Boxes // A Short Story

Boxes // A Short Story

The boxes were small and square with colors varying from red to green to a very light shade of pink. Her favorite was gold, and the latch was broken from opening and shutting it so often.

She kept the boxes in the bottom drawer of her dresser, and on days where the tears were too many for her heart, when a lonely ache settled in her from head to toe, she opened the drawer and chose one from the dozen.

There were other boxes too. Ones she tried not to keep, but they wouldn’t seem to go away. Here and there, they were tucked around her room. One held down a stack of paper, three propped up the corner of her sagging ottoman, and others cluttered up the windowsill like faded plant stands.

She tried throwing them out, but there always seemed to be more, so she did her best to keep them busy and useful so she was never tempted to open them. They were as much a part of her life as the treasured boxes, but if she could ignore them, she would.

The last time she’d given in had not gone well. She had opened every single box in one evening and the contents tore into her soul. It took several of her most treasured gifts to make her feel better.

As the years passed, the little drawer gained a few more boxes. One was silver, a gift from a boy who made her feel very special once. Another was pink and white striped from her best friend, and three others followed that matched it.

When she changed houses, she moved all the good boxes with her and left the others behind, jumbled in a pile of dust and ready to move on. One of the boxes from a friend stayed behind with them, the good gift turned sour from a bad friendship end.

She decided in her new room, her new life, there was going to be a change. The precious boxes were going to be on display, where she could see them every day and be reminded of their contents without risking wearing them out with opening and closing. She needed their constant encouragement to be brave, to know she was loved, and to get somewhere in life.

She set them up in a perfect row across the back of her desk, then laid back on her dorm bed and ran through their contents with her eyes.

The gold one was from Grandmumma on her fifth birthday. “Well, aren’t you just the sweetest little thing today?” Grandmumma’s accent would warm her heart every time she let the words out to visit them. 

The green ones, a card on Christmas, a compliment from a stranger, and the deep red one was a congratulatory speech on winning an essay contest. The sky blue ones, from Mom and Dad, near in shade to a few she had left at home, ranged from “I love you” to “I’m so proud of you” to “I see you and I hear you”. She had kept every one.

The striped boxes, down one from their original number, were twinged with the bittersweet knowledge that maybe her friend didn’t mean them anymore, but she kept them anyway. The same with the one from the boy.

Her new life began, and it was busier and fuller than anything she had ever imagined before. She barely needed to open the boxes those first few weeks, but the number of dingy gray, accusing red, and gloomy black boxes cluttering her floor and windowsill began to grow almost without her noticing it.

She tripped over one on a particularly exhausting day and slammed her knee on the end of her bed. Tears that had been wanting to burst out all day took their opportunity, and she sank down onto the floor. For the first time since she had moved, she saw just how many boxes there were and something told her to open them. Open them all.

“Imposter.” “You’re going to fail this test.” “Ew, that outfit does not match at all.” “Some people are just too sensitive.” “Sorry, I just don’t think we’re right for each other.” “If you’re ever going to accomplish anything, you have to just grow up.” “You’re not a very good friend.”

The boxes with her voice hurt the most, but she had to hear them. She searched through the room, finding the ones hidden in her closet corners, two under a pile of clothes on the chair, one inside the left shoe of a pair she’d bought for a date that was canceled.

The boxes piled up around her, and she buried her face in her hands, letting the tears flow. The last time this had happened, she’d wiped her eyes, cuddled up on her bed, and opened the drawer full of delicious reminders that she was very loved.

It had been enough. 

But as she looked up at the little army of boxes lining the back of her desk, she knew it wouldn’t work this time. There simply weren’t enough good words to combat the bad ones. She decided to do the only thing she knew how. 

Spreading out an old blue blanket, she piled the boxes, some half open and half empty, into the middle and tied the corners tight around them. Then she shoved it into the back of her closet. Tomorrow she would take them to the campus dumpster and have another fresh start. Tonight at least she couldn’t see them. 

Sleep washed away her tears, and she began her day with only the bruise on her leg to remind her anything had happened. Months passed without her thinking of the lumpy bundle and kicking new boxes without a second thought under the bed.

She met a new friend who was also a boy. His “I love you” was the most beautiful box of them all. She slipped it under her pillow and stared at it in the starlight every night before she drifted to sleep. 

Time passed and her house changed again, this time to one she shared with the sweet boy she married. The beautiful boxes were stacked on a shelf, and the others were added to the blue bundle and tucked into the corner of the garage.

The collection of precious boxes began to grow faster than ever before. It seemed like every day she added at least one, maybe two to the precious little hoard. The boy seemed to shower her with all the boxes her heart had ever craved, and she was learning to give them to herself. She had even rediscovered a book full of them straight from the heart of God.

One day the boy gave her her first dingy box, and she added two more herself. She disappeared into their room to hide them away, but he followed to apologize and saw them for the first time. 

His words were so humble, so tender, and filled with such love that she dropped the boxes to catch his words in a new one she knew she could revisit whenever she needed.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m keeping your words.” It was strange that he had asked but even stranger that she’d assumed it was something everyone did until this moment. 


“I need them. For when I don’t have enough. For when I need to be reminded of how loved I am. And the others are just an accident.”

He shook his head and pulled her into a hug. “You don’t have to hoard these anymore. There will always be more.”

The tears filled her eyes, and she dropped the box on the floor with the others to lean into his hug. 

In the days that followed, she learned to catch less and less. Letting them bounce freely around the room and her heart, trusting there would be more. She even opened the boxes on the desk, freeing the tattered memories and kissing Grandmumma goodbye. 

The dark ones couldn’t matter anymore either. If she never caught them, they flitted away, no longer supporting her life or weighing her down. 

Now she was free.

I hope this story spoke to your heart in some way, and I pray you learn to speak good words to yourself and trust them from those who love you most. 💙

Blanket // A Short Story

Blanket // A Short Story

He was yelling again the day she found the blanket.

It was soft wool and bright blue, hidden underneath the bed she’d crawled under.

It fit just perfectly around her shoulders, and she wrapped it tight until it was as snug as a mother’s hug.

She put it on again the next time he yelled. Then when his eyes said he was about to. When his lips tightened along with his hands. When he closed his mouth and stepped out the door, the blanket trailed behind her all the way to the dining table.

She might need it when he came back.

She wore it more and more often the taller she grew. The blanket no longer trailed behind her, but she slept in it every night and the blue dulled to gray. 

One day she discovered if she wore it up over her head, he couldn’t see her and decide to be angry with her.

She pulled it tighter over her face until only her eyes peered out, watching for the next sign of his anger.

She began tripping, walking into things, and she no longer fit under the bed. It was hard work keeping herself wrapped up and trying to see where she went. 

When she went into the world, others saw her blanket, and as much as she tried they saw her. Some pointed and laughed, but most others just looked away or smiled sadly.

She asked someone why and they answered that adults didn’t wear blankets any more.

She took it off in a moment alone, where she knew she was safe from looks and anger. Her arms tingled from the cold air and it felt strange having her whole face in view, but her heart began to tremble. It felt as if everyone could see it and anyone could take it. 

So she found a way to put a small piece of the blanket around just her heart.

Others spoke to her and looked her in the eyes. Safety grew up around her in real hugs, and gentle faces, and as he grew quieter and older himself.

She began to cry, to share her fears, to experience things she’d missed when the blanket blocked her world. She told him what he’d done, and he gave a slow, sad nod.

