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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Encouragement (02/23/12)

TITLE: The Birthplace of Encouragement
By Sherry Castelluccio


The Present
“Mom, it hurts.” She glared at the dried blood as she fumed in the passenger seat beside me. The tiny cut would probably remind her for weeks to be more careful around knives.

“It always hurts while it heals. That’s just the way it is.”

“Why? Why does it have to hurt?”

The traffic light turned green and I hit the gas. Some parents have these “truth talks” before bed each night. Ours happened on the way to school each morning.

“Healing can’t happen without pain, honey. It’s God’s way of reminding us how much we need him.”

“I sure need him today!”

“Me too, Sweetheart. Me too…”

January 9, 1998
Hi Patty-
It was really encouraging to visit with you last night. I loved the presents you gave me. I am looking forward to seeing you today even though I am exhausted. I requested for them to change my medicine for the morning… I don’t know how much sleep I got but it wasn’t much. I talked to a nurse today and told her how I got in here. She said it was very smart of me to call. It shows intelligence because I know it’s wrong to take my own life. I think there is a part of me that is so stubborn. I refuse to admit that there is good about me, even things that are lovable. I think maybe I don’t want to admit it because then I would have to deal with all the bad things I’ve done. I hope that while I’m here I get the help I need.

The Present
I believe that our greatest joys are a direct result of our greatest suffering. Tragedy produces tears and tears produce triumph. Here in this place is where encouragement is born. At least, that is what I try to explain to my sister every time she reads one of my stories. For some reason she seems to have more faith in my ability than I have in myself. I do not feel that I am extraordinary by any means. Yet somehow, she is uplifted by my words and I am mystified.

“Wow, I’m only halfway through your story and tears are welling up. I’m serious. You need to write a book. People need to hear your story because it’s powerful and encouraging.”

Her latest attempt to push me toward my higher calling has not gone unnoticed. Ha! She calls me encouraging! Is it not her words that I cling to every time I start to feel unworthy? While I spin yarns about my dysfunctional past, she seems to see hidden masterpieces just waiting to be discovered. I wish I could bottle her enthusiasm and sell it.

January 10, 2000
The clouds are starting to separate. The long spell of rain is dissipating and tiny fragments of sun are breaking through the darkness. The wind has died down and I feel the tender fingers of forgiveness caress my tired shoulders. I have been trudging through this bitter storm for ages, and now at last I see a calming. I stand in silence as warm rays of mercy envelop me, softly searing through the layers of stubborn pride. I am warm and I can shed the coat of fear, if only for a moment. I hear his whisper in the cobwebs of my heart. “I am not finished. Don’t even think of walking away. I have big plans for you. Wait and see. I am not nearly complete.” I smile, knowing he is right. I walk off into the forest of my life…

The Present
As my daughter exited the car, I gave her a kiss and wished her good day. I can’t say I envy her. Pain is a part of life and even small cuts on little fingers are gentle reminders of our humanity. We need the Lord to get us through every day. For the second time this week I was told that I am an encouragement. It still amazes me that people come to me for comfort and guidance. Somehow God was able to take all the darkness from my past and create brilliant light. I look back at the long road I have traveled. I see so many mistakes and bad choices. Yet it was these tears that have formed and shaped the person I am today. God in all his mercy chose me to share his love and joy with a hurting world. Nothing gives me more peace or encouragement.

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This article has been read 332 times
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Member Date
Catrina Bradley 03/01/12
This is absolutely beautiful! I love this part: "I stand in silence as warm rays of mercy envelop me, softly searing through the layers of stubborn pride. I am warm and I can shed the coat of fear, if only for a moment." The middle "present" section kinda felt (to me) disjointed from the beginning and ending, and I'm glad you came back to the daughter at the end. Also, capitalize "His" when referring to God. We don't know the difference we make sometimes, but it's definitely our own trials that allow us to encourage others. Love it!
C D Swanson 03/02/12
Wow- this was amazing in so many ways. It covered the topic fully and completely. It revealed a tender and vulnerable side of the MC...which is always powerful in itself. And, finally the humble demeanor of the MC, which is a reflection of a God loving child. Lovely! Nicely done.

Thank you for this...It will touch many.

God Bless you~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/03/12
I enjoyed this trip into the past and back into the present. I, too, have suffered from attempted suicides. It's a hard journey to take and I commend you for writing about it. I was a tad confused in the second present scene. I thought she was in car with daughter and I wasn't sure how the sister showed up.

It's so important to keep writing your stories. You may never know if or how you impacted or even saved a life with your words but God will use them. Last week, I felt him calling me to write a suicide story. I was hesitant because it was dark and it didn't fir the topic as well as I would have liked. But I believe God used those words to help someone somewhere. Keep writing those difficult stories.
Cynthia Carter03/05/12
I was a little lost. Is Patty the sister? Did the daughter attempt suicide or was it just a cut?
Lillian Rhoades 03/05/12
When I read your story, one phrase came to mind; one that could be considered inappropriate here, but I'll write it anyway. "You've come a long way, Baby.":-) God has brought you into light, now walk in it. Share your story. I have just one observation. For clarity, it would be helpful to identify your sister as the person speaking here: “Wow, I’m only halfway through your story and tears are welling up..."

Far too often in Christian circles mental health issues are relegated to the back burner. Thank you for bringing it front and center.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/08/12
Congratulations for ranking 8th in level two!