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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Home (01/09/06)

TITLE: Jennika
By Maxx .


The stuffed teddy bear had a hole in the pink fur along its side. I’d bought it for my only daughter as a birthday gift. It seemed a lifetime ago. I ran my finger over the wound. Pieces of stray thread and white stuffing, ethereal in the clock-light, fell into the blackness of the bedroom.

3:45 AM. I couldn’t remember when I’d last slept.

I sat on Jenny’s bed, the blankets still smoothed and neat, the pillows fluffed and cold, as they’d been for almost three days. Three days. My stomach knotted and I felt a wave of nausea swell in my throat. I covered my mouth with shaking fingers, stifling a sob, as my eyes began to spill.

It was no use. She was everywhere around me. I could feel her, hear her, smell her. I hugged the bear close and wept like a baby.

Pictures strobed through my mind like gunshots in a darkened room. Her torn sweater, found behind the library. Drops of blood, spattered near the interstate. Her face, twisted and terrified, crying for help. Her bruised body writhing in pain.

Unthinkable visions that left my flesh as ice.

“Focus on hope … for her,” the detective had told us. “Don’t let those images in. They’ll cripple you.”

He was right. I fell and buried my face in the pillow, my body shaking uncontrollably. This is my fault, I let her go. I should have stayed with her. I didn’t even protect my most precious.

A motion in the doorway caught my attention. The slight plastic-soled footsteps of a small girl with blonde ringlets scraped through the room. She was sucking her thumb, wearing one piece jammies, pale blue eyes round and wide. “Daddy?” Her voice was tremulous, unsure.

My heart skipped then pounded. I couldn’t breathe. “Jennika?” I wiped my face and sat upright, my back rigid. “Honey, where have you been?” I reached for her. “Is it really you?”

She nodded unsteadily, hair bobbing across apple cheeks. A coarse blue light prickled about her, frigid, distant, threatening. “Daddy, I’m scared.”

“Oh, what’s the matter, sweetheart? Let me make it better.” I motioned her near with open hands.

“Help me, Daddy.”

“I will. I promise.” I extended my reach as far as I could. “Let me cuddle you.”

She spun about, staring out the doorway into the pitch of the house as her mouth gaped. She trembled, knees faltering. “D-daddy?”

A shadow lurched into the room, a pall of foreboding and sin.

I lunged forward, grasping, willing her to come. “I’m here! Daddy’s here!” My words were choked and frantic. “Jenny!”

A last glimpse of her, arms stretched, fingers splayed, head bowed.

I couldn’t watch and turned away ...

… screaming, trying to catch my breath but I couldn’t draw in any air. I blinked, finding my face still buried in the pillow. The room was empty, vacant, hollow.

I was alone.

Raindrops began to ping on the tin roof. Creation wept.

I feared that my beloved was dead. The thought was more than I could bear.

“I’m so sorry, baby.” I slumped over, elbows on my knees, hands covering my face.

“Focus on hope,” the detective had told us.

“For what?’ I’d asked. “That she be violated gently? Murdered quickly?” I pushed past him and stared out into a world racked with evil. A world that had taken my only child.

“Of course not.” He placed his hand on my shoulder. “That she’ll be returned home.”

“Returned home?” I pounded my clenched fist on the sill. “She is my home!” My lungs burned and tightened, my eyes narrowing. “Why should I sacrifice my only child to such depravity?” My jaw was trembling. “She belongs here with me. Do you understand?”

“There is a will older and deeper than man’s comprehension. A resolve that is beyond us. Jenny has a purpose in life, as do you. Above all else, trust in this.”

I nodded. “Easy to believe, impossible to live when my daughter is at stake.”

“Good will come.”

The rain spattered above me. I picked up the bear once again and kissed it. I did have hope in things unseen. At that moment it was all I had.

The black horizon began to gray and soften. Dawn was beginning to push through the drizzle. A new hope? It was the morning of the third day.

The phone in the hallway rang.

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This article has been read 1457 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Amy Michelle Wiley 01/16/06
Wow, this certainly kept my attention! There were a few spots where the tense was wrong and I wonder a bit why you had the detective speaking of "A resolve" rather than "One Who is in control" or something like that, but overall a very powerful story. I love the "I did have hope in things unseen." line from Hebrews 11, and the last line is perfect.
janet rubin01/16/06
Very disturbing read for a mom of girls. Well-written though. Good description. I see images of Jesus in here, don't I? "arms stretched, fingers splayed, head bowed." Also the rain, the shadow of sin, weeping creation and third day. I liked this because it made me think of what it would be like to make such a sacrifice. I could not but I'm so glad He did. Thanks for writing!
Kelly Klepfer01/17/06
Well written. Sad and thought provoking.
Kevin Kindrick01/17/06
Second story today to make me cry. There's just something about children...and Hope. Children and Hope. Thank you so much for pouring this out.

