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Beauty for Ashes
by Jenna Fernandez
05/21/12
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I pull the covers over my head, attempting to drown out the uninvited light that floods my room. Daylight has come as an unwelcome reminder that I am still alive, and I endeavor to sink back into the safe shelter of my warm bed. The darkness beneath the covers more closely resembles my life, and I find comfort in the familiarity.

Sleep beckons me, and I succumb once again to its enticing embrace—only to have my dreamlike reverie shattered by the piercing sound of my dog’s pained howling. Reluctantly, I pull myself from the warm cocoon of blankets and walk stiffly across the apartment to our small kitchen—where our scruffy Picardy Shepherd Ace is waiting, leash in his mouth. Ace tilts his head innocently as I mumble some choice words under my breath while hooking the leash to his collar.

Catching a glimpse of myself in the hallway mirror as we make our way to the door, I faintly notice how gaunt I look—and how dark the circles under my eyes have become. I don’t care that I’m wearing the same sweats I’ve worn for days, or that I haven’t put on any make-up. Pulling my unbrushed hair into a ponytail, I head out the door into the blinding sunlight.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been outside. Jon’s been taking care of the dog—and just about everything else, for the past few months. But he’s on a business trip, so I don’t have a choice for the next couple of days. If I did, I’d still be in bed.

Ace eagerly pulls me down the sidewalk, and I can’t help but wonder who’s the one being taken for a walk. Having been practically immobile for so long, I’m quickly losing my breath trying to keep up with him. When we reach the park at the end of the road, he comes to an abrupt halt. This is one place I’d rather not stop, but he yanks willfully at the leash at pulls me over to a bench across from the playground—where he sits stubbornly.

Tired from the walk, I grudgingly sit next to my obstinate companion. Though he refuses to move, he wags his tail and barks playfully at the children in the playground. I try to divert my eyes from the life-filled landscape before me, and I reach for my headphones in hopes of drowning out the sounds of childlike laughter—but the headphones are not in my bag.

So here I am, alone with my thoughts. My mind drifts to Jon, and my heart pains as I think of how distant we’ve become. He tried to bear with me for a long time, but lately he’s been burying himself in his work. I try not to think of how it must be for him—being married to a corpse. In the past years, I’ve pretty much shut out the world—including him.

It’s not that he doesn’t understand. He wanted children as badly as I did, but it didn’t seem to affect him quite like it affected me. I didn’t understand how God could withhold children from us when we wanted them so desperately, or how He could allow us to continue to suffer so endlessly if He was so powerful—but my husband never expressed such doubts. He just kept moving forward while I just…stopped.

We’d both had agreed that we were willing to adopt. There were children out there who needed parents as much as we wanted children. We finished the paperwork and everything involved with adoption—but I was still grieving and didn’t have the strength to do any more. So I just gave up and stopped trying.

I’m startled out of my thoughts by the sound of crying. As miserable as I am, I know it can’t be me. I haven’t cried in years. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a young girl—probably high school age, sitting on the other end of the bench. Ace has already introduced himself to her, and is sitting in front of her with his face on her lap. The last thing I want is to deal with someone else’s problems, but Ace has ensured that I don’t have a choice.

As the young girl continues to cry, I decide to let Ace be her comforter for awhile. Eventually, she stops—and just stares at the dog in silence, a hopeless smile tugging at the corner of her lips. Finally, I break the silence with a casual “hello” and a weak smile. We trudge through small talk about the dog and the weather, and we share our names. Hers is Tiffany, and I tell her mine—“Hannah.”

Our conversation works its way to the source of her tears. She is pregnant. And alone. Her parents kicked her out, her boyfriend left her, and she doesn’t know what she’s going to do. I brace my heart against the onslaught of thoughts—questions of why one so young and unprepared for a child was given this great blessing, while it was withheld from me after ten years of waiting and wanting. But Ace tilts his head like he does, looking into my eyes as if to tell me just to be quiet and listen. And so I do.

I conjure up all the motherly advice I can possibly give, and then I listen some more. Trying to keep my heart distant and protected, I attempt bring our conversation to a close, but Ace won’t budge. In my heart, I know what I need to do. There’s a shelter for young expectant mothers that provides counseling and care before and after the pregnancy, and I offer to take her there.

We walk to my home, Ace says his goodbyes, and Tiffany and I drive off to the shelter. After helping her get settled in, I drive off—thinking it’s the last I’ll see of her. Then something unexpected happens. I smile…for the first time in years.

Over the next days, it’s no battle to get out of bed. When he comes home, My husband is surprised to see the difference in me. I call the shelter every day to check on Tiffany, and I even visit her and drive her to doctor’s appointments. After a few months of spending time with her, I realize that I truly care and want the best for her. She helped me find the way out of my misery, and somehow I feel I owe her for saving my life.

When her due date draws near, Tiffany asks me to be in the hospital room with her, and when the baby is born—she asks me to choose the name. Humbled by the honor, I choose the name “Abigail,” thinking of all the joy this child has brought to our lives before even being born. As I’m holding this beautiful blessing, Tiffany looks at me with a very serious look. Through tears she asks me if I would be the mother who raises the child she gave birth to. I don’t know what to say. Finally, I had forgotten myself and my suffering—forgotten the very things I’d waited so long for, and now they were being given back to me in unexpected ways.

Tiffany assures me that this was her decision…her choice. She’d met with counselors and thought through every option, and this was what she wanted. We talk everything through with Jon, and then with our adoption agency. Our paperwork is still current, and after all the details are worked out—we bring our precious Abigail home. After not having cried in years, the floodgates finally open. This time, it’s tears of joy.

I keep my pledge to keep in contact with Tiffany—sending pictures and letting her know how Abigail is growing and learning. Tiffany graduated high school the year Abigail was born, and then went on to finish college. She now runs a shelter much like the one she stayed at. Every year on Memorial Day, we visit the park where we first met and watch Abigail as she plays in the playground.

This year, when Tiffany leaves—I linger in the park, remembering the pain that plagued my heart and thinking of how my greatest trial became my amazing miracle. All the suffering I endured was worth the joy that I now have. From the ashes of my life, God has brought forth a beautiful blessing.


If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be! TRUST JESUS NOW

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