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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Fragrance (10/24/05)

TITLE: And God Breathes...
By Ann Grover
10/30/05


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An errant flake of snow drifts lazily in front of my eyes, and I try to focus on it, shifting my weight from one frozen foot to the other. There is no relief for my numb legs and my deadened mind.

The snow reminds me of Hanukkah. My thoughts wander.

The kitchen would be filled with the aromas of crisp golden potato latkes, apple sauce, and funny, lumpy sufganiyot, dredged in sugar and cinnamon. We laughed while we played the dreidel game, and each night, we lit another candle in the menorah. “Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, who has kept us alive...”

Mama, may I have another latke with sour cream?

The intense cold invades the warmth of my memories, and I reluctantly drift back to the present.

There will be no Hanukkah this year.

I see movement out of the corner of my eye. There is a louse crawling along the collar of the woman in front of me. I consider how her body is his universe, and he is the emperor of his domain. He might tunnel through the folds of her clothes, or hide in the thicket of her frayed hair. Maybe he would care to explore the bony ridges of her spine. I envy him his freedom. He disappears under the collar and then emerges further along on the edge of her shoulder.

Don’t fall!

“Achtung!” The daily roll call finally begins, and the numbers are called. I don’t turn my head to see who steps forward. We have already said our good-byes.

The soldiers prod the hesitant with their rifles and encourage the weak with the flats of their hands.

Shalom.

I am not called. I feel the terrible wrenching in my soul, of relief that it is not my turn and guilt that I am spared again. But, perhaps, today the draw is different. Maybe today’s chosen are tasting liberation, even now being led to the gates of freedom.

Is it too cruel to hope?

Days pass. Two? or twenty? A monotony of sour bread, relentless cold, and endless standing in the yard. By day, I separate soles from used shoes. My hands are raw from picking at stitching and pulling at the leather. I distract myself by inventing tales for the former shoe owners. These ones belonged to a teacher. These, a concert pianist. My knuckles are rapped back to reality.

At night, we whisper the Shema and sing. Sometimes, we cry soundlessly and rock each other to sleep.

Soon, the snow is deep and heavy in the yard. It’s bitterly cold, so the snow does not melt through the rags tied onto my frozen feet. The merciless wind blows through my rough fringe of hair. I no longer dream of Hanukkah. I forget that I can dream. I am not hungry.

My number is called.

We are led to a brick building surrounded by an electric wire fence. Even now, I think this may be a new work assignment, that the rumours we hear are not true. We are crowded into a small anteroom and ordered to remove our garments. We take off the last shreds of our filthy, tattered clothing. Our girlish modesty has been put aside long ago. Even our souls are naked.

Another door opens, and we are pushed into a cold, barren room. The door is locked behind us. We stand in expectant silence. There is a faint hiss. Some of the women begin to whimper and moan. The woman next to me slumps and falls.

I breathe deeply. I am carried away into the brightness of a Prussian blue sky. The larks are singing and daisies are swaying gently. I smell fresh bread and ripe peaches, roses and newly mown grass.

I am light.

I lie down in the grass and I sleep.



The flame is kindled in me, Hashem, our God, King of the Universe.

I am completely consumed for You.

I become an
olah, an offering, and I arise as a sweet-smelling savour.



And God breathes...


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This article has been read 6657 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Amy Michelle Wiley 10/31/05
Wow. That was an incredible story and incredibly told. Well done!
Janice Stotz11/01/05
Wow is right! That was beautiful and heartwrenching!
terri tiffany11/02/05
Wonderful!!
Jan Ackerson 11/02/05
Perfect.
Joanne Malley11/03/05
Sad...but so well written. I was immersed as if I were there. Great job!
Linda Watson Owen11/03/05
Remarkably moving. God breathed, but I didn't from beginning to end. Chillingly beautiful.
Shari Armstrong 11/03/05
We can never forget -thank you for this powerful piece.
Garnet Miller 11/04/05
What a terrrific heartwrenching story! How awful to have to endure such an infamous time in history. Thank you for sharing this well written story:)
Debbie OConnor11/04/05
A clear winner in my estimation. This is so well-done it takes my breath away (no pun intended). Truly excellent work.
Nina Phillips11/05/05
Compelling, touching, moving, and in the end rewarding. Lovely! God bless ya, littlelight
Val Clark11/06/05
Yes, a very sad story, told well. The small details of the louse and the work with the shoes gave a strong sense of place.
Debbie Sickler11/06/05
Excellent! I loved the details and wonderful ending!
janet rubin11/07/05
Wow. Congratulations. Intense.
Shelley Snyder11/07/05
All I can say is 'wow'. Congratulations!
Pat Guy 11/07/05
This was awesome Ann! Congratulations!
Anita Neuman11/07/05
Congratulations on your well-deserved win. This was brilliantly written!
Crista Darr11/07/05
A masterful piece of writing! This may be the best entry I've ever read. Thank you for this offering.
Deborah Porter 11/07/05
Ann, congratulations on your 1st place in both the Editors' Choice and the Level 3 awards. You really are going from strength to strength and it has been wonderful to watch you moving up the levels. Can't go any further now, but I'll definitely look forward to seeing more by you in the future. Congratulations again! Love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)
Brandi Roberts11/07/05
Congrats Anna on this! Very well written! Enjoy your #1!
Christl Boyd11/07/05
Amazing...absolutely amazing! Thank you.
Kenn Allan11/07/05
Wow. The judges certainly knew what they were doing.
Marilyn Schnepp 11/08/05
Sorry, I don't understand latkes, sufganujet, menora, dreidel or Heshem...but if the Judges picked it as number winner...it must be good! Congratulations and keep writing...
Donna Wilson11/09/05
Very very Good!Congradulations Ann!
B Brenton11/11/05
You captured the feeling.

