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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Thanksgiving (04/18/05)

TITLE: The Life Verse
By Suzanne R


Patrice’s fresh face shone. Blonde head held high, resplendent in her flowered dress, the bubbly eight-year-old accepted the prize from the district Sunday School Commissioner.

“The children are encouraged to choose a ‘life verse’”, the kindly gentleman explained. “Patrice?” Patrice spoke clearly with just a hint of nerves.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians four verse six” (NIV).

Fifteen years passed. Dressed in white, Patrice walked to the front of a magnificent old stone church in the city. Her best friend, Steve, waited there, a tear in his eye. Many of the guests thought it strange that Philippians 4:6 was given such a prominent place in the service. Surely the famous ‘love passage’ would be more suitable? Yet the happy couple felt that there wasn’t a better way to start their life together.

There was much for which to be thankful. They had good jobs and soon bought a lovely house in a leafy suburb. Several years later, Steve and Patrice again found themselves again at the front of a church. This church met in a school hall. Wearing a loose dress, Patrice stood by Steve, each holding a baby!

“Do you promise to bring these children up in the knowledge and love of the Lord?”, the minister asked. “We do”, the proud parents promised. The minister placed his hands upon the two little heads. “May this family never be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present their requests to you, their God.” (Phil. 4:6 paraphrased). Some commented that it was an odd way to pray, but the new parents had requested this as their reference point for the years ahead.

Patrice couldn’t quite identify when the change began, but their world came crashing around them one horrible winter. Steve and Patrice again stood at the front of the church. The minister and elders gathered around. They anointed Steve with oil and prayed for his healing. He had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour.

The awful disease progressed mercilessly. To make ends meet, Patrice returned to work. Steve’s behaviour became increasingly erratic. Home alone one day, he attacked the postman. Reluctantly, they moved him into hospice care.

Steve quickly settled into the routine of the hospice. Each day, he became more withdrawn, and soon didn’t even know his own family. Patrice didn’t feel anything. She was functioning on automatic, doing what had to be done.

The doctor gave her medicine which took the edge off her blackness. It was reasonable, he said, to feel this way. She was handling it well, the social worker said. The church people were wonderful. Patrice herself didn’t get to church much these days, but made sure the kids didn’t miss a Sunday.

One morning, Patrice found herself again sitting in church, this time in the new multipurpose complex. She was wearing a drab pair of jeans and old T-shirt, her drawn face devoid of make-up. The twins stood up the front with their friends, heads held high. The drums began, the rhythm clear and crisp, and the chorus of the up-beat song rang out. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6 NIV)

Although distant, the music finally broke through Patrice’s exhaustion. A ray of sun was penetrating the block of ice that her whole being had become.

She gazed at the two gorgeous little faces there amongst the children. “Be thankful”, her mind said. She looked around her caring community. “Be thankful”, the voice whispered. Encountering a caring nurse as she arrived at the hospice later that day, she thanked both God and the lady. Walking into Steve’s room, she looked at what remained of her husband. The warm salty tears that flowed were like the melting of that block of ice. Patrice poured out her worries to her Lord.

Several weeks later, Patrice was again at the front of the church, this time dressed in black. She stood by the handsome rosewood coffin. The minister’s voice carried clearly as he expounded Philippians 4:6. Many mourners thought it strange that he didn’t focus on the beautiful ‘hope’ passages of the Bible. Although the funeral was heart-wrenching, Patrice knew God’s peace.

Thankfulness can be difficult. God’s command, however, is to offer our prayers with thanksgiving. Like Patrice, may God grant each of us peace as we obey.

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This article has been read 1294 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Helga Doermer04/25/05
Beautifully written.
The shift between light and lengthening shadows and painful answers is so believable.
Catherine Pollock05/01/05
This article couldn't have come at a better time - dealing with a loss in the family myself. We really do need to be thankful for the moments that we do have with those we love.
Val Clark05/01/05
A compact and passionately told story. It reminds me of how important it is to store God’s word in my heart. A realistic slice of life, compelling with a gut wrenching end. How can you improve this? Avoid dialogue tags (minister explained) the tone and sense of the sentence is in the dialogue. Give Patrice a new line with ‘Patrice spoke clearly…’ There was much for which to be thankful is bit clumsy. There was much to be thankful for… When someone repeats something or returns somewhere you can get away without saying ‘again’ the reader knows they’ve been there before. Oh, and there was the sentence that began with a preposition… Just iddy biddy things. Don’t let them discourage you. This was a great read.
Chris Miller05/02/05
Suzanne, Congratulaions. This definitely deserved to win. I loved the way you traced the memorable moments of her life and interlaced the life verse. Great job!
Debbie OConnor05/02/05
Yay Suzanne! :)

This was one of my favorite stories of the week. I was judging and couldn't comment until now. I had no idea it was yours until now. I'm so, so happy for you! Delightful story, beautifully written. Congratulations on a well-deserved win!
Lynda Lee Schab 05/02/05
Wonderful entry - so deserving of its place with the editors! So many people misread that verse to say be thankful FOR everything instead of IN everything - big difference!
Great take on "Thanksgiving."
Love, Lynda
Kathy Warren05/03/05
A very good piece on the uncertainty of life. I enjoyed reading it and could relate to Patrice's experience of being on the mountain top and then down in the valley. Well written.
Sally Hanan05/03/05
This was wonderful Suzanne. In all things....
Deborah Porter 05/03/05
Woo hoo Suzanne! Congratulations on your 5th place in the Editors' Choice AND 1st place in the Level 2 Champion Challenge. Well done! Time to move up to Level 3. You are ready for it. With love, Deb
Leticia Caroccio05/06/05
This was wonderful. I loved the way you woved the scripture in good times and in bad. I felt Patrice's happiness as a child and as a young bride and mom. Then I sensed the torture our souls go through in life's devastating occurrences. When you described her in her jeans and worn t-shirt, which are usual comfort clothing, you managed to paint a bleak picture. But you ended with hope. And although it ended with a loved one in a coffin, there is always hope. Wonderfully written, certainly worthy of its placement.
Leticia Caroccio05/06/05
Oops! I meant "wove" not "woved".
Judy Hollins05/10/05
Well done and congratulations on being an award winning (and soon to be published) author! This piece is very worthy: nice and descriptive but you keep it moving and having the same verse like a thread throughout helps to join it all together. The verse and the meaning behind this one is really challening to me at the moment - as I guess the problem of pain is to every person who has ever lived. Well done!