The tears began to wash away the gray shreds of blanket, but a few pieces remained, holding her heart tight, hurting it as it tried to grow wings.

She tried to pull it off as easily as she’d put it on, but the threads had grown with her, seeming to become a part of her heart. They had held her together, and she wondered what she would be when they were gone.

The first string fell off on a bright summer day when she knew she was loved. Another snapped into pieces when he said he was sorry. The others followed slowly throughout the years, until she sometimes forgot there were any strings at all. 

She woke up one morning with her heart scarred but free, and she wept. This time with joy. 

Hurts can be healed, hearts can be freed. ❤️ I hope this story spoke to yours.

(Lovely graphic by Plethora Creative. All similarities in the story to people living or dead is purely coincidental.)

Flash Fiction with Anna

Flash Fiction with Anna

So, my cool sister Anna had this cool idea. I think it was Sunday night when we were accidentally having talking time. She had the idea for us to choose a photo and both write a story from it. It was rather hypothetical until yesterday when we got excited and decided to do it. 😉

We both hopped on Pinterest, sent our favorite pictures back and forth, and finally decided on one. We wanted something with more than one character that could literally fit any genre so our stories wouldn’t end up very similar. (And believe me, they are very different! XD)

Last night, during official talking time, we started writing our stories in notebooks, then finished them today, and swapped them for beta-reading. That part was extra fun. We had some good laughs while helping each other clarify and improve our stories. ❤ (And Anna was extra cool and gave me some of her chocolate.)


 (The sorts of weird conversations we have…)

Our stories ended up being VERY different from each other. For some reason, I looked at the picture prompt and immediately thought dystopian. XD Anna, on the other hand, wrote a really cute, sweet, and meaningful contemporary story. I really love the descriptions in her story, and the message goes really well with the message of her blog and the message of her WIP “Eagledare”. (No spoilers.)


(Our picture prompt. We couldn’t track down the owner of this picture, but whoever you are, it’s awesome. 😉 )

Three random facts about my story (you can read it here): 1, the main character was originally named Erin because that’s all I could think of. 2, I patterned my idea of the stairwell off the stairwell in the nursing building at my school. 3, the first line popped into my head out of nowhere, and I had to fit a story to it.

Three random facts about Anna’s story: 1, “Nunchuck” is actually something she calls people as an endearing insult. 2, the house in it reminds me a ton of a house we visited a lot when we lived in rural Oregon. 3, I totally picture Mr. Flint as a 98-year-old man we knew years ago.

Without further talking, I present to you…

Truly Fantastic by Anna Willis

Life was officially horrid, she decided, and “fantastic” was definitely NOT the right word. Britt threw her backpack down at the base of the ancient, warped stairs and frowned at it.

“Fantastic day to you too,” her brother struggled up the stairs, dragging a dilapidated cardboard box after him. The stairwell groaned under the weight.

Stomping up after him, Britt rolled her eyes. “Nothing is “fantastic” about this move, bro, and you know it.”

He raised one sarcastic eyebrow at her from under his team’s baseball cap.

“Camp was way too short like always, then the second we get home, all ready to be school superstars, Mom and Dad decided to pack us off to some deserted jungle to live in a house older than great-grandpa.”

“AND there’s no cell service in this stupid place!” their older sister yelled, rocketing past with her nose in her phone and almost falling over the box.

Her brother flashed a big toothy grin, “Look on the bright side, sis, you only have bears to dodge while on your phone instead of rush hour!”

Ducking her arm, he fled as she gave chase. The sounds of thumping and heated argument burst from the loft, and Britt found herself wondering for a moment if the floorboards would hold.

“Honey?” a voice called from somewhere deep inside the woodstove Dad was trying to get working. “Electric company called and said the roads are too slick for them to get up and see what’s wrong with the wiring to the lights and oven.”

Great. Cold dinner, no TV, and no staying up past dark to unpack and learn the house.

From down below she could hear Mom’s panicked jabbering about a mouse nest she had discovered in a kitchen cabinet, and overhead rain drilled relentlessly on the tin roof so loudly it could make a person go insane.

Britt kicked the top step. Flinching in pain, she curled up on the loft’s thin carpet and bit back the tears.

“And on top of all that my head hurts, and it’s too cold in here, and… and,” she was sniffling into her arms now, “everybody is so grumpy.”

Heavy cloth dropped over her face, and the girl let out a muffled shriek, scrambling out from under it.

A boy comfortably straddled the bannister just above her.

Britt glared at him, “What was that for, Nunchuck?”

“Sweatshirt. Put it on.”

Britt glanced at it. “It’s too big.”

“It’s warm.” The boy dismounted the railing and forced the sweatshirt over her head.

He was right, and she burrowed deeper into it with a meek, “Thanks.”

“What are you doing here? I mean, who are you?” She was terrible at first impressions.

“Mom sent me from our cabin just across the crick to welcome you folks. You know you’re our first neighbors since old man Flint died? And he BUILT this place!” Gesturing toward the loft behind them, he continued with the hint of a grin, “I’ve already met your brother up there; showed him the attic trap door. Oh, and I met your sister, but I’m not sure if she met me… found a spot of patchy cellphone service.”

“Oh. Didn’t Dad lock the door?”

He shrugged. “No one locks their doors around here.”

Slinging one leg over the stair railing, he offered her a hand. She stared at it. “Come on, I want to show you something,” he urged.

“You’ve got to be like the most popular dude in school and years older than me,” she rambled, taking his help and climbing on in front of him, “Honestly, aren’t you way too old to be doing this?”

He laughed, and it blew her blonde hair into her eyes. “Never!” he cried, giving her a shove.

The walls blurred by and a small scream of delight escaped her throat as they slid down the ancient roller coaster. Rolling off at the end, she landed beside her discarded backpack, laughing tears.

“That was probably…” she squirmed in laughter, gasping for breath, “THE craziest, most childish thing I have done since forever!”

He flopped onto his back next to her and folded his arms across his ribs, waiting for her to stop laughing. Finally he spoke, quietly, “This is what I wanted to show you.”

Britt blinked, “What? Where?”

He lifted his arm and pointed straight up.

Moving her body up a few steps, a bubble of laughter rose inside her. “A crack in the ceiling? Really?”

“It’s more than that. Look closer.” His voice was perfectly serious.

Britt peered at the ceiling far above them and saw an array of subtle pastel colors gathered around the ragged break in the white plaster. It was a landscape scene, painted masterfully so that the ceiling repair was a beautiful mountain range with a sunrise melting into the emptiness above it.

Britt sucked in her breath with appreciation. “No one would ever know that was there!”

“I came by one day, and Mr. Flint had propped a ladder on these stairs and was painting on the ceiling. The house had settled at some point and broken the plaster in a big ugly gash.”

Britt pressed her tongue against the back of her teeth, hard. “Dad and Mom said this move was going to be a ‘fantastic change’ for us, but so far it has been everything but fantastic. It’s breaking the family apart and making everything ugly, just like this ceiling was.”

He shifted and tightened his arms around himself against the cold. She realized the sweatshirt must have been his.

His eyes were still taking in every stroke of the artist’s brush in the painting. “Ya know, Mr. Flint couldn’t completely repair that break,” he answered, “but he did his best and then worked to make the whole thing beautiful in his unique way. He was cool like that.”

