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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The USA (01/08/09)

TITLE: Burning for a New Beginning
By Teresa Lee Rainey


A stranger could have gotten lost on the winding dirt roads, amidst the river-oaks of Misti’s lifelong oasis. Growing up in these southeast woods of the United States had birthed moments of fleeting pleasure amidst a lifetime of hard knocks, but walking barefoot on familiar back roads usually brought a sense of peace to Misti’s troubled heart. Today was different.

The fire burning around her this morning was blistering the deepest part of her being. She had tried to keep a safe distance between herself and this fire. She had walked to the edge of the flames before, but had never stepped too close. Avoiding questions regarding her soul had been easy, until last night.

Branches of the river-oaks came together and formed a cocoon arch over the sandy-brown, narrow road ahead. The comfort of those enclosed branches could not reach Misti’s burning conscious today. Her calloused feet continued to leave small footprints as she passed under the arch, oblivious to the peaceful setting.

A tiny path veered off the sandy road, along the edge of the woods. It led Misti to a gently flowing, rock-bed creek beneath an old wooden bridge. Here she was hidden from any unlikely traffic on the road above. Here she could sit at the water’s edge and explore the increasing heat of fresh flames.

At twenty-four, she had already lived a hard life. Working to avoid the surrounding trap of poverty and drugs had been her goal. That goal had gotten her through high school. There had been no help from her single mother, who had been caught in the local trap long before Misti was born.

The dinosaur-type shell of a snapping turtle was visible for a moment, before slowly slipping into the shallow current of the muddy stream. Misti never noticed. She was lost beside the heat of a raging fire beckoning her to step closer.

She had worked her way into management at the local Hardee’s since graduation. The pay wasn’t much, but it had kept food on the table. Her mother had been staying sober enough to keep Misti’s daughter during late shifts. She could still hear her mother’s thunderous words when she had admitted being pregnant. “I can’t believe you made this mistake.”

The local church group had fanned the fire she had been avoiding. They kept a whole section of the fast-food chain full on Sunday evenings. She longed for the joy surrounding their presence. The peace they carried with them seemed even greater than the serenity of her wooded back roads.

A gentle breeze blew a strand of long, brown hair over her nose. Misti raised a hand to push the wayward strand in place and watched as an old Ford crept over the creaking, wooden slats of the bridge above. A cloud of dust rose for a moment as the Ford moved past the bridge and on down the dirt road. While the dust settled, Misti thought of last night’s conversation.

She hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, but the church crowd seemed to be a magnet for her. They had been discussing a sermon about trials through fire. Misti knew about trials.

One young man had said that when he chose to live right and asked Jesus into his heart, he had walked through a cleansing fire and came out a new person. Misti would love a chance at a new beginning. She had wondered if it was possible.

The young man had seen her listening and asked if he could talk with her. She had been unwilling to discuss the condition of her soul, but could feel the burning desire to understand what he meant about being a new person. He never asked for details about her life. He only spoke of how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Misti longed to feel the comfort she sensed in the church crowd. She wondered if there would be anything left of her old self if she walked through the fire the young man had described. Yet the flames still beckoned her.

With one foot making tiny ripples in the creek’s current, Misti took a step of faith. She asked Jesus into her heart. She walked into the flames.


***This story was inspired by Nicole Nordeman‘s Album, Wide Eyed, track 7, Burnin’***

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This article has been read 709 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 01/15/09
What a likeable character you've written!

The last half of this seemed a bit more "tell-ish" than "show-ish"--maybe some dialogue to help us get to know her and the young man better?

I enjoyed reading this story very much.
Joy Faire Stewart01/17/09
Excellent reminder that our words and actions are watched by others. Great opening paragraph, it drew me into the story.
Eliza Evans 01/19/09
I thought the descriptive writing was really, really lovely "Branches of the river-oaks came together and formed a cocoon arch over the sandy-brown, narrow road ahead" Such gorgeous imagery! I am THERE...but to be honest I am not sure what the purpose of the ongoing description of the setting is. Does it further your story?

It's beautiful writing but you say yourself "Misti didn't notice" "Misti was oblivious to the setting" so I would re-think that.

Also, I had a hard time with the "fire" concept. It was a little too mystical for me in the context of this story.

To me it almost feels like you're writing in 2 different genres.

Have you ever written free verse poetry? You should try it. :) You have a gift.
Teresa Lee Rainey01/20/09
Just a note to this author's family & friends who would bow up in her defense. . . Don't.

She asked for critiques. She appreciates each individual's honest opinion.
Myrna Noyes01/20/09
Oh, I liked your fire analogy! It reminded me of the Scripture verses that talk about us being baptized "with the Holy Spirit and with fire," and the one that says "our God is a consuming fire." I liked the contrast between the peacefulness of her surroundings and the troubling and yearning of her soul. You have a very descriptive style, which I enjoy, because that's how I write, too! :)
Joe Moreland01/20/09
I will just say - you are a very gifted writer. Every descriptive moment in your story built, for me, towards that moment of decision. You made me feel for your character and feel through your character - and that's not an easy thing to do, no matter what anyone says. Thank you!
Angela M. Baker-Bridge01/21/09
You have a wonderful gift for descriptive writing. Somehow I missed how this was on topic so I'll have to reread when I get a chance. Great message too.
Chely Roach01/21/09
What a beautiful story; I loved it!
Leah Nichols 01/22/09
I liked the imagery in this piece, though the "burning" aspect of it didn't fit well with the setting, in my opinion. I would see it fit better with the Southwest area, connecting the burning of her heart with the burning of the desert sun.

It also didn't quite fit the topic....though set in the USA, it wasn't necessarily about the USA.

BUT as a written piece I did like it, and thought you had some very well-written sentences. Definitely could have expanded the story and added more details, as I would like to read more of this. WELL DONE! Don't be discouraged - you're a great writer! :)
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/22/09
I enjoyed your story very much. The conflict of your mc was clear throughout, and I thought the description of setting furthered the idea of USA. Since it's written in third person, the mc could be oblivious to her surroundings.
Joanne Sher 01/22/09
Your descriptions are absolutely breathtaking, and the atmosphere was so rich.