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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Dead End (02/06/14)

TITLE: When Hope Found Me
By Toni Hammer


“Well where am I supposed to go now?” I yelled, slamming my fist against the steering wheel.

My nephew was being baptized any minute. I had zero desire to attend the service, but it was an obligatory family thing like high school graduation. My presence was expected and yet here I was—angry, lost, and staring at a sign marked “Dead End.”

“Great. Just great. How many more times are you going to screw up my life, God?”

One could say God and I had a falling out a few years ago. I held onto His hand when my longtime boyfriend mercilessly dumped me after I informed him I was pregnant. I even let God console me when I lost the baby at 20 weeks though that’s when the anger started. After all, I did the Christ-like thing, didn’t I? I chose to keep the baby and raise the child alone. It was the right thing to do and yet I was seemingly punished for my decision. When my mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away weeks later, I officially gave up on God. I still believed in His existence--I wasn’t a fool--but I doubted His goodness and good plans for me. It was obvious I was not someone He chose to bless. I was a hopeless cause.

So now I sat in an empty car, in a strange place, talking to myself and trying to figure out what to do next. I wasn’t smart enough to operate a smart phone or GPS. I was relying on directions I thought I could remember. Evidently I was wrong. Just one of my many mistakes. Way to go, Lucy.

I screamed when the dog jumped at my window. The golden retriever barked with joy at its finding. Breathing a sigh of relief, I saw an older woman come into view and yell for the dog to return to her side. “Ruth! Come here!” The animal was quick to respond to its master’s call and joined her as she strolled towards my car. Out of habit, I said a cursory prayer that she wasn’t a serial killer and rolled my window down.

“Lost?” The woman’s voice was jovial with a comforting rasp.

“Yeah. I’m trying to get to Church of the Redeemed but I seem to have made a wrong turn somewhere,” I said, gesturing to the dead end sign.

“Oh I’d be happy to tell you where to go. That’s a wonderful place. What takes you there?”

I wasn’t in the mood for chit chat as I was running so late already, but this woman was kind enough to tell me where to go so I felt it was only polite. “My nephew is being baptized.”

“What a blessed occasion! Glory to God! He is good, indeed.”

“Yes. Well. To some I suppose.” Goodness, Lucy, why are you dragging this conversation out? Just get the directions and go.

“Oh no, sweetheart. Always. To everyone. He is always good. He was good when He brought my Daniel to me and He was good when he took my Daniel to be with Him. He is good as I stand here with leukemia and He is so good to you that He brought me and Ruth this way to help you get to your nephew’s baptism. He is always good, honey. Now you’re going to want to go back up to Pine Road…”

Her directions were simple though it appeared I was pretty far from the church. If I hurried I’d be able to catch the tail end. “Thank you,” I said, “I really appreciate it… um… I’m sorry. I don’t believe I caught your name?”

“Hope. My name’s Hope. And don’t thank me, darling. Thank the good Lord who brought me to you. Enjoy the baptism.” With that she and Ruth walked away.

Mulling over her story as I drove, I arrived at the church and found a seat moments before my nephew was submerged. The church rejoiced and the pastor approached the podium. “We just witnessed this young man publicly dedicate his life to Christ and I ask you to do the same should you choose. Please come to the front if you’d like to commit your life to the one and only God, a God who loves the lost, who is full of compassion and mercy and blessings, a God who brings hope to the hopeless.”

With trembling legs, I stood.

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This article has been read 519 times
Member Comments
Member Date
C D Swanson 02/13/14
Wow - This was great! I loved it...The MC's feelings were apparent at the beginning and you did a good job in describing them. I loved the "Hope" at the end of the story, it fit in all so well, and it's all so true. God brings HOPE to all, good job. Great ending!
I hope this does well with the Judges.

God bless~
LaCretia Peters02/14/14
Awesome story!! I'm going to share it with my FB friends. With a prayer. I'll post it knowing that someone lost could find their way to Hope too! Amazing!!!
Virginia Lee Bliss 02/14/14
I enjoyed this story and wanting to find out how Lucy found her way,
Toni Babcock 02/14/14
This is a great story - you are a terrific writer. Your characters are very believable - not sugar-coated. Dynamic ending too - you will be published one day soon turning out writing like this!
Judy Sauer 02/14/14
What a fantastic story! you know how to convey details without skimping on key points yet without belaboring the point.

Truth or fiction, this was a delight to read. I really like your title. It was only after I read the lady's name did I scroll back up to read the title again.

Constructive comments: be careful of starting many sentences with "I" or even using "I" in the story. There are creative ways to rearrange wording so sentences don't begin with "I" and there are many ways to relate yourself into the story without too many "I" references.

Please, keep writing. This was enjoyable. You have talent.
Rachel Malcolm 02/15/14
Great piece! You are a gifted storyteller. Your characters are authentic and have unique voices.

I would like to have heard more of your MC's internal struggle before coming forward at the end. She was pretty angry. Did she struggle with receiving God's love?

You did a great job of showing (vs. just telling) in this story. Your details brought this piece to life. I look forward to reading more of your work in the future. :)
Graham Insley02/16/14
I too only looked at the title after i had read the story; which is unusual for me. It was a great tile and a great story well told.

My red ink is to do with sentences. Some of your sentences needed just a little adjustment.

One example is:"I even let God console me when I lost the baby at 20 weeks (--) though that’s when the anger started." I would add a -- into this, as shown. I feel the pause would add emphasis. If not a dash at least a comma because of the change in direction.

Another example is:"He is good as I stand here with leukemia and He is so good to you that He brought me and Ruth this way to help you get to your nephew’s baptism."

For me this sentence is too long for the conversation and would be better something like this:

"He is good as I stand here with leukemia. (Let that stand alone and it is powerful) And He's good to you too. Why here you are, lost and alone, and along come Ruth and I. He brought us this way to help you get to...

Of course what I've written isn't perfect either. But the shorter sentences give a little more punch to the leukemia and a little more emphasis to His provision.

As always I love an ending that changes the direction of someone's life. and your well written story does an excellent job of showing the progress the MC went through.

A great job.
Bea Edwards 02/18/14
You wrote an engaging and believable story. From the title to the nuance's of hope within it was a great read.
Deborah Perkins02/19/14
I loved your story! Only looked at the title after others commented on it, fits very nicely.Great writing, you have a gift.
lynn gipson 02/20/14
Congratulations on your EC! That's quite a rare occurrence from level one! I told you, you are a fine writer!

Blessings, Lynn
lynn gipson 02/20/14
Congratulations also on your 1st place win!
Mar  02/20/14
Congrats on your win, great story,
Toni Hammer02/20/14
Thank you all so much for your feedback and encouragement! I appreciate every comment and critique.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/20/14
This is a great story. You do an awesome job of creating the conflict right out of the box. I could picture the MC pounding the steering wheel (no, I've never done that ;))I could even almost hear it echo in the car.

The tiny bit of red ink I have is chitchat and taillights are both one word. It's really no big deal and obviously didn't bother the judges, but I thought I'd point it out for the future. I routinely have to look up words like that. (Makes great practice for Scrabble words too:))

You really did an outstanding job. I know you received some red ink, and I hope it doesn't discourage you. You're an amazing author and I can see you speeding up the ranks in record time. Your ending was super powerful too. What a beautiful message you included. Sometimes, good things can come out of dead ends if we place it in God's capable hands (or in this case someone else placed it in behalf of the MC which is even more important to remember--we can make a difference!) Congratulations on your win and EC. Happy Dance!!! (It took me 16 months to get my first EC so you rock!)