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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Encouragement (among believers) (11/08/07)

TITLE: Presents and Presence
By Chrissi Dunn


Lord, I want to open it, but I’m just not worthy.

Brushing my fingers along the leather cover of the Bible, I sweep off a layer of dust. Large, shameful tears fall on the embossed, golden cross revealed.

It once was part of my daily routine. Each morning and evening, I used a daily reading guide, and brought my quiet time to a close with heartfelt prayer. But now it feels like I’m an unclean sacrifice approaching the Holy of Holies.

I remember a lesson about the tabernacle from youth group. Jean Richmond taught us about it. She brought loads of visual aids, to show the class what the tent would have looked like, with its curtain partitions.

“When Jesus died, the curtain was torn in two.” Jean explained, with her usual, radiant smile. “That means we all can come close to God today. Isn’t that wonderful?”

Wonderful indeed - but now I just can’t grasp it.

Could you still love me, Lord? Could I still draw near - even like this?

I study the large bump expanding from under my ribs. Surely it can’t grow any bigger, even though there’s another two months left to go! Hugging my rounded belly, I weep bitterly.

Lord, these poor twins. What sort of a life will they lead with no father, and a seventeen year old mother, who doesn’t know the first thing about looking after them? I know I got myself into this one, but Lord, I feel so weak.

“Lydia!” Mum’s voice travels up the stairs. “Can you come down for a minute?”

Wiping away tears, I glance at myself in the mirror. My eyes are red and puffy, yet I make my way downstairs, past caring. As I approach the bottom step, I hear voices coming from the lounge. Oh, great - visitors!

Tiptoeing past the open door, I make my way into the kitchen. When I reach the doorway I freeze in horror.

The two women who stand before me mirror my response.

Why are my youth leaders in the kitchen?

“Hi Lydia.” Mary and Jean chorus, sheepishly.

“Hi.” I mumble, staring at the floor, which is now half obscured by my belly. I haven’t seen either since I stopped going to church three months ago. My face matches the red teapot my mum is now filling. I hope she hasn’t brought them here to preach at me. Doesn’t she realise it’s too late now?

The silence is awkward. It can only mean one thing. I’m convinced they’re judging me.

I look up to see the ladies cover something on the table with a cloth. I eye them suspiciously.

“Lydia, we expected you to go into the lounge.” Mum says.

“Who’s in there?”

“Oh, just a few friends, who were missing you.” Jean answers, her smile still full of kindness.

I turn, and walk cautiously into the lounge.

I feel the babies somersault, as my heart jumps. It’s the entire youth group! Gifts are scattered across the floor, and a large banner reads ‘Baby Shower’. Someone has crossed out ‘baby’ and made the word ‘babies’ instead. I feel tears starting again, but this time they’re not sad ones.

“We hope you don’t mind us coming.” Kristen stands up from the settee. “We just wanted to let you know we’re thinking about you.”

“And hey - we’ve all been fighting over who’ll baby-sit first.” Michael pipes up from a chair in the corner.

Jean, Mary and Mum come in holding a huge fruit cake.

“I baked it earlier - I hear you’ve been craving it.” Mary giggles.

“So that’s what you were hiding.”

I shake my head and smile. As I look around the room, I’m not only amazed by all the presents, but also by the presence of all those who have gathered. When I speak to each person, I realise just how much I've missed true friends like these.

As an evening of fun and laughter continues, Jean takes me aside for a while.

“I don’t know why, but I really feel the need to share a verse with you:

…My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.*"

I can almost feel a strong arm of forgiveness and grace around me as she speaks. A sense of peace washes over me, as I feel my babies move. How could I have forgotten how blessed I am?

Yes, Your amazing grace is all this new family needs, Lord.

*2 Corinthians 12:19 (KJV)

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This article has been read 731 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Deborah Engle 11/16/07
When you can't forgive yourself, one of the best things is for others to demonstrate their forgiveness. How encouraging that had to be for your MC. Nice job.
Deborah Engle 11/16/07
When you can't forgive yourself, one of the best things is for others to demonstrate their forgiveness. How encouraging that had to be for your MC. Nice job.
Karen Wilber11/16/07
This is a wonderful story of encouragement. Great title with the play on words. The heart of encouragement wasn't just the presents, it was the presence too. I like it.
Joanne Sher 11/17/07
Your opening is absolutely gorgeous and beautifully descriptive, and the story is lovely and wonderful. (can you tell I like this? LOL)
Seema Bagai 11/18/07
Great opening and a realistic story. I could see this in a Christian teen magazine and bringing encouragement to girls in the same situation.
Betty Castleberry11/19/07
This is sweet and touching, and yes, encouraging. I'm glad her friends stood by her. Well done!
Beth LaBuff 11/20/07
You've written this beautifully. What a message of forgiveness and definitely encouragement. Love your title! Very Nice!
Dee Yoder 11/20/07
Oh my, this is a wonderful story of encouragement! I can't think of any one who would need this type of friendship and support more. I love the character you created, and I love the true Christian love shown in this story.
Sara Harricharan 11/21/07
Love the wordplay in the title. This is so encouraging, I bet it would go great in a teen mag. Nice job!
william price11/21/07
Very good, Christine. Very symbolic and well presented. God bless.
Loren T. Lowery11/21/07
I think you expessed Lydia's thoughts/emotions beautifully. And your story shows the importance of forgiveness and the the healing that can come about from the love and caring spirit offered by our brothers and sisters in Christ.
LaNaye Perkins11/21/07
I loved this story. It was very descriptive and you really drew the reader in. You did a fantastic job of writing this!
Laury Hubrich 11/22/07
This is a wonderful story and the title fits very well! Thank you for sharing.
LauraLee Shaw11/24/07
This is just beautifully written. It is a feel-good piece, and I loved it!
Rebecca Jones11/30/07
Good job, Christine! It shows how God should use us in the body to embrace those who already know that they've fallen. May we help them up, in Jesus' name.