Britt jumped to her feet, and, startled, he did the same. “I’m going to do that too. Help me?” She dropped her eyes and then raised them again, determined to start repairing things right then and there. “Listen, sorry I called you nunchuck… Friends?”

She flopped the long sleeve toward him, and he shook it solemnly.


Grabbing her backpack, Britt pulled out a half-eaten bag of marshmallows and ran to find her sister and brother. “Sis, stop moping and bring that pile of blankets. Bro, do you still have a flashlight from camp? Good, grab it.”

Minutes later they halted in front of the glowing, warm wood stove. Dad’s tired face broke into a grin at their surprise. “The neighbor guy showed me how!”

Britt matched his smile and victoriously raised the marshmallows in the air. “Let’s have a truly fantastic s’more party for dinner!”

Her new friend produced a pocket knife and passed it to the brother who excitedly skewered a marshmallow and promptly burnt it. Mom found bowls and served hot chocolate. Her older sister giggled and happily tossed her phone aside to rapid-fire marshmallows at Dad.

Britt dropped to her stomach to avoid the sticky war. The fire giving her face a toasty, tingly feeling, she whispered to the boy sprawled on the wood floor beside her. She wasn’t sure if he could even hear her over the cheerful chaos around them. “Thanks for showing me there really can be beauty.”

The End!


Wasn’t that great?

Check out Anna’s blog to read about her experience of writing her story and read my dystopian story called “The Storm Upstairs”.

Short Story: Lanterns

Short Story: Lanterns

I wrote this story for my creative writing class last fall. It was a little outside of my usual writing style, but I enjoyed writing it. So, I present to you, this dystopian allegory “Lanterns”.


Day or night, the City was always alive. Never silent, never still. A long stream of hunched people snaked away from the factory gates. Smog filled the air above the factory section, obscuring a bright moon.

Diamond had never seen the towers so closely before. The sleek towers rose above the smog layer, home to the people who could see far enough to rule. They built the factories and paid the workers. And they built the roads across the river.

Afraid to be caught staring, he ducked his head.

The column shuffled to the side to let another pass. Workers for the factory. The next shift. Their thin coats were buttoned to their chins, and they studied the cobblestones beneath their feet.

Diamond stamped his boots impatiently and rubbed his cold hands together. He winced as he traced the bandage on one palm. His work had given him a cut ready to turn into a scar.

The column lurched forward again. Buildings hunched along the streets, their narrow windows glowing orange from the furnaces within. The ashy, sharp smell of industry faded as they broke out of the maze of streets.

Outside the gaslit factory section, the cold air tore at the workers. Water from the swollen riverbanks seeped into their shoes. They straightened slightly at the soft light that met their eyes. The lights here came from lanterns, set in niches along the wall.

“Almost ‘ome, aren’t we?” a raspy voice ventured.

“Yeauh,” another answered.

Diamond looked back at the towers. Their lights were far away now, and he shook off the oppressive feeling he had known all day. It was new to him. Just like the factory job and the itchy sweater he was wearing.

He glanced at the others, still plodding in a line. They weren’t waiting for work or food or pay. No wardens had organized them; it was all they knew to do. They passed the first niche in the stone walls that held the river back from the bridge. Lantern light glowed on the tired, sooty faces.

Diamond stepped out of line and broke into a run. The cool air felt good on his cheeks, and he lifted his face to the moon. He passed another lantern before he slowed to catch his breath.

“Not tired, that one,” an old man in two coats remarked.

A young man glared at the sky from under his hat. “Give him a few more days at the factory, and he’ll walk like the rest of us.”

Diamond shuddered inwardly at their words. Between the wardens and the towers, he already felt tired when he worked. It was a temptation to let the work slide like others did. They all got paid the same no matter. He shoved his hands into his pockets.

The wind was picking up, and the column began to hurry a little. A few anxious faces tore themselves from the path to look at the sky. Diamond ran again. Mother was waiting for him with listening ears and hot soup. Perhaps she had something to soothe his cut.

He stopped running once he was alone, but his thoughts caught up with him. They demanded he sort them out. “I don’t like the wardens, but no one does. They watch too closely like they think we want to make a mistake.”

Diamond kicked a loose stone. “My work’s all right,” he told himself. He pressed on his bandage to relieve some of the pain. “It wasn’t a bad first day.”

A gust of wind slammed into him from behind, and he stumbled forward. He sat down slowly, leaning his back against the wall and holding on to his shaking knees. He blinked. The lanterns had flickered out.

The river rushed on the other side of the wall, and the stones were cold through his sweater. Diamond shut his eyes. It was no darker than if he had been sleeping. There was nothing to fear. He just had to think. A muffled sob broke the stillness, and he realized it was his.

His eyes sprang open. Maybe the moon would guide him home. Only a sliver peeking out from behind the cloud, just enough to prove he hadn’t gone blind. He took a cautious step forward. Then another. Two more before he hurried into a walk.

A loose pebble turned under his heel, and he fell to his knees. The tears were back again. Silent but desperate. They ran down his cheeks and slid off his chin. “Help me, please. I can’t get home.”

Diamond reached out to touch the cold stone wall. “Help me.”

The wind whipped at him, stirring his hair with its freezing blast. He shivered and shoved his hands into his pockets. Pulling himself to his feet, he felt a small something shift in his pocket. A match! His fingers closed around it. What was it doing in his pocket?

“The lanterns!”

He reached his bandaged hand out to the wall and slid his fingers along it, taking hesitant steps. The eerie quiet amplified the pounding of his heart. It skipped a beat when his hand touched nothing but empty air. A niche. With trembling fingers, he drew the match out of his pocket and struck it on his boot. The end burst into flame with a sizzle.

He looked at the rusty, steel lantern, puzzled. It was already open. He shrugged and lit the wick. A gust of cold wind rushed down the road, and he shoved himself against the niche to shield the lantern. It died down in moments, and he ventured to look at the lantern. The flame still shone bright.

Diamond shut the lantern and took it by the handle. The soft light illumined the road around him. “Thank you,” he whispered. “I can go home.”

The way before him was bright, but he ventured a glance behind him. So much swallowing blackness. Diamond’s heart sank when he remembered the column of people. He looked toward the light and back to the blackness. So many were lost just like he had been.

He turned his feet away from home and broke into a run. The precious lantern swung by his side. He heard a gasp and a shout as he rounded a bend in the road.

“Where did you get a light?”

“May we borrow it?”

“We’re saved!”

“Tell us!”

The voices scrambled over each other. Faces questioned and pleaded in the flicker of his lantern.

Diamond caught his breath. “We must walk together.” He helped lift an old woman to her feet. “The light is meant to be shared.”

He shone his light on hunched workers staring listlessly at the silver thread of moon. More stepped into the light. The old man with two coats let a tired mother lean on his arm. A few others carried children, and they all followed Diamond down the cold stone road.

“Who is it?” A harsh voice spoke when the light seeped up the shadows. A young man leaned against the wall, snarling. His hat was pulled down tight over his ears. “Wardens? Come to take us to the endless halls. Bad workers we’ve been, eh?”

“No, it is only Diamond and the others,” he spoke out. “I have brought a light.”

The man’s laugh mocked. “A light, eh? How long will that burn?” The man gestured to the empty lantern in the niche near him. “Something or someone put out all the others.”

“I found a match in my pocket. A gift, I don’t know how. The others weren’t closed against the wind before, but I made sure mine is,” Diamond explained.

