Sunday Photo Fiction – The Bicycle Basket (200 Words)

Visiting the charming, quaint tea house in her small town was Claire’s favorite Saturday morning ritual. She rode, the basket filled with fresh flowers she picked along the way. 

Her routine was the same. She would lock up her bike, then head inside for a cup of English Breakfast Tea. Patricia, the owner of the place, would smile brightly and thank her profusely for the fresh flowers. 

Claire, twenty five years old, vibrant and free, found Patricia to be an eighty year old book where every page demanded to be read and appreciated. They were kindred spirits and Claire soaked in this relationship. She never wanted it to end.

Patricia passed away on a Friday evening. The next morning, Claire rode her bicycle up to the tea house, like she did every Saturday, collecting the fresh flowers along the way. This time, Claire parked her bicycle out front, removed the basket and hung it on the tree. 

She wiped the tears from her eyes, exhaled, turned and walked home.

The next Saturday, she walked to the tea house, fresh flowers in hand. She replaced the old flowers from the basket, removed the “For Sale” sign, and entered her new establishment. 

Sealed and Unopened (Dedicated to my Dad this Father’s Day)

Raelyn Pracht

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Every year for Father’s Day, I set out to find the perfect Father’s Day card for my dad. For him and I, this card expressed our relationship. It never had Thomas Kinkaide artwork on it (though he really liked him) nor did it have something about him being the World’s Greatest Father. Anything sappy was out.

No, the more obnoxious this card was, the better. It usually had some funny character or Far-Side type comic on the front.  Then inside it always had too be either punny or sarcastically funny.

This was us.  To present him with anything different would not have been a testament to our relationship.

Five years ago, I sent him his Father’s Day card. It did not arrive in time for him to open it before he went into the hospital for surgery.

He never made it out of surgery.

The card laid on his kitchen…

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She Laughs and my Soul Sings

She laughs and it makes my soul sings.

The sound, forgotten and lost in her darkness,

has finally found its way back.

I  welcome it gratefully with open arms.

I close my eyes and suddenly, it’s the only sound I hear.

I record the sound in my memory.

I don’t want this music to end,-

this joyous moment to cease. 

Her laughter lights the world around us,

Leaving years of darkness behind in a single refrain.

She catches my smile with her cheerful eyes,

but she misses my held back tears.

Freedom from her mind chimes with a new day.

The sound continues to play in my mind,

and fills my heart and mouth with praise.

Sunday Photo Fiction – Escape (200 words)

goal was to write a 200 word story inspired by the image (photo courtesy of morguefile) https://sundayphotofiction.com/author/donnamcnicol/

He was tired of trying to make her happy. When did she get so bitter? She was not the same girl he had married years ago. He didn’t know who she was anymore. He only knew one thing – he didn’t want to be there. Where could he go? If he had to choose between fight or flight, he would always choose flight. 

He escaped during her rants, traveling in his mind to places of comfort and beauty. This time he chose to go camping. It was out of spite. The camper he bought led to an argument where she would not speak to him for days. If only she always gave him the silent treatment.

Her mouth was moving, but all he could hear was the sound of the country air whistling through the open windows. Everything was peaceful until his mind suddenly took him into the city, his car upended, the camper sinking into the abyss of concrete behind him.

He snapped back into reality, finding himself upended in the recliner, shoved over in her fit of unhappiness. At that moment, he wished the carpet beneath him would open up and swallow him whole – enveloping him with deep silence.

AGAPE – A Lesson from Ruth

Agape. This is a Greek word usually associated with God’s love for man. This word describes charity, unconditional love at its fullest, a love which offers sacrificing for the good of another person, a full and pure form of love. Yes, it certainly defines God’s love for us as His children, but for the purpose of this devotion, I want to focus on where it is evident in another story: the story of Naomi and Ruth. 

