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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Reading (01/25/07)

TITLE: Iron and Ice
By Jan Ackerson


I closed the front door behind me, knowing that Rick was on the other side, either weeping or praying. Unlike Rick, I had forgotten how to weep, and I had not prayed since the night God took Lissa from us. On that horrible night, I had cried out: Why? You don’t need Lissa in heaven, but I need her here! Failing to change God’s mind, I had turned my back on Him and barricaded my heart.

And now I was leaving—not because of anything Rick had done, but because the house was strangling me. Every room was thick with memories of my little girl. Lissa making a bubble bath beard. Lissa covered with cookie icing and colored sugar. Lissa sleeping, with a stuffed monkey tied to her wrist. Lissa playing right-hand melodies on the piano. She was alive everywhere, but I could not grasp her, and I felt myself turning to iron.

I promised Rick that I’d return, and fled to my parents’ cabin on the lake, knowing that it would be chilly there in November. Cold hardens iron—I would embrace it. I had packed enough clothing for a week, maybe two, with no plans other than solitude and a respite from Rick’s gentle pleading. Come to church with me, Janey. Let’s go out, Janey. Can we just talk for a while, Janey?

The first few days at the cabin passed in blessed numbness. I sat on the deck, wrapped in a blanket and staring at the lake, my thoughts dull and frosty. Waves tumbled to the beach and receded. Clouds drifted by, resembling nothing.

On the third day, however, an icy rain began before dawn and coated the deck with a crackling sheen. I sat on the worn sofa with a mug of coffee and listened to the minutes tick by, wishing that I had brought a book.

A desperate boredom led me to search the cabin for something to read. I had refused to bring a Bible, despite Rick’s wordless gesture as I packed: Don’t you want to take this? his eyes had said. But I was not speaking to its author, and I had no desire to read His book.

In a cupboard I remembered from my childhood, I found several old board games, some plastic beach toys, a tattered collection of Field and Stream magazines, and a child’s book of riddles. The magazines held no appeal for me—hundreds of indistinguishable pictures of deer, fishermen in waders, and rifles. Sighing deeply, I poured another cup of coffee and started to read the riddle book.

What did the duck say when she bought some lipstick?
--Put it on my bill.

Have you heard about the new corduroy pillows?
--They’re making headlines.

What color is a cheerleader?

I choked on something unfamiliar—laughter. My face felt strange; I was using muscles that had been frozen for weeks. I closed my eyes and examined this feeling that threatened to feel like a betrayal of Lissa. All that came to me was an echo of her musical giggle. How she would have loved this book!

Where did Napoleon keep his armies?
--In his sleevies.

What do you get when you cross a pond and a stream?
--Wet feet.

How do you kill a circus?
--Go for the juggler.

The tears that salted my lips were made of equal parts of grief and love, repentance and laughter. An iron door creaked open somewhere near my heart, and with each silly riddle, joy rushed in. How exactly like God, I thought, to use this ridiculous book to thwart my stubborn spirit.

For two more days I stayed at the lake, while God transformed iron and ice into something human once more, warm and pliable. Before I left, I tore one riddle out of the book and tucked it into my pocket. It was one that would have tickled Lissa, and I wanted to tell it to Rick.

Why are pirates so popular?
--They just arrrrrr.

I practiced my pirate voice all the way home.

