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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Family Home (05/29/08)

TITLE: Cookie Cutter Houses
By nicole wian


Two cookie-cutter houses sit side by side, in a suburb, somewhere in America. Identical from the outside, both boasting manicured lawns and 2008 minivans. Each home belonging to a family of five, consisting of a hardworking dad, a stay-at-home mom and three small children.

What, then, is the difference between 102 and 104 Fifth Street, besides the numbers? Upon entering each home, a visitor would see in both, immaculately housekeeping, furnishings reminiscent of Better Homes and Garden, and children at play. They might see Patty or Sherry, the woman of these homes, cooking dinner for their families, folding laundry or picking up the endless slew of toys all over the house. They might see them on the phone to each other, though they could just as easily take the children outside, to their backyards which are not separated by fence and chat while the kids play on the playground set the families happily share. This would not be unusual. Patty and Sherry are best friends, and this scene occurs often.

But the woman are different, and despite the outward similarities of their houses and lives, so are their homes. If a visitor were to stay for an evening, much more would be observed than is obvious. Let’s stroll for a moment into each of their lives.

Entering Patty’s house, we notice, on a plaque, in the entryway, the verse, “As for me and my house, I will serve the Lord.”* Praise music can be heard on the stereo, as Patty hums along, hand washing dishes. The children at times, sit quietly playing together. Other moments they rowdily race down the hall. Patty calmly tells her children to wind down, daddy’s coming home soon. Amazingly, they obey her. When daddy does come home, he’s greeted with a kiss, and dinner is placed on the table, for the entire family to sit down at together and enjoy. The meal is commenced with a prayer, and they then share stories about their day. It’s a peaceful evening, ended with a reading from the Bible.

Sherry’s house is sadly different. When we enter this home, though it appears that everything's in order, if we stay a while, paying attention, we will notice that Sherry strives. She is tired. And lonely. Her kids bicker and she, most days, wants to scream. When she’s finally done with her daily duties which seem never ending, she might flip through that Better Homes and Garden magazine, desperately looking for more ways to “keep up with the Jones’. When her husband comes home, he also is weary. He barely looks at his family, before he plops in front of the television, so he can tune out from the responsibilities he secretly feels he can not bear. When the kids are finally threatened into bed at the end of the night, Sherry goes online, wishing she had any sort of connection with her husband at all.

Sherry’s never admitted to Patty that she feels not good enough, that her strength is waning and she feels that this was not the life she signed up for. She wonders why Patty always seems to have a peace about her, why Patty never complains about how hard it is to raise children, why Patty’s husband always plays with his kids outside, and hers refuses to even tuck theirs in at night.

If Sherry were to talk with Patty about these things, she’d find that Patty is not without her own struggles. However, Patty has a hope and strength that comes from outside herself. On her own, Patty would strive as well. Yes, there are hard days where things don’t go well, and Patty does not have a cheerful heart. But because Patty knows the Lord, she takes all these things to God. He renews her strength, saying “Do not strive, child. My strength is sufficient for you.” Patty submitted herself long ago, to the Lord, and he has His hand on her life and on her home. Her life is not always a bowl of cherries, but that’s okay. She praises God during the rough times too. And He blesses her.

Maybe someday, Sherry will be bold enough to ask Patty what that difference is she sees in her.

But maybe someday, God will put it on Patty’s heart to share these truths with Sherry without being asked. Maybe Patty will put her fear aside and witness to Sherry, not waiting for Sherry to approach her first.

Maybe… He already has.

*Joshua 24:15

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Beth LaBuff 06/05/08
I enjoyed each vignette into each home. Your words fit well with each scene like, "threatened into bed" and "meal commenced with a prayer." I'm glad you mention that "Patty is not without her own struggles." I like the contrast between the "cookie-cutter" homes and the lives of those living within. Your ending with the "maybe's" is creative and convicting. Nice work on this.
Good story and it definitely stresses that our greatest, most needy mission field is probably our on neighborhood.
Jan Ackerson 06/05/08
Interesting approach--almost parable-like, as even in Christian homes there is sometimes strife and trouble. But as an allegory, it worked very well.