One of the workers spoke from behind him. “Tary, does it matter? He has a light. Come with us.”

Tary shook his head. “Follow the kid, fools. I’m staying here. I enjoy the darkness anyway.”

“Let us light your lantern then,” Diamond pleaded. He reached forward, but Tary pushed his arm away violently.

“I said that I enjoy the darkness,” he hissed.

Diamond could feel the workers behind him tense. He sighed and turned away. There was nothing he could do. Still, he couldn’t believe someone would refuse this gift. Not after the terror of waiting in the dark.

The group grew larger than the circle of light, and they lit another lantern from its blaze.

Diamond turned. “Do we have everyone?”

“Everyone but Tary.” The words were low and dismal.

“Where’s Byona?” the old woman asked.

He found himself surprised that they knew each other’s names. “We’ll find Byona and then we’ll turn toward home,” he decided.

They found the girl near the entrance to the road. The tower lights glittered like eyes, and she shivered in their gaze. The old woman hobbled over to her.

“Byona, Diamond has brought us light.” She let go of her cane and laid a withered hand on the girl’s shoulder.

Byona brushed strands of hair out of her eyes. They were large in the glow of the lantern. She fixed them on Diamond but spoke to the woman. “He has?”

Diamond nodded. “It is for everyone who will follow it. A gift.”

The girl smiled and stood up. She put her arm around the old woman’s shoulders, and they melted into the group.

“Now we go home,” Diamond whispered. His words hung on the air as the clouds parted to show the moon.

The people were no longer a column when they reached their quarters. They were a huddled mass of humanity, sharing the gift they had found. Joy and gratitude formed into words. Neighbors called a hearty goodnight by name.

Diamond was alone again when he trudged down the street to his row. He climbed the steps to his flat. Leaving the lantern on the steps, he looked out into the night.

“Thank you for the gift.”


Copyright 2018 Kate Willis

Short Story: The Dance

Short Story: The Dance

I wrote this short story for the Twelve Days of Christmas on Noble Novels. I was assigned Day 9 with a theme of nine ladies dancing and the nine fruits of the Spirit. It was a challenge, but I managed to bring it all together in this story! I hope you enjoy it. 



        The schoolhouse looked almost unrecognizable under the garlands and lights that decorated its plain, white boards. One of the boys had dared another to hang a wreath on the bell tower, but the schoolteacher had put a stern end to the plan. They didn’t need anyone getting hurt before the big dance planned that night.

        “Everyone inside. There’s much more work to do in here,” he commanded.

        The handful of students shuffled inside and instinctively sat down at the nearest desks.

        Mr. Richards strode up and down in front of his desk. He wore overalls and a dark blue cap, but he still commanded attention from each student. “The desks need to be moved out of here first. Jonah, Theo, Robbie, and I will take them to the shed.”

        “Yes, sir,” Jonah said, saluting smartly.

        Mr. Richards ignored this and turned to the two girls who shared a desk nearby. “Savannah and Annslie, you’re my cleaning crew. Lewis and Nat are here to help you with whatever you need.”

        The younger boys groaned at the big boys who had landed a much more interesting job.

        Annslie’s hand shot up.

        “Yes, Annslie?” Mr. Richards asked. An amused smile played on his face.

        “When do we get to decorate more?”

        “Mrs. Howard and Mrs. Daigle will be bringing decorations later tonight. I’m sure they’d be grateful for your help.”

        Annslie turned to Savannah with excitement. “This is going to be the most exciting evening ever.”

        Savannah smiled and squeezed her hands together under the desk.

        Mr. Richards clapped his hands together. “Class dismissed.”

        The students rushed out of their seats and set to work. For a while, things grew as dynamic as a dance itself, with the cleaning girls and their unwilling helpers staying away from the desk movers.

        “I don’t think they like this job very much,” Annslie said in an undertone, throwing a glance at Nat half-heartedly scrubbing the floor.

        Savannah looked at the boys and followed their gazes to the big boys carrying desks out the front double doors. Scrubbing floors could look very boring in comparison. Time to show her classmate a little kindness. “Lewis,” she said, sitting up on her heels. “I don’t like ladders very much, but the inside of the windows needs to be cleaned. Would you mind doing them for me?”

        His ears perked up and his blond hair stood a little straighter. “Definitely.”

        “I’ll show you where to find the cleaning solution and some rags,” Savannah said, dropping her rag and pulling herself to her feet.

        Nat watched them go, giving a dejected sigh.

        “Think we can finish this section of floor before she gets back?” Annslie asked with a twinkle in her blue eyes.

        Nat’s freckled face grinned. “Let’s race.”

        Meanwhile, Savannah rummaged through the cleaning closet, looking for a clean bucket. Lewis found a ladder and lugged it out to the nearest window.

        “Where in the world is that bucket?” Savannah groaned. “I hate closets like this. Never opened except once a year. Never cleaned out except once a century.” Her voice grew more muffled as she waded to the back of it.

        “It’s okay, Savannah. I can wait a little.” Lewis said, gathering a few rags.

        She let out a sigh. “Sorry, I was letting impatience get the better of me. Will you see if Annslie and Nat need any help while I keep looking? It might take a little while.”

        “Sure thing,” he grinned.

        Savannah felt calmer as she moved systematically through the piles and stacks and bins. “Sorry, Lord. Please help me to be patient, even if the job is unpleasant,” she prayed. She banged her shin into a metal cart. “Ouch. Ah ha! There’s a bucket.”

        Dragging it out of the cave-like closet and into the schoolhouse, she brushed the cobwebs out of her light brown hair and sent Lewis to fill the bucket. She was just about to look for Nat and Annslie when a voice above her head stopped her.

        “Little Miss Muffet, did a spider frighten you away?” Jonah pulled a spiderweb out of her hair. “Doesn’t look like you got away fast enough,” he teased.

        She bit her tongue and thought through what to say. A soft answer would be best. “Thank you for getting that one, Jonah. I don’t have a mirror with me today so I wouldn’t have caught it.”

        He looked surprised at her reply. “You’re welcome, I guess.”

        Mr. Richards signaled that the big boys’ task was done with another clap of his hands. “Now for the tables. We’ll need two on each wall.”

        Savannah slapped her hand to her forehead. The floors! She had completely forgotten she was helping Annslie. She ran across the room to the floor scrubbers.

        “Aw, man. She’s back,” Nat frowned.

        Annslie just laughed at him. “We had a goal to finish half the floor before you got back.”

        “You almost got there, though. You two are pretty fast at this.” Savannah plunged her rag into the murky bucket. “Sorry I abandoned you, though.”

        Annslie shook her head. “We knew you’d come back. You always do the jobs you’re assigned to.”

        “I just hope we get done in time,” Nat said then grinned. “I’m getting a little sore.”

        “Maybe the time would pass faster if we sang,” Savannah suggested. “It’d bring a little joy into this schoolhouse.” She looked around the room.

        The desks were gone, replaced by bare floorboards and the four long tables waiting for refreshments. Robbie and Lewis were nearly done washing windows. Jonah jabbed at the rafters with his duster, knocking cobwebs down.

        “What songs do you like?” Annslie asked Nat.

        “I’ve always liked ‘Hark, the Herald Angels Sing’. The ‘glorias’ are especially fun.”

        “Glorias” echoed around the room as they continued to scrub. Mr. Richards walked by with a few boards and lent his rich voice to the singing. Jonah whistled along off-key. After half a dozen choruses, the floor crew stood up, stretched, and high-fived each other.

