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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/10/08)

TITLE: Queen Elizabeth
By Temple Miller


Sculptured nails rapped the vanity table. Elizabeth exhaled impatiently. “Come on, Yvonne, pick up.” Then, she snapped the cell phone shut, not bothering to leave a message.

Elizabeth studied her silk-clad image in the oval mirror. She appeared flawless with blushed cheeks, perfectly shaped – thanks to fill-in forms and a pencil – eyebrows, luscious cadaver lashes, and collagen-enhanced lips tinted the same fiery red as her nails. Her highlighted-blonde hair, freshly cut, flicked out just right. “I shan’t ask the mirror,” the former beauty queen whispered to her reflection, “I know I’m the prettiest in the land.”

The phone vibrated, rattling the vanity like she rattled her friends’ nerves. Reading the caller ID, Elizabeth demanded, “Why didn’t you answer your phone?”

“Hi, Elizabeth,” replied Yvonne, forcing a cheery response. “What’s up?”

“I wanted to share my good news,” Elizabeth replied. “Sally invited me to visit her mega church, Exaltations. She mentioned if I was a member, her music minister would definitely give me solos. I’d sing in front of thousands. You realize, Yvonne, I am the best soprano in our choir. However, Pastor Keith refuses to use my gift for solo performances.”

Elizabeth continued, “Really, can you believe how horribly Jenna sang yesterday? And she wore that faded yellow thing she calls a Sunday dress - more like a cleaning rag. Worse, did you see her hair? She fried it with a home perm. I told her she should have come to my salon. Later, I told Pastor Keith I should have performed the solo. He just smiled. Yvonne? Are you there?”

Breathing a prayer for patience, Yvonne replied, “Yes, Elizabeth. I’m just seeking a way to tell you, nicely, you’re being jealous and judgmental. Pastor Keith asks members, whose spirits are intent upon worship, to sing solos.”

“Well, Sally said if I joined Exaltations, I could sing as often as I like. I would abhor leaving Maranatha, nonetheless, I’m not receiving all I require. Next Sunday, I think I should attend with Sally. Don’t you agree, Yvonne?”

“No, Elizabeth, I don’t. In fact, I think you couldn’t make a worse decision. You’re part of Maranatha’s family. Remember when you broke your ankle? We organized meals, helped Frank take care of the kids, and cleaned your house. We support each other, living out the scriptures. You shouldn’t ditch your church because you don’t get everything you want. Besides, you always sing with the choir.”

“Anybody can sing with the choir. My voice is strong and pure, a soloist’s voice.”

In truth, Maranatha’s congregation might grieve if Queen Elizabeth left, but they’d also breathe a sigh of liberation. They were often exhausted by Elizabeth’s attempt to rule the church like her own kingdom. She demanded attention through bitter complaining, calling out an individual’s perceived deficiencies, ordering her subjects around, and boasting of her beautiful self and wonderful abilities.

Because they knew she’d suffered an abusive childhood, the church family tried to overlook her grandstanding and squalls, waiting patiently for Elizabeth to mature in Christ. Meanwhile, they desperately prayed for her heart and for their composure. When Elizabeth looked down her nose at an inferior subject, like Jenna, her eyes crossed, comically. Everyone watching would sputter, attempting to swallow their laughter. Likewise, when the queen criticized a subject’s clothes, hair, singing…, no one mentioned that her own ragged undergarment of insecurity was showing. Maranatha valiantly attempted to exhibit grace.

“Yvonne, are you there?”

“Yes, Elizabeth. I’m wondering why you would pull your family from their friends. Why leave the security and loving support you enjoy here? Why give up your spot in the choir? You’re blessed with everything you need at Maranatha. It’s irrational to reject all you have for a chance at singing numerous solos to a huge audience, seeking prestige, fame, and hoping for friends who are perfect. Hello? Elizabeth?”

Elizabeth gambled and lost. Her new church kingdom proved to be only a mirage, a membership-building campaign. Frank and the kids remained at Maranatha. Before long, Elizabeth divorced Frank. Two years later, she checked into Addiction Rehabilitation, a Maranatha-sponsored facility. One enormous choice cost Elizabeth everything.

But the story continues…

Though greed for status and adoration had stripped Queen Elizabeth bare, it was the best thing that ever happened to her. While drying out, Elizabeth absorbed Christ, owning the verse: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”*

One Sunday, the queen made her return entrance into Maranatha; this time, as a servant.

*Philippians 2:3 (NIV)

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Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 01/18/08
Very well-done - you have some wonderfully descriptive phrases here.
This story BEGS to be longer than the word count - there are a few spots where a bit of elaboration (showing rather than telling) would have made this piece even stronger, but 750 words wasn't enough, was it?
The last line is just perfect.
Karen Wilber01/21/08
So many good lines! You did need more than 750 words. I missed a little more detail about what happened after she left to go to the new church - seemed rushed. Maybe some of the earlier description could have been condensed? But excellent descriptions of a very troubled woman. I could easily picture Queen Elizabeth in my mind.
Sally Hanan01/21/08
This was very good. You know how to describe people's body language well. My only quibble is that you've exaggerated people like Elizabeth too much. Even the truly narcisstic would tone it down a bit in real life. Other than that, I wouldn't be surprised if this one places.
Holly Westefeld01/22/08
This clearly illustrates the topic, and I liked the dialog.

Red ink: While that word limit can be stifling, I would have liked to have had more interaction with Yvonne, possibly as a volunteer at the rehab program, or at least greeting Elizabeth as she returned to Maranatha.
Also, probably because I have been blessed not to be acquainted with such a prima donna, I found Elizabeth a bit archetypal.
LauraLee Shaw01/22/08
I stayed very intrigued with this to the end, and I loved your ending. I would have pictured maybe a notch up in creativity with the title, seeing as the rest of your piece is so creative. I love the scripture reference you put at the end as well. Excellent piece!
Julie Ruspoli01/22/08
Your descriptions were wonderful, I could picture it all.
More explanation of events would have made the ending not seem 'cut' off. But probably due to word count rules. I would love to read this again if you expand the ending.
Great writing!!
Jan Ackerson 01/22/08
An ironic title--I love it! I was particularly drawn to the first half of this; toward the end it tended a bit toward summarizing. There were actual people like this in my daughter's former church!
Debbie Wistrom01/22/08
This should move you up, loved "her own ragged undergarment of insecurity was showing." Keep up the good words.
Catrina Bradley 01/22/08
Oh, what writing. Too many favorite lines to list. I hate that it ended rather abruptly. I'd love it if you had 750 more words so you could elaborate on her fall into Christ's waiting arms. I do love the last line - perfect. And the title is perfect, too.
Sheri Gordon01/23/08
I agree -- this would be a fun longer story. You did a good job of showing us Elizabeth's personality -- I couldn't stand her from the beginning. :)

Good writing, and nice job with the topic.
Beth LaBuff 01/23/08
You've entered the queen's head and told her story very well. I really enjoyed reading this (PRIDING myself that I'm NOT like this woman), then I had to rethink that. Great work!
Sara Harricharan 01/24/08
Wow. Congrats on your highly commended. This is a great piece, I especially liked how you showed the character of this 'Queen Elizabeth'.
Anne Linington01/31/08
As a Brit. Queen Elizabeth had a different connotation for me, but the writing was excellent per all previous comments. Congratulations to you.