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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Winter (the season) (08/13/09)

TITLE: Chilled


The tall young man shivered as he stood on the porch of his winter cabin that overlooked Lake Spokane, his coat unbuttoned and its hood pushed back. Tears trickled down his face. He wondered briefly if they would freeze before reaching his chin. But he didn’t care.

“Stephen,” Keith spoke from the opened door. “You can’t stay out here much longer. You’re icing up.”

Stephen stood staring out over the white frosted landscape that gave little hint of where water and land met. Silent sobs racked his body.

“Getting frost bite won’t bring her back,” Keith persisted.

“No,” Stephen gulped. “But it’s where I want to be. I feel close to her here.”

“Bethany wouldn’t be standing out here in this weather.”

“Bethany should have been here,” Stephen replied coldly.

Standing now beside his grief stricken brother, Keith looked over the familiar scenery before them. Past winters with his father and Stephen played before him like icy shadows skipping over the whiteness. They loved winter, the snow, and their hunting vacations. After their father had died eight years earlier, Keith and Stephen continued their annual trips together for another three years…until they both married. The brothers’ vacations ceased, but Stephen and Bethany still came every winter. Keith’s wife, Angela, preferred to spend winter in warmer climates so Keith had given his inherited share of the cabin to Stephen and his adventurous wife as a wedding gift.

“Of all the things we did together: skiing, mountain climbing, shooting trips, scuba diving...” Stephen swallowed. “Who would have predicted a tree would fall on her car while she waited at a stop sign.”

“Stephen, you’re freezing.”

“It’s my heart that’s chilled.”

Keith reached for his brother’s arm, guided him out of the bitter wind toward his father’s old rocking chair and made him sit. “Snap out of it, Stephen. It’s a relief to see you mourn...heaven knows I thought you would never let yourself grieve, but this is ridiculous. You’re chilled to the bone. I want to take you home alive; not in a coffin after you die from pneumonia.”

“I’m already dead inside.”

Keith sighed. “Well, from the look of those frozen eyebrows and blue lips, it won’t be long before the outside of you will catch up with your inside.”

Stephen continued to stare beyond the porch. “I can’t live without her.” His voice faltered. “Why did she have to die?” With his face contorted, a single sob broke loose.

“I can’t answer that,” Keith declared.

Silence fell between them, disturbed only by the howl of the wind and Stephen's sniffles.

Stephen didn’t budge. Melted snow dripped from his hair and mingled with his tears.

“Do you recall the winter Dad had an encounter with a bear?” Keith said suddenly.

Stephen turned his head slowly to look at Keith.

Keith laughed. “Remember? It was his turn to chop and he whined all the way out to the wood pile.”

“He was chopping wood for almost fifteen minutes before he realized that a bear had been watching him from just ten feet away,” Stephen added, trying to focus on the memory.

“Yeah, and we watched from the window and laughed when that big old bear chased him all the way back to the cabin,” Keith chuckled.

“And none of us could understand why Dad wasn’t attacked,” Stephen finished.

“We didn’t foresee Dad’s heart attack three years later either. He was fitter than me and you put together.” Keith brushed ice from his younger brother’s coat. “We may never know why these things happen, but God does have everything in His hands.”

“Are you preaching to me, Big Brother?”

“Nope, just reminding you of what you already know.” He paused. “Stephen, don’t let your heart stay chilled for long. The whole of you needs to find warmth in those who love you.” Keith had finally gained Stephen’s attention. “Angela and I have been worried about you. Bethany’s parents are hurting too, and from what I understand, you haven’t spoken to them since the funeral. By the look of things, you haven’t done much talking with God either. We can’t bring Bethany back, and no one can help you while your heart is so cold.”

Stephen took a deep breath. “I’ll try. But how?”

“You’re thawing. That’s a start.”

Melted snow began to seep through the front of Stephen’s flannel shirt. He shivered. “It is rather chilly out here. Isn’t it?”

Keith grinned. “You could also try and enjoy this winter…for Bethany.”

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This article has been read 638 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lyn Churchyard08/21/09
Cold, wet, chilling winter weather is bad, but winter in the heart is much worse. I felt so much for this young man. It brought back memories of a young man I know who lost his beloved on the eve of their wedding. You have captured the sadness and the desolation of his soul. Praise God for his brother. I really liked this line, very appropriate: "Stephen, don’t let your heart stay chilled for long. The whole of you needs to find warmth in those who love you.”
Mona Purvis08/24/09
Death of a loved one, unforseen, never prepared for. Just heartbreaking. The whole piece had such a feeling of despair. Really hard to read, but very worth it.
Kimberly Russell08/24/09
I loved this line "You're thawing-that's a start." The double meaning was great.
Good job.
Virgil Youngblood 08/24/09
The bear and the dad added just the right touch to this story for me and gave it good balance. Well done.
Eileen Knowles08/24/09
Really liked the angle you took with the topic. And your title was very fitting. Good Job!
Beth LaBuff 08/24/09
I was glad to see he would let his heart thaw toward God. Your sad story offers hope!
Colin Swann08/25/09
Very good and interesting, I really enjoyed this story and how you managed to pack so much in to your story. .

Thanks for sharing. Colin
dub W08/25/09
This is well done, a lot of empathy is conveyed. Finding the POV was difficult in the first half in the second half when it was finally apparent it seemed array, But, that's just my eyes. Good job.
Ada Nett08/25/09
Interesting story and a very vivid dramatic delivery.
Val Clark08/26/09
I loved the gentleness and strenght of Keith's love for Stephen. Also the way you kept to the theme in both the external and internal weathers referencing each other. Too much information dropping of back story that wasn't relevant to the story in the seventh paragraph for my liking. Really enjoyed the story though, what a long way you have come since beginners!