        “All done?” Mr. Richards asked, coming over to approve their work.

        “All done,” Nat grinned.

        “Great job. Mrs. Howard and Mrs. Daigle will be arriving soon, but until then, take a break,” their teacher said.

        Savannah glanced at the schoolhouse clock. The dance was starting in less than an hour. Now was the perfect time to run home and change into her formal clothes. Annslie thought the same and left quickly.

      The boys put away their ladders and dusters and flew out the front doors. Only Mr. Richards and Theo were left, assembling a makeshift stage for the fiddler to stand on. Savannah felt a little guilty leaving them when there was still work to do.

      A sharp cry of pain echoed through the schoolhouse. She turned on her heels. “What’s wrong?”

       Mr. Richards was holding his handkerchief against a cut on Theo’s hand. “Savannah, first-aid kit, please.”

     “Right.” She dove into the closet once again and easily found the red box.

      Theo clenched his teeth as Mr. Richards poured antiseptic onto the cut. Savannah put gauze on his hand and gently wrapped a bandage around it. She wondered if he would be a better soldier than Jonah pretended to be.

      “Thank you, Savannah,” Theo said. “Sorry about that, Mr. Richards.”

      “Accidents happen. It’s all right. Thank you for bringing the kit, Savannah,” the schoolteacher said.

     “You’re welcome.” Her eyes traveled to the clock again. Only half an hour left. Mrs. Howard and Mrs. Daigle would need her help. She’d better hurry.

      Savannah ran across the snowy schoolyard, stopping at the street to look both ways before dashing across to the little row of houses. Annslie stepped off the porch of one.

      “Savannah, you’d better hurry. We don’t have much time,” she called.

      “I hear you. I’ll be back soon.” Savannah went inside.

      Mama waved to her from the kitchen, and she stopped to give Baby Tommy a kiss on his curls. Hurrying up the stairs, she closed her bedroom door behind her and slipped into the special blue dress laid out on her bed. The full skirt swooshed around her as she walked. She ran a cloth over her dusty shoes and brushed one more cobweb out of her hair.

      A sound outside brought her over to the window. The ladies were carrying decorations from an old station wagon into the schoolhouse. No time to curl her hair. Settling for a twist at the base of her neck and a small blue bow to match her dress, Savannah ran back across the street moments later.

     “Just in time.” Annslie high-fived her.

     “Thank you so much for volunteering to help, girls.” Mrs. Daigle laid a gentle hand on each girl’s shoulder. “The Ladies’ Guild couldn’t put on this charity event without you.”

     Savannah smiled. “We’re glad to help. What can we do?”

     There were tablecloths to be spread on the refreshment tables. Decorative candles placed in holders. Holly wreaths hung on the inside of the doors. Boys on ladders hung Christmas lights and garlands from the rafters.

     “Gladys, whatever do we do about the chalkboards?” Mrs. Howard groaned. “Mr. Richards tells me they are permanent.”

     Mrs. Daigle put a finger to her plump chin. “We’ll write ‘Merry Christmas’ on one and ‘welcome’ on the other. That should be good enough.”

     Theo was adding the final touches to a chalk Christmas tree when the first neighbors arrived.

     “Probably time to get off the refreshment table,” Annslie said in an undertone.

     “Right.” He got down and put the tablecloth back in place.

     Robbie scuttled by with a ladder to stow in the cleaning closet.

     “Have you seen Savannah anywhere?” Annslie called after him.

     “Nope. Last I knew, she was sweeping the steps again, but you know her. Here, there, and everywhere.” Robbie grinned and shook his head.

     Savannah finally found a chance to rest when the schoolhouse was humming with people. She couldn’t dash back and forth anymore even if she tried. The room was packed with people—fathers, mothers, and children, big and small.

    She filled a cup with hot apple cider and took a sip. A few of the older girls wandered up to the table.

    “Hello, Savvy. Nice dress. Is it new?” one of them asked, taking a dainty bite of a cookie.

     Savannah smiled, even though she disliked the nickname. “Yes, this is my first time wearing it. I love the full skirt.”

     “It does look pretty darling,” another girl agreed. “Too bad you didn’t curl your hair, though. That twist looks plain with it.”

     Their comments stung. She had tried to look her best, but there just wasn’t time. She looked the older girls up and down. Perfect hair, stunning dresses, and nails painted. There was dirt under her thumbnail. She didn’t bother looking at the others.

     They turned back to the desserts, and she slipped away to the porch. She didn’t belong in the sparkly, joyful schoolhouse.

     “Savannah, what are you doing out here?” Mama asked, coming to the door.

     She sighed and focused on cleaning out her nails with a small twig. “Feeling sorry for myself, I guess.” She inclined her head toward the older girls. “Look at them. Perfectly dressed. They look like ladies right out of a storybook. And here I am. I have a new dress, but apparently, I ruined how it looks by not curling my hair.”

     Mama smiled and shook her head. She sank down on the bench next to her daughter. “You and I both know that you ran out of time because you were helping at the schoolhouse so much.”

     “I know. It’s just that now I feel like an eyesore.” Savannah turned to her mom. “Do I really look that bad?”

     Mama laughed. “Of course not. You look very nice.”

     “Thank you.”

     “Now, I’ve been talking to your friends, and according to Annslie, you’re ‘the most helpful creature that ever walked the face of this earth’. They all have something to say about how you showed them love or helped them find joy. Jonah remembers teasing you and how you controlled your tongue.” Mama put an arm around her shoulders. “The fruits of the Spirit you are displaying to others are beautiful in God’s eyes. Now go in there, forget what the girls said, and have peace knowing that your actions are pleasing to God.”

      Savannah smiled, happy tears glistening in her eyes. “Okay. Thank you, Mama.” She stood up and smoothed her dress then took a step forward into the music-filled schoolhouse.

      “Savannah, can you dance this one with me?” Lewis asked.

      She took the younger boy’s arm and grinned. “I’d be delighted to, sir.”

The End


All nine of the fruits of the Spirit are portrayed in this story. Can you find them?


Short Story: Smiles in Their Hearts

Short Story: Smiles in Their Hearts

christmas-830460_1920Cynthia breathed in deeply the sweet smell of wood smoke and pine needles before she opened the mailbox. It was stuffed full of letters, and she pulled them out with a smile. Christmas cards were one of her favorite things about the season. Not the most important, she reminded herself, but enjoyable all the same.

Papa Richland was a pastor so they knew a lot of people and hardly a day went by with an empty mailbox. Just a week ago, they had stuffed it full themselves sending out invitations to the church Christmas party.

Huge windows lined the front of the house, and she could see a little of the cheery work going on inside.  Pushing open the front door, she stepped into the cozy dining room, and stamped the snow off her boots. Everyone was singing different snatches of Christmas carols, and no one minded at all.

The dining room looked absolutely lovely, or would, when Esther had finished arranging the decorations on the long serving table, and Francis had finished hanging garlands above the windows. Cynthia felt as if she would burst with it all.

“Francis, where is Papa?” she asked looking up at him as she unwound her scarf.

“In his study working on his sermon, and you know only mother can break into his thoughts,” Francis replied over his hammering.

“Oh, well, I’ll take the mail to Mama; if it’s important she’ll tell him. That’s how they met, you know: when he was thinking very hard.” She wound her way past the blazing fireplace whose mantel had already been decorated, and found herself in the kitchen.