Having escaped the famine in Bethlehem in Judah, Naomi and her family make their home in Moab. Naomi’s husband dies only to be followed by both of her sons. This leaves Naomi with only her daughter-in-laws, Orpah and Ruth,  as family. She learns that the Lord provided for the people in Judah, so she decides to return to her home. Orpah and Ruth begin to follow her, but Naomi turns and says in Ruth 1:8-9:

“Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”

Orpah and Ruth say they will go with Naomi, but Naomi insists they return to their own people. There is a plea for them to return. Although the Bible doesn’t describe Naomi’s mood or tone, the emotions in what she says next show a grief-stricken woman in despair, telling them that the “Lord has turned against her”. Ruth 1:13

Orpah heeds her command and turns back, but Ruth doesn’t. Then, in one of the most beautiful, love-filled scenes, Ruth says:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” . Ruth 1:16-17

Friends, this is Agape. 

This is a love so deep, selfless, unconditional and sacrificing. Ruth is not going with Naomi just to be nice or just to take care of her. She is going with Naomi out of pure love. She is willing to leave her gods and accept God. She is willing to leave everything she knows – her people, her land, everything familiar, for the goodness of another. Agape.

I have been blessed to have more than one Ruth in my life – people who have walked with me in unfamiliar land, unconditionally loving me, and sacrificing just to be by my side. 

I can only think of one word which could describe this Agape love:  Christ-like.

Who has been a Ruth for you in your life?

Who is your Naomi that you can be a Ruth for?

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

Sunday Photo Fiction – The Tree (200 Words)

The goal was to write a 200 word story inspired by the image (photo courtesy of morguefile) https://sundayphotofiction.com/author/donnamcnicol/

The twisted trunk seemed to point to the path she should follow. Lost in thought, she had spent the day wandering throughout the glory of the towering trees, embracing the safety of their covering canopies. 

Somewhere she had stepped off the path of the life she knew she was called to lead. Love, or what you think is love, can do that to a person – lead you astray, let you forget who you are, and sweep you up into a whirlwind of excitement, only to let you free fall to the ground.

The ground she fell onto was at least familiar. Earthy, wet, covered with fallen leaves – a beautiful, wooded area undiscovered by most people that sat just beyond her Grandmother’s property line. 

She wanted to escape. She went to the place she found solace – the woods she explored so vigorously as a child. It was this place which not only gave her a love of nature itself, but the love of capturing creation through photographs. These woods spoke to her soul. Here life  called her by name and welcomed her into a sacred space. It was here where she found her path. It was here where she found God.

BEYOND THE CLOUDS

Driving down the highway yesterday, a sudden surge of brake lights caught my
attention. It wasn’t an accident or traffic which caused the sea of bright red
to appear. It was hard rain, which seemed to come out of nowhere, catching all
of us by surprise.

The sky had a few clouds scattered throughout it, but none seemed large
enough or dark enough to provide the rainstorm that came down. It was as if the storm cloud was hovering just above my car at one point because I couldn’t actually see it.

What I could see, though, briefly through the cleared space from the
windshield wipers, was the blue sky ahead.

Isn’t that how life is? Full of storms which are unexpected. Sometimes we can
see the blue sky just beyond the storm and other times, well, all we see is a
sky overwhelmed with clouds waiting to burst open with no evidence of an end.

That’s what faith is. It is knowing the blue sky is going to show up. It is
the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews
11:1) It is knowing that even though the entire sky is consumed with storm
clouds, that beyond it, where our earthly eyes cannot see, there is blue. There
is hope. There is clear, calm sky filled with heavenly brightness waiting on
the other side of the storm.

In Mark 4, we read the story of Jesus calming the sudden storm which shows
up on the sea. His disciples are scared and call on Him. He calms the sea and
says to His disciples in Mark 4:40-

“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

When I feel the fear from one of lives’ storms present itself, when I can’t
see the blue sky beyond the clouds, I hear Jesus asking me this very question. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

It always reminds me that Faith is greater than fear and even the smallest amount of faith can calm the largest of storms.

A Gift of Conviction

In 2015, at a restaurant and bar in Waco, Texas, a violent riot happened between rival motorcycle gangs. Nine people died that day and 18 people were injured. For many days after this, there was a tension in the air. Suddenly, social media and the news were swarming with stories leading many people to judgement and stereotyping. 

