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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Church (12/06/07)

TITLE: Decorations
By Shirley McClay


Hannah hung the last evergreen bough and stepped down off the ladder. Finished. She collapsed into a chair and closed her eyes. It had taken weeks of preparation and days of setting up. The church glistened, sparkled, twinkled, and shone in every possible way. She made a quick decision. She could make it home for a nap before the ladies came with the food. She looked around for her daughter. She was asleep, curled up beneath their coats. “Poor sweetie,” thought Hannah. She gathered up 7 year old Elizabeth and headed for the door.

The evening, however, did not turn out as expected.

When Hannah and her family returned to the church, the Christmas lights were gone. In fact the whole church was gone. It had burned to the ground and the firemen were just finishing their own unique addition to the lovely decorations. Smoke was still billowing from where the church stood. Everything was gray and dingy. Families stood nearby talking in hushed voices.

The pastor rushed over to Hannah. “We are so glad that you weren’t still there when it happened . The cranky old furnace is the suspected culprit at this point.” He lowered his voice and his eyes gently searched hers.”This is only a temporary hitch. I know it hurts, but we will get through this as a family.” He stepped back and bolstered a grin at her. Then he called out in his cheerful, hearty voice. “Come folks… We’ll let the firemen clean up and move the festivities to the town meeting hall. Them’s the perks of having the mayor as one of our own!” His laughter seemed to push back the smoke and chaos a bit.

As people gathered in the meeting hall, Hannah slipped to a balcony office and sat in darkness. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she stared out the window at the stark room harboring the stranded church people. The church was gone. She had been going there since her birth. She had become a Christian, been baptized, rededicated her life to Him, been married there. And so many heartaches and joys that had been a part of her life had been experienced or worked through in the church. People that had passed away or moved on had become so close to her there. How could it all disappear so abruptly?

The door creaked open and footsteps approached haltingly. “Mommy. Are you ok?” Elizabeth always seemed to know when someone was hurting, especially her mother.

Hannah couldn’t answer. Elizabeth mashed her nose up against the window. “The church was so pretty, I wish your decorations didn’t burn Mommy.” Hannah still couldn’t force any words past the tears. They were both silent for several minutes.

“So pretty… ” The whisper came out so soft Hannah almost didn’t hear it. She gathered herself and managed to speak for her little girl’s sake. “They were pretty, Honey, but we can do it again another time.”

“No, Mommy, not those decorations.”

Hannah looked out the window. The people gathered below had settled in and continued their festivities in spite of the tragedy down the street. Then Hannah felt a shock course through her. The faces below shone with peace, smiles sparkled with joy, their clothing was a jumble of festive color, and laughter rang throughout the building.

“Mommy, they look like your decorations. “

The tears Hannah now wiped away were different. God’s church wasn’t a building that she was responsible to decorate. God’s church was in front of her right now, and He had spent many years and lots of work decorating it. “And there is lots more work to be done on us,” she thought with a smile. She turned that smile on her daughter. “Those are God’s decorations, Elizabeth. Shall we go join them?” The two entered the festivities with lights twinkling in their eyes and dancing in their hearts.

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This article has been read 1121 times
Member Comments
Member Date
LaNaye Perkins12/16/07
This is a beautiful story with a such a wonderful message. Well done.
Joanne Sher 12/16/07
Lovely descriptions, and great job showing the emotion. This one blessed me.
Paula Titus 12/16/07
A wonderful picture of what God can do in a broken heart. Good writing :)
Jan Ackerson 12/16/07
Love the bit at the end where the people become the decorations! This is well-written and tender.
Yvonne Blake 12/18/07
Ahhhh... from the lips of children! I loved the comparison.
Good writing.
Dianne Janak12/18/07
I loved this also... you surprised me as I read it and then I realized how brilliantly crafted this piece was ... creative, tender, sweet, believable, and true... all so uplifting..nothing can kill the Spirit of God in us.. the eternal cannot be quenched.. FULL OF GOOD NEWS!
Dianne Janak12/18/07
I loved this also... you surprised me as I read it and then I realized how brilliantly crafted this piece was ... creative, tender, sweet, believable, and true... all so uplifting..nothing can kill the Spirit of God in us.. the eternal cannot be quenched.. FULL OF GOOD NEWS!
Temple Miller12/18/07
Lovely story from beginning to end. I loved how you began with insignificant decorations and ended people as decorations. Great job!
Peter Stone12/18/07
What a beautiful story with such a clear message. Lovely how you revealed that Christians are God's decorations. Keep up the good work.
Dee Yoder 12/18/07
Well, there's nothing in this story that needs my red ink! It's very beautiful and wonderfully crafted. I can't think of anything to "improve" the writing or the story. Excellent.
Sally Hanan12/18/07
You have writing talent which is good to see :) An easy tip I can give you is to not use normal adjectives to describe things--use other words instead. For instance, sparkling eyes is so overused. Whip out your dictionary and find sparkle--gleaming, glittering. Then let your mind wander to what sparkles--glittering like silver baubles, gleaming like shiny mirrors, etc. WORD can help with synonyms too--right click and it can pull some up for you.
Marita Vandertogt12/19/07
I don't think you'll be in Beginners for very long. This is really good writing!
Sara Harricharan 12/19/07
This was nice! I really liked your ending, it was pretty nice. One note: when Elizabeth is asking if her mother is okay, give Hannah's thought a new paragraph, that way we don't get the two of them mixed up. ^_^ Good writing!
Debbie Wistrom12/19/07
I think you will be moving up rather quickly, the only change I saw would be to spell out 7 for elizabeth's age. Will be looking for more good works from you.
Sheri Gordon12/19/07
This is very sweet, and very well written. I agree -- you won't be in beginners for long. :)
LauraLee Shaw12/20/07
Oh my, I can't believe this is in beginners! What an incredible story!

My only suggestion would be to add some variety to your opening paragraph sentences....most of them started with "she," and I'm thinking you could have changed up some of the structure there. Just a simple and picky critique.

Your balance between dialogue and story-telling was just right, and I could picture being a part of the scene. Excellent job!
Sheri Gordon12/20/07
Congratulations on your highly commended. This is a very good story, and well written.
Holly Westefeld12/20/07
Congratulations! This brought a lump to my throat, and tears to my eyes.
Beth LaBuff 12/22/07
Lovely, lovely story with great writing! Sorry I'm not much help as far as the RED PEN district. Congrats on your "highly commended".
TJ Nickel12/27/07
Congrats on your recognition. It's well deserved. There are a lot of articles in the contest for Church about people vs. place, you applied that in a very unique way and wove together people and objects; tough to do and congrats is deserved.
Dee Yoder 01/27/08
This is a lovely story! I hope you enter the Challenge often because I'd really enjoy reading your work every week. Give a hint if you do so I don't miss you!