“Here’s the mail, Mama. Anything I can do to help?” she said laying the mail as far as possible from the floury kitchen table, but still near enough for Mama to reach.

“Yes, dear, thank you. You can roll out this dough, I’ll take the opportunity to see how Matt and Abby are doing at their assignment,” Mama said wiping her hands on her apron and taking it off.

Cynthia imagined the cookies tasted just as wonderful as they looked. Aunt Bessie was decorating them with selections from a huge bowl of candy on the counter beside her, and little Leigh was watching her fascinated.
The afternoon soon passed, and the family found the hour for the party very near at hand. Mama was everywhere at once, helping Papa with his tie, straightening hair bows, and making sure everything was in perfect order.   Matthew was posted at one of the large windows to alert them when the first sleigh arrived. It came sooner than anyone had expected, and Papa rushed to open the door with a welcoming smile.   Francis carried the newcomers’ coats to Mama and Papa’s bedroom, and Esther showed everyone first to the snack table, then to the living room.
Another sleigh arrived, then another. Cynthia found herself holding Leigh, and surrounded by laughing and talking friends.

“Cindy! How good to see you!” a voice called out, and she was hugged by a girl about her own age.

“Hello Mary!” she said with a pleased smile.

It seemed as if every family from church was there, even the Bartons. Their two little girls hung back from the rest of the crowd and stuck together. Their dresses were definitely from last Christmas, as they were beginning to be small-fitting and quite shabby.  Cynthia’s conscience told her to welcome them, but she was so caught up in the joy and excitement that she ignored this message. After all, what could she do for them when all they really needed was a job for their father for Christmas?
The group gathered in the living room, and Francis was called upon to bring more chairs, but still some people had to sit on the floor.            They started with the Christmas carols that Papa had chosen, and Mama accompanied on the piano. Cynthia shared a hymnal with Esther, and their alto and soprano voices blended together in beautiful harmony. Snow had begun to fall again outside, and the light was beginning to fade in the sky.
Then everyone was quiet, and Papa stood up to preach. He was a captivating preacher, clear and moving, and even his family sat as if spellbound listening to his sermon.
He was talking about blessing people, and Cynthia felt her conscience speak again.

“So this Christmas, think of how you have been blessed and strive to bless others as well. Let the love of God in your heart pour forth into the hearts of others. It doesn’t take huge, important endeavors to bless people. Sometimes it only takes a prayer, a smile, or a kind word to brighten someone’s life,” Papa explained.

The bright sincerity in his eyes spoke to the hearts of those listening, and Cynthia’s thoughts raced on. Papa had wanted to be a missionary, and when that couldn’t be he became pastor of a small town. She looked around the room and remembered just how many people he had  blessed. As soon as his closing prayer had been said and everyone began to drift back into the dining room, Cynthia turned to Esther. “Esther, do you remember those rag dolls we made?”

“Are you thinking what I am?” Esther asked.

They disappeared together into their bedroom, and found the rag dolls stowed in a drawer dressed in clothes made from scraps leftover from their own Christmas dresses.

“We were planning on using this calico to make them everyday dresses. How about wrapping them in it so the girls can themselves?” Cynthia asked.

Moments later, they rejoined the crowd, each with a small package in their pocket.

“There they are,” Esther told her sister nodding towards the two little girls who were studying the dazzling Christmas tree complete with Matthew and Abby’s paper chains.

“Hello,” Cynthia said for the both of them.

The little girls didn’t answer but smiled back shyly.

“We wanted to give you these. Merry Christmas,” she added, and the sisters placed their packages in the girls’ hands.

The girls smiled, and the oldest said, “Thank you. My name is Jessie.”

“Well, Jessie, would you and sister like to join us in the dining room?” Esther invited.

The girls smiled again, and Cynthia and Esther felt smiles in their hearts.

Short Story: The Calling

Short Story: The Calling

8321555The little shop was the kind that never got clean, no matter how much the shopkeeper’s wife scrubbed at it—which wasn’t very much at all. The windows were broken and dingy, looking out onto a street that mirrored its sad condition. Still, business was very good for the one reason that this general store had the lowest prices.

The door opened and a bell rang loudly causing the clerk working steadily at the counter to look up expectantly. Recognizing the customer, he offered a ready smile and rose from his seat.

The young man standing before him looked at him with grateful, steady grey eyes much in contrast to the hopeless ones he had owned years earlier. “Well, Zadok,” he said, offering his hand, “I’ve come to say goodbye. Our team leaves tomorrow morning early on the train.”

The clerk took it readily and shook it in a hearty grasp. “Goodbye Andrew and Godspeed.”

“I’ll never forget how you have helped me and shown me the Good News that only brings hope. I’ll tell everyone I share with about you, how your heart goes with me,” the former errand boy said earnestly.

“Only His glory, Andrew, only His. Goodbye,” Zadok replied. His eyes and his thoughts followed the young missionary out the door. A time when he had dreamed of the mission field came to his mind as it often did…

The little brown house came into view and his steps quickened as much as his graduation gown would allow. Freeing his hand from the stack of books he carried he rapped on the door. A young girl opened it and smiled up at her brother.

“Hello Hannah, where is Mother?” he asked looking past her into the bustling kitchen where everyone but Mother seemed to be at that moment. He knew they were making a special dinner just for him, and he smiled at the thought.

“With Father. He seems to be doing worse,” Hannah said holding the door open wide for him and the moving the little boy that tried to squirt out.

Without a word, he pushed past the others, who greeted him heartily, and tapped lightly on the bedroom door.

Mother opened it with a cheerful smile that did not match the circles around her eyes.

“How is he?” Zadok whispered suddenly feeling very conspicuous in his graduation attire.

“Eager to see his oldest son. He was disappointed to miss your graduation ceremony,” Mother replied smoothing back the dark brown hair that tumbled onto his forehead.

Father was lying on his bed, a book propped up in his thin hands. A faint smile came to his face when he saw his son, but nothing more in the way of greeting.

“Hello, Father,” the young man said touching one of his father’s hands. “My graduation went well today, even the speech, though I’ve always been bad at those. I kept my things on to show you.”

Father smiled, and Zadok’s eyes grew dim. Sensing this, Mother led him gently to the door.

“Oh, Zadok, it’s all right. There is hope, the doctor said so,” Mother said.

“I wish he could talk. There are so many questions I have to ask him. I’ve always thought God wanted me to be a missionary, but now I can’t. What do I do instead?” the young man replied bitterly.

“Ask God. I’ll tell Hannah to keep dinner so you can go for a walk in the field,” his mother answered.

The air was sweet and refreshing outside; reminding the young man very much of the day he had first met a missionary and wanted to be one himself.

“Lord, what work do You have for me to do?” he asked aloud wading through the thick grasses of the hayfield.

The missionary’s words came back to him. “There are many ways to serve God.”

He lay down in the grass and gazed at the house. It was a small thing surrounded by the sea of grass, but a thin stream of smoke winding up from the chimney told of the comforts within.

“Inside that house, Mother and Hannah are giving of what they have to bless us all. God, I know what You want me to do—serve at home, but in comparison it doesn’t seem like much at all. I had greater plans.”

He flipped open his Bible and turned the pages idly. It struck him that here he was arguing with God about his future when all along he should have been asking for God’s plan. He stopped turning the pages and his eyes fell on a particular verse. “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”*

“My heart has been filled with pride. I now know that I planned this, Lord, for my glory, not Yours. You are directing me somewhere else. But what good will this do for Your kingdom? Surely working at a low-class shop in a dirty part of town is much less than spreading Your Good News.”

