of course, that Mitch and Lyndy had to go on to tell the story behind the word.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with Lyndy showing off her room, taking everyone to see her mama's dressing table, playing with the puppy and some great visiting time with all the families, as well as playing some games and a few worked on a large jigsaw puzzle.

At an opportune moment when out on the patio away from Lou, knowing he'd be leaving for Vancouver the next day, Peter pulled Lisa aside to get an update on the status of the plans she was helping him with. She assured him that everything had been taken care of, so he could reveal them whenever he was ready.

As late afternoon rolled around, people began to pack up and leave. Lou congratulated Amy on their hosting job which meant a lot to her. Caleb and Cass expressed to them how much it had meant to be included in their special day, and Lyndy and Carson shared an enthusiastic hug. When Jack and Lisa said their goodbyes, they reminded Mitch and Amy to be at Heartland the next Sunday at 1pm and that they were really looking forward to another afternoon together. Lyndy asked her daddy and mama at that point about staying the night at Heartland soon, and it was decided she would stay on Saturday night, allowing them to easily take her home the next day when they'd be there anyway.

Throughout the day, each of the Cuttys had taken turns letting Skye outside, and he already seemed to be picking up on going to wait by the door when he needed to go out.

Having had a good breakfast and a substantial dinner, they decided to have a simple meal of cereal for supper. While they were choosing cereals, Amy remembered to ask Ginny about fancy napkin folding, and Ginny promised she'd show Amy and Lyndy some different ways of folding when they came back the following week and had more time. Evening chores were done, and then they gathered round the fireplace, read a couple of stories, and sang a few songs together before it was time to get Lyndy to bed so she could be rested for school the next day. She and Ginny put Skye to bed, and then she asked Doc and Ginny if they would tuck her in, which they were most happy to do.

Before they headed upstairs, Amy called Lyndy over to her and reminded her, "Sweetheart, you have school in the morning, so be sure you have your clothes laid out and your backpack ready and remember that you will need to make time to let Skye out and feed him his breakfast first thing when you get up."

"Ok, Mama. And I'll try to let you see to him if he starts to cry tonight," she said sheepishly. Amy agreed that was a good Idea.

"And you'll want to have time to tell Papa Doc and Gram-Ginny goodbye before you catch the bus."

Lyndy looked at them and added, "I'm so glad you'll be coming back again soon!"

"We are, too, Honey. Only a week away. Now let's get you to bed," Ginny responded as the three of them started up the stairs. They all agreed it had been a most special day together!

A/N: * Keeping track of words spoken in a sermon was something I did as a kid to help me listen to the message, and it was also something that I taught younger children who would sit with me as I got older.

** Heartland, Season 11, Episode 10.