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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Twilight Years of Life (07/02/09)

TITLE: Priorities
By Carol Scott


Elaine gazed outside without really seeing the neatly trimmed courtyard separating her building from the next. Having lived in this small apartment complex for eight years, she’d seen dozens of people come and go, nearly all younger than herself. Students came for a semester or two, then left to embark on their careers; couples stayed until the children they hadn’t had when they moved in became cramped in the modest quarters and the families moved on. Occasionally someone close to her own age came for awhile, but these folks never seemed to stay long, either; some moved in with family, some entered retirement communities or nursing homes; one gentleman died alone in the building nearest Elaine’s. “Maybe I’ve been here too long, too,” she whispered to no one in particular. “Maybe it’s time for my life to change.”

Elaine’s youngest child, Merilee, left the nest two years earlier; three older siblings had been on their own for quite some time. Jessica and her family were in Green Bay, just minutes away from Elaine; Mark was nearby, as well, in Appleton, Wisconsin. Jeremy and his family settled in Illinois, near his in-laws; and Merilee had met the young man who was now her fiancé shortly after moving to Madison. Smiling softly at the thought of her baby planning a wedding, Elaine turned from the window, still considering her options.

Elaine’s job was a factor; she was earning more than she ever had, but she was restless. She’d taken the position last year, looking for something different to do; her résumé was long and varied, with employment ranging from print and broadcast journalist to environmental laboratory clerk to church secretary. She’d scheduled freight deliveries for a transit company, worked in a factory’s personnel office before it was ever called HR; she’d operated a lithograph in a print shop, served as a museum tour guide and a deputy city clerk. Elaine had worked in bakeries, restaurants and as a teenage music teacher many years before, in the shop where she took her own lessons.

Now she was in a new field, 401k administration; Elaine was intelligent and interested in nearly everything. She’d accepted the position eagerly, as another learning opportunity. But about halfway through her training period, the market dropped, plunging the country deeply into recession. She regularly spoke with participants nearing retirement age, who had just lost 30%, 40% or even half the funds they’d been saving for years. After awhile, the conversations became so depressing that Elaine began to feel she was living solely for the weekends and merely existing the other days. Her work ethic had always been based on Colossians 3:17a, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, [do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (KJV). But lately she knew she wasn’t living up to that standard; she’d allowed herself to become disillusioned and depressed.

Elaine knew God could change the economy, but she also knew He could change her. “Dear Father,” she prayed, “I know You want Your children to work as You describe at the beginning of Ecclesiastes 9:10, ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do [it] with thy might,’ (KJV), and I also know I haven’t been doing that. I want to serve You properly and be a positive influence on my family. So I ask You, in Jesus’ name, to please direct our lives and provide me with guidance to decide what’s next for me. I spend more and more time immersed in the past, trying to relive happier times, when the family was all together, or even when I was a child, myself. I need to dwell less on this and spend more time involved in what’s happening now; and I want to be uplifting to the people I speak with at work. Please channel my thoughts and life to glorify You and be a blessing to my loved ones. Thank You, Lord. Amen.”

As Elaine continued to ponder the questions, the phone rang. “Hi, Grandma,” her granddaughter, Desiree, said excitedly. “Our band is having a concert in two weeks and I’ll be doing a solo.”

“Well, that’s just wonderful!” Elaine replied.

“You’ll come, won’t you? It won’t seem right if you’re not there.”

Elaine suddenly understood that her present and future were made up of small but important things like spending time with and supporting the people who meant the most to her. “I wouldn’t miss it,” she said with a smile. “It gives me something to look forward to.”

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Sara Harricharan 07/09/09
This was pretty good, it started out well, but the very last paragraph seemed too, um, cliche? I already understood that Elaine had "gotten" it without her having to explain that it was the little things that mattered-your dialog already told the reader that, so it was kind of obvious, otherwise, pretty good read. I loved the descriptions about her life and the atmosphere you worked in.
Donna Powers 07/09/09
This was nicely written and it reminded us to keep the things of God in the forefront of our lives.
Genia Gilbert07/10/09
I enjoyed this, especially the verse about doing all things as unto the Lord. Life changes all the time, and finding ourselves in different stages (and ages) is a challenge to our priorities.. I like your message.
Laura Manley07/15/09
I enjoyed this story very much. I think I would have liked it even more if there had been a little more dialogue. I'm a Beginner as well, and I'm amazed at the talent in that group. You certainly are one of those people. Thank you for a lovely read. Laura