He began to play again with the thin pages of his Bible and finally decided to open it to the book of Isaiah. The words were heavily underlined, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”**

“There is no immediate fruit from this labor. Show me what I am to do, and someday I will know why. Please help me to be obedient to You in the days to come with a cheerful and willing heart.”

Encouraged, he rose and quickly crossed the yard to the house. Again Hannah greeted him cheerfully with “Dinner’s ready.”

Already feeling much better, Zadok picked up the nearest young child, tossed him into the air and caught him again with a bear hug. He couldn’t see God’s plan, but he knew that he would follow along.

His first day at the shop had been a hard contrast to his glorious dream, but his family was cared for and there were still ways to serve God. Maybe Andrew was one of the reasons he had been called to this little shop on a dirty street.
*Proverbs 16:9, NKJV

**Isaiah 55:9, NKJV

Short Story: The Letter

Short Story: The Letter

Winter was turning the corner into summer and behaving quite badly about it. For this reason, everyone who was unfortunate enough to be out in the cruel weather only waved to each other in passing and dashed quickly on their way. A cold, pouring rain showered them with all its fury; and when the young clerk peered out of his shop window, he knew that there would be very few customers today.

Hurrying over to his chair behind the counter, Zadok Richland opened his Bible and began to carefully pore over it taking many notes. As he ran his finger along the thin page, a little bell above the door rang causing him to quickly shut his books and stand up to greet his customer. A smile came to his face when he recognized the dripping customer as the local pastor.

“Good afternoon, sir. How may I help you?” he asked helping the man remove his coat before returning to his place behind the counter.

“My wife found she was a little low on flour and asked me to fetch her some more. But how can I help you? You seem a little preoccupied,” Pastor Clearwater asked spying the books Zadok had just been using.

“Lately, as you know, I’ve been studying the Bible looking for things to share with my family each evening. When I was little, my father used to lead us in worship, and I am trying to follow in his steps. But this time it is something much more serious…” Zadok replied weighing out the chosen amount of flour.

“Something having to do with a younger sibling?” the astute pastor questioned looking over his glasses.

“Isaac is in college, and I’m quite afraid he will fall in with the wrong friends. I was puzzling just now over what I should do to help him,” Zadok said trading the flour for a handful of coins.

The pastor nodded and thought for a moment. “Zadok,” he paused trying to collect his thoughts, “after Paul, Silas, and Timothy went to Thessalonica and planted a church there they had to leave suddenly. Now, just like your brother, they were new in the faith, facing some temptations, and Paul and his brothers were worried about them. I’d encourage you to look through the book of Thessalonians to see how they handled this.”

“Thank you, pastor, I will,” Zadok replied shaking hands.

“I’ll be praying for you and your brother,” the pastor answered as he disappeared out the door into the pounding rain.

Many hours later, when his work was done and the rain was falling harder than ever, Zadok made his way through the dark, quiet streets towards his home. It looked very cozy in comparison to everything else outdoors, so he quickened his steps to reach it faster.

First came a family dinner, devotions, and the large task of getting everyone happily into bed; but later he finally found time to steal up the stairs to his bedroom and read the book his pastor had suggested.

Lighting a candle he sat down at his desk and opened the thick Bible. One of the first verses of the chapter caught his eye. “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers…”*

“Yes, prayer is one way, after all God can reach Isaac even when I can’t,”
Zadok said nodding and pushing his hair off his forehead. He grabbed one of the many pieces of paper that littered his desk and scribbled a note on it.

Tracing the words with his finger, he read on until he found something more. By that time the candle was much shorter, but he pushed on—driven by a desire to bless his brother.

“Therefore when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith.” **

“Who could I send in my place?” he mused aloud and thought through all the people he knew in the town where his brother now lived. The words “Mr. Abbott” joined his first note and he said, “I’m sure he’d be glad to take him in for an afternoon sometimes. Pastor Clearwater is quite convinced that falling in with the wrong friends could be, to a degree, kept from happening if there were something else to do.”

In that strange way that people often do, Zadok found himself thinking aloud even though there was no one to talk to. Maybe it was because he found the room too quiet or it helped him to think. He had finished reading, but he still sat staring into the flame of the candle with his chin cupped in his hands.

“Paul and his brothers did send an encouraging, instructive, and friendly letter, I suppose. That is something I should do. I’ve never really been the best of friends with him, but it’s never too late to try,” he said and pulled a clean sheet of paper from the stacks that covered the desk.

He started out by talking about the weather—that was a safe and interesting subject. As he wrote, his pen turned to things from their childhood together; then branched into updates on all the “home folks”. He told his brother how Hannah and her new husband were doing, how Mother was holding up, and a few of the comical stories of their younger siblings.

After an affectionate signature, he finished his letter with the words,“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” *** He then tucked the letter into its envelope and set it on his desk. The candle was burning very low now, and the moon had risen high in the sky; but still he wrote. There was one more thing to do—write a letter to Mr. Abbott asking him to help take care of his brother.

Zadok blew out the candle and crawled into to his bed, breathing a silent prayer before he fell asleep.
*1 Thessalonians 1:2, NKJV

**1 Thessalonians 3:1-2, NKJV

***Proverbs 16:9, NKJV


Short Story: The Father

Short Story: The Father

strawberries-816698_960_720The church lawn was covered in picnic tables all bunched together in an effort to be under the shade of the large maple trees that graced one corner. People milled about exclaiming to each other about the heat and helping themselves to more of the ice cream and lemonade provided by the ladies of the church. It was Fathers’ Day, and everyone had gathered to celebrate it in style.

Zadok Richland pulled his horses to a stop and jumped from the wagon seat to tie the reins to a hitching post. Helping his mother and younger siblings out of the wagon, he soon found himself carrying a potato salad and being led by his youngest brother to the “ice cream table”.

The table was filled with many other things beside ice cream, but six-year-old “Buddy” had eyes for it only. “Chocolate, please,” he said quickly as soon as his oldest brother had safely placed the potato salad.

They drifted along eating small spoonfuls of their ice cream and saying not a word to each other until they reached the field where the men and boys were assembling for a game of tug-of-war.

Buddy’s ice cream was quickly forgotten, and he begged his older brother to come with him. Zadok smiled and willingly let himself be dragged toward the assembly of fathers and sons.

“This will be interesting,” a man standing near Zadok said crossing his arms and smiling at the long line. “Is this your little boy?”

“My youngest brother, Buddy,” Zadok explained realizing for the first time that they were the only fatherless ones there.

The men and boys pulled with all their might, but those on the other side pulled harder and finally pulled them over. Many a handsome set of church clothes had the revolutionary color green added to it, but all rose with a happy shout and prepared to start over with new energy. All except Buddy. He sat on the ground holding his scraped up knee and forcing back the tears that are so shameful to even the smallest of boys.

“Excuse me,” Zadok said and pushed forward to help his little brother up. “It’s not so bad, old boy, we’ll soon get it fixed up.”

Buddy gritted his teeth and managed to smile bravely at his little friends who watched with concern as he was led away. Zadok helped him along until they reached the house.

“Excuse me, miss, I was wondering if you had any bandages or something I could use. My brother hurt himself in the tug-of-war,” he explained to a young lady who had happened to come out of the house just then.