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This article has been read 1681 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Ann Grover02/01/07
Loved the iron and ice metaphor maintained throughout...and the gentle thawing by love and restored joy, even in the most surprising of ways. The grief process mustn't be denied...it's essential for complete healing...
Amy Michelle Wiley 02/01/07
You made be cry. There were a few minor tense issues at the beginning, I think, but this is a beautiful story. Well done.
Mo 02/01/07
This one made me teary.
Jen Davis02/01/07
This was wonderfully written from beginning to end. Although I never thought I would be laughing at the end of this piece. The last line was perfect! I can relate to this kind of grief and have seen joy restored in a very similar way. Great work!
Ruthie Forgey02/01/07
This was an excellent illustration of how God will always have the final word even when we refuse to search His word. Great job in reflecting His enduring love, patience and mercy.
Myrna Noyes02/02/07
Wonderfully written story! I thoroughly enjoyed watching the transformation of Lissa's mom's heart!
Helen Paynter02/02/07
What a beautiful story. You so skilfully interleaved pathos with laughter. I remember sitting in my mother-in-law's lounge the day my father-in-law had suddenly died and we cried and laughed in equal measure. The two are often mixed, and you did it so well. Brilliant, as usual.
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/02/07
This is an outstanding piece--a real example of "Show, don't tell." I found myself sharing the vivid emotions and appreciating the healing.
Joanne Sher 02/03/07
Absolutely LOVELY! Made me laugh and choke up. Love the metaphor too.
Venice Kichura02/03/07
What a masterfully written piece, straight from the heart, bringing tears. I believe this is a winner!
Sharlyn Guthrie02/03/07
I loved this story, a very honest portrayal of the grieving process. But I'm so glad that you let us in on the beginning of the healing process as well.
Mariane Holbrook 02/04/07
This was almost too private to read. I felt like I was invading protected territory but I was reluctant to leave.
We would all admit to saying
"But I was not speaking to its author, and I had no desire to read His book," if we were honest. But you were honest and I believe that's why God placed a silly book to break down your defenses, make you laugh again, and bring you home. It was a heartbreaking read, though, and I felt your angst all the way through it.
Marilyn Schnepp 02/05/07
Neat story about loss and grief. Great title, and of course, "Masters Writer", exceptionally well written.
Phyllis Inniss02/05/07
Certainly in the Master's Class. One feels the grief and the pain and allows for the petulance behind the words "But I was not speaking to its author, and I had no desire to read His book." But we are always happy that God finds a solution to our problems in even the most trivial things like a book of riddles. Thank you for sharing.
Jacquelyn Horne02/05/07
Good story. I could say all of the above, but I would like to say that the husband in this story deserves credit. Many spouses are not as understanding as he apparently was.
Sara Harricharan 02/05/07
Awww! The ending was cute, practicing a pirate voice! I liked the title, so I clicked and ended up reading the whole story. Very nice, LOVED the riddles/jokes.
Teri Wilson02/05/07
Jan, this is wonderful. It made me cry, even though I didn't want to. *sob*
Suzanne R02/05/07
Tender and beautiful - well done.
william price02/05/07
This ministered very well, besides being superbly crafted. I'm all too familiar with the topic. Think I'll read some riddles tonight. God bless.
Allison Egley 02/05/07
This was really good. I love how it showed how our God loves to work in "Mysterious ways."
Sally Hanan02/05/07
Great work here! Thanks for not getting too sentimental, you just got on with the story and didn't try to manipulate our emotions. I thought I was in with a chance this week, but after seeing the # of comments you have, I think you'll be at the top of the list :)
Pat Guy 02/05/07
This is one of those the reader feels like wrapping their arms around to hold close - it reaches deep inside.

I can't beleive I didn't get back to this one because I sure read it and couldn't forget it. The title is perfect as is the writing of this story that reaches to the depths.

You do have a way Jan.
Crista Darr02/06/07
I feel like bursting out into applause. Bravo! A fantastic piece of writing.
Linda Watson Owen02/06/07
How do you spell 'perfection'? Simply J-A-N!
Donna Powers 02/07/07
So lovely and so enjoyable. Loved the jokes; loved the character; loved the story. Thanks so much for sharing this. I'm glad I didn't miss it!
Shari Armstrong 02/07/07
Wonderful - great inside look at the process of grieving and healing.
Patty Wysong02/07/07
Where's my tissues when I need one?! (yet, I don't feel you played up the emotions at all...) God reaches us where we are--even when we try to shut Him out. I loved the ending!
Julie Arduini02/07/07
Absolutely amazing from beginning to end. I echo all the above comments, this was an emotional piece to read but not overdone. Just right!
Leigh MacKelvey02/07/07
Jan, your story would make a wonderful movie. As I read, I could see the scenes in my mind, especially sitting in numbness on the porch wrapped in a blanket and pouring a cup of coffee. I kept thinking of a Nicholas Spark book made into a movie. You have an excellant way of writing the reader into the mood.Classy!
Jan Ross02/08/07
Ahh, my favorite FW writer has done it again! Such a wonderful article -- should have known it was you! :) As I was judging this week, a few stood out from among the others. There's no question this was one of them. Congratulations once again. You never fail to amaze me with your imagination. You have an uncanny ability to capture a myriad of emotions catapulting the reader smack dab in the middle of a story in a few short 750 words. Awesome, Jan, awesome! :)
Edy T Johnson 02/08/07
You probably don't need another comment (smile), but I have to, anyway. In taking the reader with you on your journey (done to perfection) you make us understand some of the terrible sense of loss (how could I ever endure having MY dearest treasure snatched away?!) and also the rejection of the One we need to blame. But, praise the Lord, you brought us through to discovery of a reality we all so often forget: just how much God really loves us, even though we still see it "through a glass, darkly." This goes in my "favorites," until I get the book with it inside. [I appreciate the time you take to add all your precious comments to my writing, too. Thank you, Friend!]
Rachel Rudd 02/09/07
Jan, You are such a talented writer! To quote an old saying "Immitation is the sincerest form of flattery"...I want to write like you! Your words convey such emotion, depth of feeling, and life. You paint pictures with your words. Thank you for using the gift God has put in you!
God bless!