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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Actions Speak Louder than Words" (without using the actual phrase). (02/21/08)

TITLE: Ramshackeled, Condemed and Home
By Debora Dyess


Gracie looked around her house, sighing. She tried to view it as the people coming over might see it. Ramshackled was the first word that came to her mind. Condemned was the second.

THAT word brought a vision into her mind – a man standing in a crowd, struggling under weight that wasn’t his to bear. Struggling with sin that wasn’t of his making. He’d been condemned, too.

The old woman straightened, raising her head. The house was clean, as well cared for as she could manage and she was following God’s will. Her new Bible study group would be arriving soon, and there were sandwiches to prepare. She hurried to the kitchen. “God is faithful,” she murmured, letting her concern about the house slip to the back of her mind.

That’s where it stayed … until thunder filled the air half an hour later. “No! This can’t happen!” Gracie spoke aloud, although she’d been alone for thirteen years, every since her Anderson passed on. She rushed back to the living room just as rain started, turning quickly into a downpour. As if on cue, a quiet tup-tup-tup started. Gracie grabbed buckets she kept hidden under coffee tables and placed them beneath leaks. She frowned upward. She’d planned to attach plastic sheeting to the ceiling, to at least save her interior belongings. Time and arthritis hadn’t allowed it. She sighed again. Ladies would arrive soon. Maybe nobody would come because of the rain. Maybe she could cancel –

The doorbell rang as the last thought entered her mind. She walked slowly to the door, casting one last look around the room. Ramshackled, she thought.

She smiled weakly at Nora Watson, who beamed at her. Pushing the screen door open, she motioned the woman to come inside. “You better get in here ‘fore it soaks you to the bone.” Her soft voice sounded flat amidst the lively patter of the rain.

And the drips, she thought.

Nora entered, taking a tentative look around. Her smile froze and her eyes widened slightly, absorbing the disrepair of the old home. She pulled her eyes to Gracie’s. “I thought you’d like a hand before everyone arrives.”

Gracie nodded, deciding to put her concerns about the house aside for good. She’d prayed about this, explained to God all the reasons she shouldn’t have the Bible study in her home and, finally, relented that God was in control of her life – even the house she’d shared with Anderson for 40 years before he left her to go Home.

“I’m making sandwiches,” Gracie told Nora. “This way. Would you like some tea?”

That was the beginning. The women’s Bible study met weekly in her living room, dodging fall’s rain drips and cold drafts of winter winds whistling through poorly fitting windows.

The women, all from lives and situations far different from her own, fell in love with Gracie; that was clear. But they despaired about her house.

“Maybe you should consider moving,” one woman suggested in early spring.

Gracie smiled. “Won’t do it. My Anderson and I raised our children here. We lived here always, and I just can’t wrap my mind around leaving it all behind.”

“Well,” Nora said, patting her friend on the arm, “we’ll think of something else, then. If you love the house, and we love you, there’s a solution somewhere.”

“This house is fine,” Gracie smiled. “I figure we’ll fall down about the same time. Until then I don’t need anything fancy. Just something to keep the wind and rain off … “ She slowed and shrugged as Nora began to giggle.

Saturday morning came, and with it the sound of trucks in her driveway. Gracie pulled the bedroom curtain back just enough to peek out. She shot to her feet, pulled on her robe and hurried to the door. “Don’t put that there!” she cried as the truck driver and an assistant began to off-load shingles into the yard. “I didn’t order that!”

“Says your address right here.” The man didn’t even pausing in his labor.

“But I didn’t! I can’t pay for it!”

“Says it’s paid for, too.”

“But –“ Gracie stopped, her eyes lighting on a new face. The young man looked familiar, and Gracie realized it was Nora’s husband, Paul. Behind him were three other men from church, all with wives in the Bible study. They smiled, waving. “Don’t worry about it, Gracie,” one called. “We got you covered.”

Gracie leaned against the doorjamb. “Oh,” she breathed. “God is faithful!”

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Catrina Bradley 02/28/08
It's very clear why God wanted Gracie to host the Bible study! I'm only wondering what took her new sisters so long to act. :) A wonderfully warm, feel-good story.
Charla Diehl 02/28/08
Oh, I could picture these sweet ladies putting their heads together planning their surprise for Gracie. What comfort food does for the body, this story does for the soul. I enjoyed it start to finish. Good job.
Peter Stone02/29/08
So touching to see Christians demonstrating love in actions such as this. And great double meaning in your conclusion, “We got you covered.”
LauraLee Shaw02/29/08
Loved your title and the surprise for Gracie at the end. This is the Church in action. Well done.
Lynda Schultz 02/29/08
Great story—love in action.
Karen Wilber02/29/08
Beautiful. This one made me smile. Blessed are those who care for the widow.
Patty Wysong03/04/08
Wonderful story. I love how Gracie obeyed God's call and was blesse as a direct result. Definitely love in action! Love it.
Patty Wysong03/04/08
Wonderful story. I love how Gracie obeyed God's call and was blessed for it. Her new roof was love in action. Love it.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/04/08
I loved your story--so right for this topic. I loved the women of the Bible study, too, who were not too high and mighty to sit in Grace's dripping house.