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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Guard Your Heart (06/08/12)

TITLE: The Hidden Heart
By Donna Howell


I have tried to write an article based on our new challenge, "guard your heart" for several days. Each time I sat down to do it, the inspiration just wasn't there. It should have been fairly simple because, after all, it's in the scripture. We all know the importance of keeping our hearts in line, and how easy it is to slip. Even as I looked up all the scriptures about the heart and tried to put a story together, nothing would mesh. In many ways, I think it was difficult for me because of the subject matter itself. The heart. My own heart is complicated, scarred, fearful, sad, angry at times, shameful, stoic, and even numb. How can fullness of joy, love, and compassion come from that same heart, and yet they do.

Today, I found out a family in our church would be moving to another state. I can't really say that Debbie, the wife and mother and I, were friends, but as is sometimes the case in church, you become acquainted, you say hello and goodbye, you smile, you even sometimes hug, but do you really know what's in the heart of another person? It would be wonderful to think the smiles were genuine, indicating all is well, and life is good. How could I possibly know differently? I did know though. I chose to look the other way. I saw the pain that was sometimes there, telling myself, it isn't nice to pry, so I walked away.

I recognized the sadness of a mother who wanted her daughter to "fit in." I wanted to help, and I even talked to my own daughter about reaching out. She said; "she's a little different mom," so I let it go. Maybe I should have tried harder.

I sometimes wondered why her husband had such a far away, sad look of late. Again, I didn't ask. Did I even care? Even so, each time I said hello or put my hand out in greeting, she smiled, and took it, then we went our separate ways. When I heard where her family would be moving, I felt a ray of hope. It was a large city, but one I had a relative in. Maybe he could help them learn their new town, and tell them where the best schools and neighborhoods are. Maybe he could in some small way, make up for me.

Our church was having potluck after the service, so I made my way over to the table where they sat, alone. When I placed my hand gently on her back and began to speak, I thought it odd that she didn't look up. She just continued to eat her meal, and nod her head in acknowledgement at my words, as she pulled an address book from her purse and began writing my nephew's name. It was an awkward moment to say the least, so I continued by making small talk with her husband. When I asked why they chose to move, he said he had lost his job six months before. Oh my, it was even more awkward now. What could I say? I expressed sympathy for their plight, and we talked of the big changes in store for them as they left their hometown. I wished them well, and returned to my own table, as the words of this week's challenge came back to me. Guard you heart. Its what she had done, until today. She guarded it with a smile or a wink that betrayed her lonliness, her pain for her child, and the loss of her husband's job.

Today, her guard was down. She would try no more to make others feel comfortable. It was over now, and why should she? My heart is heavy as I write. Yes, as scripture tells us in Jeremiah 17:9, "the heart is deceitful, and almost impossible to understand." Why did she hide behind her smile? Why didn't I dig a little deeper? Try a little harder? I know when we speak of this scripture, we are encouraged to guard our own hearts from the wiles of the world and Satan himself. I just couldn't help but draw a parallel to my story today. "Guard your heart, above all else, for everything you do flows from it." Proverbs 4:23.

The Bible NIV

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Member Comments
Member Date
Laura Manley06/15/12
Nicely written with a fresh outlook on the subject. Make sure you proofread your entries. There are some things that spellcheck won't pick up, i.e., "its" for "it's," etc. I enjoyed your entry very much as I found it truly coming from your heart.
C D Swanson 06/17/12
This was touching and so well conveyed. I enjoyed the poignant, yet subtle reminders throughout. Thanks. God bless~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 06/20/12
You did a wonderful job with this piece. I'm sure many of the conclusions you came to would be difficult to admit (even if this isn't based on a true story, writing something like this would force one to look inside her heart.) You did a great job of writing on topic but still delivering a powerful message.

There are a few little things that you could tweak to make this good story even better. First, try not to mention the challenge or the topic in your story because the EC winners get published in an anthology where the reader may have no knowledge of the challenge. Instead I'd recommend that you start out with an attention grabber that will really pull the reader in. Something like - I stood at the back of the room watching this family as I felt the blood rush to my face. Like I had done so many times in the past, I quickly looked the other way.
That may not be the best example of your feelings but I wanted to show you what I meant. You also have a few little technical things that a good challenge buddy or critique group could help you with.(Check the message boards or PM someone who you trust and ask if that person would like to be your challenge buddy)

The one thing that I noticed is what is called a POV shift. Since most of the story is told in first person, the reader can only be aware of what the MC sees, hears and feels. So you wouldn't be able to go inside the mind of the mother. You could describe what she does or says in the presence of the MC. For example you wouldn't be able to know she wanted her daughter to fit in but you could describe the things she did to make you come to that conclusion. For example, you could say she bought her daughter nice clothes or gently pushed her daughter toward a group of girls her age. This is something I just started working on myself. It's important to keep the POV consistent. At one point you switch and use the word you instead of I.

The things I mentioned are little things but the must important thing is how you answered God's calling to share this story with strangers. That takes a great deal of faith and courage. I'm sure I'm not the only one who will see bits of myself in the MC. I admire your faithfulness and obedience in sharing this. Your words will touch people in so many ways. I'm sure it will reach out to people in ways you didn't expect. Keep writing, you have a natural talent and it's obvious you do want to share the Lord's love with as many people as possible. You have a great story here and I enjoyed it I want to thank you for helping me to examine myself and times when I felt God nudging me to reach out to others. Good job.
Lois Farrow06/25/12
Great challenge here. We are all guilty in some way of turning aside from others when they need us. Well done.