Wow.
Lynda Lee Schab 07/01/06
Congratulations Ann from a BoB judge! The first ever two-time winner (in one contest!) You consistently (and persistently) worked your way into this position and your placing is much deserved. Your work speaks for itself. Enjoy your time in the sun. Blessings, Lynda
Pat Guy 07/01/06
Wow Ann! I figured you would be in 'there' and I'm not surprised at the 'first ever' double placement - enjoy this time and let us shower you with our love for your work. Awesome Ann - and so are you. May God continue to bless, increase, and use your talent. Love, Pat
Rita Garcia07/01/06
Congratulations! I am always touched by the annointing that shines through your writing!
Maxx .07/01/06
Ann: Your work has such depth and feeling. This was an outstanding entry ... and as a BoB judge my opinion counts! Your skills and polish are becomming legendary on FW and this piece is your best example. Congrats and great win!
David Story07/02/06
I came here to congratulate you on your award, and found a piece that moved me beyond words.
Thank you.
joy clarkson07/08/06
What a moving story. I've got goose bumps on my body and tears in my eyes. Great writing.
Julie Michaelson07/08/06
This piece is quite chilling,
and surreal. The memories of conversations among my Jewish family still cause me nightmares. I can only pray that God, in His Infinite Wisdom, used this horrific chapter in human history, for His glory, and the benefit of all humankind. I do believe
that the Light of God overcomes all the darkness of
evil.
Bonnie Derksen07/12/06
What a powerful story written with such finesse and excellence. It is another example of Genesis 50:20. What is intended for harm is used by our faithful Father for our good. Your story has moved me. I am reminded again to never take our freedom for granted and to trust Jesus to stand with us when it is taken away. Thank you for being a vessel of God's blessing to me this morning.
Joanne Sher 07/16/06
WOW - I am new here, but if this is what I can expect from writers here, I have come to the right place! Your imagery is amazing, and the story so gripping. God has blessed you with a great talent!
Jean Bundas07/17/06
This is very good. I have never heard this story told with such peace. Usually, the writer focuses on the shock, the harshness, etc.

It still made those points, but from a different perspective - one who knew God and found peace in going to meet Him.

Very thought provoking.
Kaylee Blake 08/02/06
This is one of the best pieces of literature I have ever read. This is so very awesome and totally deserving of its placement! Congrats!
Summer Cordon08/06/06
Um, I'm speechless.

Summer
Barbara Ann Smith08/08/06
And God Breathes...this is an amazing piece. It kept me glued until the ending. It brought tears to my eyes and heartful feelings for those who went before you and of course, when your number was called, my heart ached ... but through Him life is eternal.
Bruce Newman08/30/06
The article is deceptive in the best of ways. It takes you in the front door with a scene of innocence only to let you out of the back door by way of death, death that you have identified with in a brief span of words without knowing that's how it would be. This is a very human piece of writing in the best sense.
Rebekah Bentley09/12/06
I'm not sure how to comment on such a piece as this. All the words that come to mind fall short of what it is. Truly God breathed on you when He gave you this to write.

It's beautiful.
Claudette Wood10/12/06
Wow. My heart.... what to say. Just wow.
Shelby Spear11/11/06
Thank you for sharing this beautiful gift. God breathes through you...
Ky Bishop12/27/06
The Father is consistently speaking to His children. Thanks for writing down what you heard Him say. Absolultely Spirit led.
Diane Todman01/22/07
At the precise moment of reading this article, my husband called to tell me that a native Virgin Islander from the St. Croix National Guard, lost his life in Iraq. And I must say your article was quite comforting. And God Breathes...- truly beautiful.
Tiffany Secula02/06/07
Absolutely amazing. The is such a deep incredible work of art. Congrats on the success of this wonderfully real tale.
Donald Ford04/24/07
Whether this story be true or imagined, I was certainly taken there. At first I went willingly, but as soon as reality set in, I wanted out. I wanted to leave or at least turn away. But I could not. My mind and my eyes were fixed; I felt the poor girl's delemna. THEY want us to believe these things never happened. Thank you dear writer for taking us back there again, as we journey there often, though dragging our feet, we must return. How else will succeeding generations take the plight of the Jewish people seriously, unless we are fed this story over and over again. Lest we forget!

Where eagles fly,
Don
Stephen Pohl10/13/07
Made me breathe in with God and hold my breath.
Loren T. Lowery03/26/08
Ann, how do you possibly top wow or amazing for a fitting description of this writing and its story! The depth of this is simply indredible, a true empath into these souls.
The child's observation of the louse reminded me a bit of Shakespeare's King Lear and his lament over the death of his daughter Cordellia; in part it reads: "Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never! Pray you, undo this button." King Lear, 5. 3

Why indeed? But I think you answered by the words of your title. "And God Breathes..."
Jamie Myles11/27/08
this article touched my heart. your story telling is skillful. what a great gift.
Carol Penhorwood 10/26/09
Profoundly moving! I have no words.
Anne Warden 04/01/13
Ann, I remember reading this a couple years ago. It was one I printed out and put in a file I've titled "Favorites From FaithWriters". You've captured the essence of hope for better things in this life versus hope of living eternally in God's kingdom.

Beautiful story! Thank you for sharing your heart with us, your readers.

Congratulations on being showcased this week.
Jack Taylor 04/01/13
You remind us that freedom of mind and soul are not confined to the limits of our physical realities. Thanks for pulling us heaven ward out of the midst of the hell that men create. masterful writing. A good inspiration for all of us.