“Buddy, what happened?” She spoke to the little boy with tender concern.

“I fell down,” Buddy said almost proudly staring at the little trickle of blood his knee boasted.

“He’s going to be all right, Mr. Richland,” the young lady said with a smile as she led them into the house. “I’m sure we can fix that in a minute, and he’ll be as good as new.”

Zadok had a vague feeling as she talked that he was supposed to know who she was. She seemed to know all about him, and Buddy was quite at ease with her.

Water followed by tea tree oil and a bandage was applied to the brave boy’s knee, and the young lady soon let him return to the field to proudly join the others and show off his “wound”.

“I declare, he’s almost proud he was hurt,” the young lady said with a smile in her eyes.

“He’s like that, always has been. Thank you for helping him, Miss…”

“Bethany. Bethany White,” she said offering her hand when she realized that he was asking her name.

“Thank you, Miss White. You are Pastor Clearwater’s niece, yes?”

“Yes. I’m staying here for the summer to help them out,” Bethany said. “You are his intern, Mr. Richland?”

Zadok had begun to watch the little boys play again and to wonder about the subject of predestination at the same time when she repeated her question.

“I’m sorry, I forgot you were even here,” he said apologetically.

“It’s all right. Now I know you are Mr. Richland; my uncle has told me about how hard you think and about your attitude towards your younger siblings,” Bethany replied.

Zadok shook his head a little as if to dismiss her encouraging words.

“You are like a father to them, you know,” she offered quietly.

“I’ve had to be. My father died when I was just out of high school. I’m probably the only one celebrating here Father’s Day alone,” Zadok smiled wistfully at the thought.

“You are not alone,” she said quietly. “And by God’s grace your younger brothers do have a father. You are being a father to them before they get to know their heavenly one.”

Those shameful tears began to come to his eyes at her sincere reminder. “Thank you, Miss White,” he said huskily. “I needed that.”

“Hey, Richland! Are you coming? It’s time for the father and son race,” a man yelled to him from where they were lining up.

“I’ll see you later, Miss White. Excuse me,” Zadok said quickly and ran to join his brothers.

As they all found their places, re-tied shoe laces, and removed Sunday ties; he breathed a silent prayer of thanksgiving to his heavenly Father. “Thank you, Lord, thank you for being a father to the fatherless. Today, when I saw other men and their fathers playing a game together, I missed my own father very much. Thank You for filling that gap while giving me the chance to minister to my own brothers and run this race with them.”

Watching from the sidelines, Miss Bethany White smiled as she saw Zadok and his brothers running along together. “Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to encourage someone. You know I have been asking You for that.”
“A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation.” (Psalm 68:5, NKJV)

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18, NKJV)

Short Story: This Is Home

Short Story: This Is Home

locomotive-222174_960_720The train moved swiftly across the tracks and the landscape around it was always changing. Esther looked out the window and tried to study the farm scenery; but she was filled with excitement and a little fear about the future and couldn’t help thinking about that instead. She turned when she realized the passenger sitting in the seat opposite was looking at her and said, “Do you know that when I heard you were a pastor I knew you would be a good father and now I am even surer about that? The family I was with before only spoke of God when they were angry and especially when they were angry with me.”
The man smiled and said, “Praise the Lord. I am grateful that we can give you the family you need.”

“Yes, but will they like me?” Esther asked with a sigh.

“This will all take some getting used to, but I’m sure they will. First there is ‘Mama’, as you will call her. In time you will grow to love her just as I have ever since I first saw her. She takes every child God brings her willingly and with lots of love.”

Esther smiled at the bit of a story he had just told her. Already she could tell that Mama was a wonderful person even though she had never seen her. Papa Richland was the only one she had met and that was two days ago when he had come to take her home from the orphanage. Her thoughts were brought back into the stuffy train by his next words.

“After the ‘big’ boys who are at college most of the year, comes Cynthia. She just turned thirteen. I think you will like her. Francis is eleven, Abby is seven, and Matt just turned five, I believe. Leigh was only a baby when she came a few weeks ago,” Papa said.

“You mean I’m not the only one who has—come?” Esther said with interest in her dark eyes.

“Esther, many of the other children have ‘come’, but that doesn’t matter in the least. Your mama and I love you, and we have chosen you to be our daughter just as God chooses us for His children,” Papa replied smiling.

Grateful tears filled Esther’s eyes, and she returned to gazing out the window while he again absorbed himself in his book. Awhile later, she awoke from a much needed nap to hear the conductor yelling, “All off for Ashton Heights! All off!”

“This is our stop,” Papa Richland said gathering their bags. She yawned and sat up to look out the window. Ashton Heights was definitely smaller than Dunton Station, but it felt welcoming all the same. A little boy chased his chicken down the street beside them, and Esther laughed.

The street was just busy enough to be interesting, but not to be crowded and soon they walked as far as the parsonage. Papa’s words gave her a thrill. “This is home.”

Esther looked it up and down for a moment—the large yard with apple trees surrounded by a white picket fence, the two-story house with huge windows lining the front, the little stone path that led up to the wide porch—and said, “This is what I thought it would look like.”

Moments later, they were discovered by the children noisily playing in the backyard; and Papa was rushed upon with hugs.

“Children, I would like you to meet your new sister. This is Esther,” Papa said laying a hand on her shoulder to help her not feel so small standing in the presence of the “big” boys.

One of them came forward right then and shook her hand introducing himself as Marshall. Following his example, the other boys greeted her—all but one. Marshall noticed and said, hastily, “That’s Owen. He’s rather shy.”

“We’ll get to know each other better soon enough,” Esther spoke for the first time and gave her new brother a reassuring smile.

Then the little girl found her courage and gave her new sister a hug with a shyly whispered, “Hi.”

The troop would’ve carried her off in a moment to show her the new tree house that Jacob said was almost done and Marshall wasn’t so sure about; but Papa seemed anxious that she meet the others so that was put off until later. Papa knocked on the door, and a woman (somewhere between young and old) opened the door with a smile.

“Bethany, this is Esther,” Papa said happily.

Mama Richland drew Esther into a hug and said into her ear, “Welcome home, Esther. We are so glad to have you. Cynthia will show you your room if you are interested in unpacking.”

“Thank you,” Esther whispered in return. Over Mama’s shoulder she saw that a girl about her own age had entered the room, and she knew that this was Cynthia. Papa handed the girls the wicker trunk, and they carried it together to the girls’ bedroom. Esther paused to look over her shoulder, and she could see that her new parents were very happy to see her.

The girls didn’t speak to each other until the trunk was safely up the stairs, and they had caught their breath. “This is the room we share with Abby and Leigh, when she is older,” Cynthia said invitingly gesturing around the room.

“It’s lovely,” Esther replied standing there with her carpetbag and looking very awkward. There was an uncomfortable silence and then in a rare moment of outgoingness, the new sister burst out, “Do stop treating me like a guest. I’m your new sister.”

Cynthia laughed and jumped up from the bed she had been sitting on. “All right, but being my sister may include a good scolding.” There was a small twinkle in her eyes.

Esther laughed and that sealed the bargain. Together they had the trunk unpacked in a few moments and sat down together to admire their work and catch their breath.

“You know, I am so glad that you all love God. That helps me know that we will get along,” Esther said confidentially.

Cynthia smiled. “’Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.’* I’m glad you are my sister.”

*Psalm 133:1