God bless,

terri tiffany01/17/06
Very powerful! Great emotions and word choices to deliver the feelings! I liked the ending and also the way you wrote in easy language and short sentences. Good job!
Jan Ackerson 01/19/06
Beautifully and heart-breakingly written. Thank you for that glimmer at the end.
Pat Guy 01/19/06
I don't know what to say! Since you asked us what we think, this is some of what I see. I see innocence assulted by depravity as a picture of Christ Who was innocent and and suffered. I see the crucifixion and the Father turning away. I see a Father tortured by what He knows is happening. But I can't figure out the paragraph about 'There is a will older...'

A beautifully written, tortuous piece of believing in hope against hope - of holding on to the impossible.
Julianne Jones01/20/06
Disturbing. The place where no parent wants to go and yet the Father willingly gave up His Son knowing what was ahead. I can't seem to get the picture out of my head. Well-written as always. Blessings.
Shari Armstrong 01/20/06
I really don't cry much when reading, but this came very close. It definitely hit a nerve.
Sue Stone01/21/06
Powerful. Wow. Haven't quite got the tightness out of my throat or the eyes clear.
Crista Darr01/21/06
Heart-wrenching. Another masterpiece. I went away not only with pain for Jennika and dad, but also seeing the picture of those dark days when Jesus was in the tomb. Awesome stuff. Welcome back, Maxx!
Alexandra Wilkin01/21/06
The eye for detail - physical, emotional and symbolic - makes this intense reading: the wound in the side of the teddy bear for example. God bless.
Shannon Redmon01/21/06
What a way you have with painting pictures in my mind that allow me to be in the story instead of just on the outside looking in.
Candice Kettell01/22/06
Gripping. A compelling read. I did not want to read it but had to finish. I hope that was good news ringing.
Suzanne R01/22/06
Whew ... gripping ... powerful ... I hated it and yet I loved it.

Exceptionally artful was this sentence and indeed the whole paragraph that follows: "Pictures strobed through my mind like gunshots in a darkened room."

The innocence, the father that did not protect his one and only, his incredible pain and tearing apart of his heart, the three day thing ... wow.

Yep ... welcome back!
Suzanne R01/23/06
And like I said in the previous comment, Maxx, WELCOME BACK! And congratulations!
Sally Hanan01/23/06
Hard to think of us as the ones who took Him and caused such suffering to the Father. Great analogy and writing.
Sally Hanan01/23/06
Hard to think of us as the ones who took Him and caused such suffering to the Father. Great analogy and writing.
Debbie OConnor01/23/06
This is wonderful work! I felt the father's pain. Vivid storytelling. I confess I missed the analogy until you mentioned it on the boards, then I reread and caught it. Congratulations on your win.
B Brenton01/23/06
you're unbelievable!
gripping, emotional...
a winner in my books.
you annointed writing man. :) you really know how to reach out to the soul.
Val Clark01/24/06
God is sovereign, his purposes good and perfect. How we struggle with that! Analogy of the suffering F/father works well. Yeggy.
Marilyn Schnepp 01/24/06
A heartwrenching story - and the truth is, Many a father has had to deal with this very situation...sadly. Great job of bringing it home to the Reader..."as Creation weeps." Beautiful! Kudos!
Lauren Bombardier01/24/06
It's a good thing that we don't actually speak on here, because I wouldn't be able to. Thanks, Maxx.
Betsy Tacchella02/09/06
I had heard that you are an outstanding writer. It's true. Your story raises many questions yet is well told and to the point emotionally.
Jessica Schmit05/31/06
Ahhhhhh. So soothing to a writers soul to read such a breathtaking story. I loved the part where the dad was running his finger over the wound in the bear. You used the word "wound" intentionally (i believe) to communicate subtly, yet purposly that his child was hurt. I also loved the phrase 'Creation wept.' Those two words saw so much. That sentance is almost enough to bring me to tears. People mentioned Jesus' death being reffered to in this story, I also saw that as well. But I also saw a Father in love with his assumed only child. Someone who he let go. I liked that part. It didn't say that she wondered away or was taken from the home, but that he let of her. The guilt, the hopelessness and the grief were felt so vividly throughout this touching piece. I loved the ending. Hope rings throughout the air. beautiful.