We had suddenly forgotten the words from Luke 6:37, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;”

Around that same time, I was  preparing for my daughter’s high school graduation. Unbeknownst to me, my brother was sending her a graduation present – a shirt from the University she would attend. This would end up being much more than a present. It would be a reminder of the old adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover” and would arrive with God’s perfect timing.

At the same time, a man living in the house we used to live in, dressed in all of his motorcycle riding apparel, was working on his Harley Davidson in his garage. He was anxiously awaiting a part for it, so he could meet up with his club and go riding.  As he was working, UPS brought him a box. He opened it and quickly realized it was not for him. Inside the box was the very graduation gift my brother had sent.

Upon the discovery of a shirt in the box, this man quickly realized this must be a gift. He then tracked down my brother and called him, letting him know what had happened. My brother in turn called me.

I walked over to the house we used to live in, the house where this Harley Davidson man whom social media and the news had already condemned as a violent person just by association, stood in his garage working on his Harley. He was an older man, long hair in a braid down his back, with matching gray in his full beard and mustache. Next to him was the Chocolate Lab he had just rescued named Lucy.

This man, it turned out, was a Vietnam veteran and had been a Prisoner of War. He was so friendly and warm, a complete contradiction to how he and his fellow riders were being portrayed. This man was so friendly that I half expected him to invite me in for lemonade. I would have accepted too.

This experience convicted me for my own judgement. I was guilty for putting a label on this man based on his looks. I was grateful for that conviction. It’s easy to let the world tell us what we should think of people based on race, ethnicity, gender, and every stereotype in between. 

I was changed that day all because of a gift – a gift I still treasure because of the message it brought with it. A message of love.  Love for our neighbors.

For he has given us this command: whoever loves God must also demonstrate love to others. John 4:21 TPT

My prayer is for us to share peace, to shine the light of love in the face of all darkness. There will be darkness, but if we can glow with His love, we can give the hope which can overcome all the shadows.

INTREPID – a 100 Word Writing Prompt

Her intrepid personality was something Beth envied. A polar opposite of herself, though Victoria was her identical twin, led to a fantastic comedy designed by nature. Beth’s life was quiet, unassuming, and led with no risk ever being taken. It was a sharp contrast to Victoria’s, full of wandering, risk-taking, and carefreeness. In the darkest corners of her mind, the voices in Beth’s head would convince her that the life Victoria was leading was meant to be hers. Somewhere the life she meant to lead was taken from her. Now, they convinced her, it was time to take it back.

NEW PATTERNS OF OLD HABITS

A few years ago, I completed an intricate cross stitch. It was a beautiful scene of a church in winter in the style of Thomas Kinkade. The use of gold and yellow gave the appearance of light in the windows and the lanterns above the doorway. This served as a great contrast to the church itself, which was created using many shades of the same color. However, the greatest contrast would appear later.

After finishing this, I decided to give it as a gift, but I needed to frame it first. As I went to place it in the frame, I placed the beautiful image face down, leaving the back to face me. How ugly it was! I remember hoping that the recipient would never take this out of the frame. I never wanted them to see the ugly side.

Colored floss crossed their way in every direction, heaps of knots loomed, and random mistakes I knew I had made seemed to shine among them all. It was a garbled mess. 

Maria Von Trapp said:

“It will be very interesting one day to follow the pattern of our life as it is spread out like a beautiful tapestry. As long as we live here we see only the reverse side of the weaving, and very often the pattern, with its threads running wildly, doesn’t seem to make sense. Someday, however, we shall understand. In looking back over the years we can discover how a red thread goes through the pattern of our life: the Will of God.”

The back of the cross stitch, in all of its terrible, distorted glory, is like our lives. It’s our bad, old habits, our sins, our faults, our failed attempts at devising our own plans, and everything in between.

Yet, if you look at the other side, you see a beautiful pattern. A pattern designed perfectly for each one of us. Even though we may have taken paths in every direction or even got stuck and knotted a few times, God can still make new patterns out of old habits.

It is He who sits on the throne who said, “Behold, I am making all things new” Revelation 21:5

Trust in Him to take all of your bad, old habits, sins, faults, failed attempts at devising your own plans, and everything in between, and to turn them into a new pattern – a new beautiful creation for the sake of His glory.

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