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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Home for Christmas (11/20/08)

TITLE: A Place for the Lonely
By Leah Nichols


She ducks under the canopy of the building's arching doorway, breathing a sigh of relief. Driving rain pelts the roof above her as she brushes the drops from her coat. Why I would pick a place like Oregon in the last week of December – I have no idea!

But anywhere is better than home.

In her mind's eye she can see them gathering in the living room tonight, chatting about this and that, eating ham and scalloped potatoes, fudge and sugar cookies. Admiring the ornaments on the tree, singing carols around the piano, with the children running about as they impatiently wait for the Christmas story and their chance to open presents.

Not a soul will worry about the black sheep of the family.

This particular sheep will eat her frozen dinner in her drafty apartment, casually read through the magazine she picked up from the grocery store, and tuck herself under the covers, alone once again.

This morning he had left her, “Finally!” he said this time. This time, no red-rimmed eyes and tear-stained cheeks darken her face. No longer will she let emotions or hopelessness drag her into the depths of despair. She simply feels empty - void of emotion, void of hope.

There's no 'season of hope' for me this Christmas. There's not even a 'home for Christmas' for me. No one cares.

The lady at the front desk smiles at her, but she passes on without response. It's her job to smile.

The neighbors two doors down see her fumbling with keys in the hall and wish her a “Merry Christmas!” but her curt “Thank-you” silences any further conversation. I'm sure they mean well. I just don't see a need to make a big deal out of it.

No surprise to find a pile of junk mail on the floor behind the door, and the answering machine sitting silently on the counter. She collapses into the loveseat with exhaustion after the busy day at work. No cards, no packages, no messages. It's just as well; if anyone deserves to go unnoticed, it's me.

But quarter to eleven that evening finds her weeping softly in the dark living room, unmoved since first sitting down.

The soft ringing of bells drifts through the cracks in the rickety window. The church on the corner.

She knows they have an eleven o'clock Christmas Eve service. She has no reason to go. Of all the people in her life, she avoids Him the most. And for good reason – from the straight and narrow she has strayed innumerable times.

Yet something draws her to the ringing bells. Perhaps reflecting on pleasant memories from Christmas past, perhaps a need for something other than sitting in the darkened room, perhaps even her desperate loneliness. Something drives her to put on her jacket, slip out the back stairs, and step through puddles and the constant rain to the church on the corner.

She stares at the ancient doors, the crack in between glowing with the light of a thousand candles. Music floats in the air, one hundred voices in harmony. She pauses, hesitating. Haven't I blown all my chances?

But she has come this far, and returning to the lonely apartment weighs heavier on her than the idea of pressing through.

No disappointment greets her when she opens the door. Instead, a deep feeling of warmth – cheer, perhaps? – permeates her hungry soul. A massive organ pipes out the Christmas carol as the choir sings along. The harmonious melody washes over her, and without a second thought she softly joins in the chorus, “O come, let us adore Him!”

Gentle smiles radiate from the people in the pews, but she focuses her gaze on the center aisle. She walks slowly to the front of the church and takes a candle to light it. Once more, the hesitation threatens to pull her away, but this time she will not stop. I'm so tired of running.

She whispers, “God, can you take me back? Please?”

No answer booms out of the sky, but a gentle peace descends to her spirit. Calmly she lights the candle, places it in the center of the altar, and kneels down.

Perhaps she kneels for a minute, perhaps for an hour. Yet as she kneels, the healing comes, the loneliness fades.

And when she rises, she is home for Christmas.

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This article has been read 969 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Helen Murray12/01/08
Even black sheep are beloved. what a tender Christmas Story. Emotion is strong and takes us with MC from despair into warmth and joy. Very well told.
Laury Hubrich 12/01/08
Very nicely told story. I really felt this woman's loneliness.
George Parler 12/02/08
In life we sometimes forget that the story of prodigal son is sometimes reflected in the lives of our daughters. You wonderfully conveyed the greatest [i]home coming[/i] we could ever experience. Your dialog allows the reader to live and experience the thoughts and emotions of the MC vividly. Well done, my friend.
Catrina Bradley 12/02/08
The MC's draw to the church, her hesitation at the doors, all feel so real. That's where the story came alive for me. The first half is well written, but the second half is where I connected with the MC. The ending is beautiful. Wonderful entry for this topic!
Valarie Sullivan12/03/08
Excellently done! The reader can relate to every word, and brought me to tears. Excellently done!
Teresa Lee Rainey12/03/08
I really like this a lot. Felt the raw emotions of your MC. Love that the prodical daughter came home. Love that you showed the message "it's not too late" so well. :)
Connie Dixon12/03/08
What a great story of hope for anyone out there ready to answer God's call. With God, she'll never be lonely again. Loved it!
Deborah Porter 12/04/08
Leah, in case you don't see the Highest Rankings each week, I just wanted to let you know that you did very well in the Challenge this week. Even though you didn't quite make it into the winners' circle, you made it into the highest rankings for Level 3, placing 9th for the level. You also made it into the Highest Rankings overall, placing 30th out of all the entries for the week.

The competition is always extremely intense in Level 3, so well done. Keep up the great writing.

If you would like to check the highest rankings for yourself, you can see them here:


With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)
Joshua Janoski12/07/08
I personally have been in this position before, where I felt like I had blown all my chances. I like how you had your MC go to Christ at the end rather than having her just run home to her parents. Only God can truly comfort us when we have gone astray. Good job with this one!
Seema Bagai 12/14/08
Wonderful story. I felt like I was watching a movie as I read this piece.
Gerald Shuler 12/14/08
The thoughts of your MC accurately reflect what many a backsliden child of God feels. Well done in showing that the way home is never barred by God... only by us.
Lyn Churchyard12/14/08
Wonderful story Leah. You have portrayed your MC's emotions so well, from the feelings of despair to the sense of peace when returning to Christ.

I particularly liked the change from one scene to the next... But quarter to eleven that evening finds her weeping softly in the dark living room, unmoved since first sitting down. Well done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/03/09
I really enjoyed your descriptions and was impressed by the contrast of your mc's lonely world with the peace she found inside the church.
Mona Purvis05/19/09
Is there any thing as sad as a Christian alone at Christmas and living life out of His will?
Beautiful story, so very well writte. 3rd person, present tense...would be hard for me to do. You did it wonderfully.