We recently put out a special challenge to SCWC members, via our Facebook group. The challenge? Write a short piece of writing in any genre with the word "fear" in the title. The piece should show how fear doesn't have to have a place in a Christian's life; the story, devotion, poem, essay, etc. didn't have to be overtly Christian, but it needed to provide a positive spin on the word "fear."
We loved the submissions we received!
Our top three winners are:
1st place: Jena Reeves
2nd place: Melissa Hanberry
3rd place: Heather Snyder
Enjoy reading the winning entries below, and CONGRATULATIONS to Jena, Melissa, Heather, and the rest of you who submitted to the challenge.
"Balloon of Fear"
by Jena L. Reeves
I sat in the car taking deep breaths. It had not been a good week. Getting ready for this party had brought a bit of anxiety. It was a relief to be down to the final errands. The balloon and the cake.
Of course, the balloon had to be from the slowest store in town. The only one with an 18” unicorn balloon.
The love for my child pushing me forward, I took one final breath and counted as I exhaled.
One… two… three… four…
Determined, I walked into the store and headed straight toward the balloons. I found what I was looking for immediately. Now all I had to do was find some that would look good surrounding it. I was sorting through the colors and sizes when it hit me.
The dizziness started at the back of my head.
“Deep breath,” I thought. Then realized air was not entering my lungs. Trying to ignore it, I reached for a balloon.
My chest ached.
"Math. Try to do math. That’s what the counselor said. It would help stop the spiral. Worth a shot. One plus one is two, two plus two is four, four plus four is… …four plus four is… How am I supposed to do math with no air in my brain?”
My hands were shaking.
I felt like I was going to faint. Blackness began to envelope me. I imagined being inside of that unicorn balloon, unable to breathe.
“Ma’am, can I help you?”
Somewhere beyond the darkness, a voice pulled me back.
“Your balloon. Do you need it inflated?
It was the store clerk. A young girl with the kindest eyes I’d ever seen.
“Ye… yes. Thank you.”
I handed her the prized balloon and quickly grabbed several others that would suffice for the bouquet.
“These as well.”
“Sure, no problem. It will only take a couple of minutes. Looks like someone is having a party!”
I noticed my hands had stopped shaking.
“Yes. My daughter’s sixth birthday. She’s all about unicorns this year. We were so happy to see that you carried the unicorn balloons.”
“We just got them in. The company we order from sent them by mistake. Someone upstairs must be looking out for you.”
As we continued chatting, my panic subsided.
By the time the balloons were ready, I felt almost normal. I even strolled around the store and picked up a few extra items. It had been years since I was able to do that. I longed for the days I could walk around stores or sit in restaurants for leisurely meals.
At the register to check-out, I was pleased to see there was nobody in front of me.
The man behind the counter smiled, “I’m sorry you had to blow up your own balloons, I’m holding down the fort alone today.”
“Actually, this sweet young girl helped me. She had on a smock like yours and a name tag. I thought she worked here.”
“Well, no. Only my wife and I work here, the kids sometimes. They are all on a youth trip with our church.”
Pointing to the wall behind him, “See, here is a family picture.” Looking carefully at each person, I did not recognize anyone.
“Well, that’s strange.”
“It’s a mystery for sure. Someone upstairs must be looking out for you.”
I got in my car and called my husband.
“Hey, how’s it going.”
“Good. I got the balloons. I’m headed to pick up the cake now. They have curbside pickup, easy peasy.”
“Did you make it in the store ok?”
“Well, not really. I was having a panic attack and thought I was going to faint when this girl started talking to me and pulled me out of it. That never happens.”
“Wow. What did she say?”
“Nothing really, just chatting. She blew up my balloons. Then, I come to find out she doesn’t even work there. I have no idea who she was.”
“Whoever she was, I’m glad she was there to help.”
I pulled into the bakery and called for them to bring out my order.
“I’m so sorry. We’re short-handed today and unable to do curbside. You’ll need to come in and pick it up. We’re really sorry about this.”
I already paid for the cake when ordering online, so I just had to walk in and get it. No problem. I could do this.
When I saw the bakery counter, my heart fell. One register at the far end was open. One person working. Five people in line.
The dizziness started in the back of my head.
“Oh no. God, help me.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone stand up from below the counter in front of me.
“Ma’am, Can I help you?”
A familiar voice.
“Ye… yes, I’m picking up a cake.”
Eyes closed. Just breathe.
The darkness was coming.
“Here’s your cake, Ma’am.”
I opened my eyes to see the kindest eyes.
“You. You work here?”
“No Ma’am. Someone upstairs is looking out for you.”
Then she was standing in front of me, taking my hands in her own. Kind eyes looking into mine.
“Fear not, Angela. God is with you. Don’t let dismay enter your heart. He is your God. He will strengthen you. He will help you. He will uphold you with His righteous right hand.”
“Yes. Isaiah. God loves you so much, Angela. Think about how much you love your child, pushing through these panic attacks to bring her happiness. Heavenly Father’s love for you is even greater.”
“Who are you?”
She smiled and disappeared.
The woman behind the counter walked up.
“I’m so sorry for your wait Hun, I’m alone today. Are you picking up?”
“Yes, this is my cake. You know what, I think I’ll have some lunch before I go. Can I get a tuna salad sandwich and a Coke?”
"Don’t Fear the Crossroads"
by Melissa Hanberry
“There comes a time when you have to choose between turning the page and closing the book.” (Josh Jameson)
I am waiting at the crossroads with other restless souls seeking direction for the next step. This seems to be the place to find answers or, at least, offers of guidance. The Greeks tell us Hermes and Hecate guard the site, waiting to escort messages or mortals to the other side. I’ll pass.
Modern legend relates the tale of blues singer Robert Johnson who made a deal with the devil– his soul for guitar mastery - at the intersection of Highways 49 and 61 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. I’m sure there’s a full corner of desperate artists willing to take that offer, but I’ll tiptoe past that one, too, thank you.
You would probably guess I’m looking to take my place among the crowd of road-blocked writers waiting their turn for inspiration to come and sweep them away to sweet completion and a book deal, but you’d be wrong. They long to keep writing. I’m looking for permission to stop.
My writing was infrequent before Maggie’s diagnosis. Technical and marketing job-related projects sprinkled with sporadic Christian parenting magazine credits made up my portfolio. But an April morning follow-up to a colonoscopy revealed one-in-a-million news: stage Iv colorectal cancer in my fifteen-year-old daughter. I felt a desperate desire to chronicle her journey and produce a work that would survive her or the cancer, whichever one lost the battle.
My writing found purpose. I wrote words infused with all the faith I could muster,
posting them to CaringBridge and later our own website, Leaf by Leaf. Maggie’s story had quite a following, and I delivered to the faithful reader moments of joy and pain, hope and doubt, gratitude and loss, laughter and tears. Her life was the embodiment of every contradiction that keeps pages turning. Even after her death, I continued, with some regularity, to update the blog. But as grief always leads to an inevitable crisis, my voice now struggles to gain traction.
I’m at the crossroads wondering if I have another story in me. Or more to the point, do I want to tell a new story? And if I recycle her story, do readers want to read it?
Crossroads are not only for the pagan. Scripture encourages a providential visit for all who seek truth in Proverbs 8:1-2. “Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand.” (ESV) I find comfort knowing my faltering steps have brought me to hallowed ground for answers. And a germ of something new, yet unnamed, stirs a familiar urge within to arrange words and name it. Oswald Chambers says, “Not often, but every once in a while God brings us to a major turning point - a great crossroads in our life. From that point we either go toward a more and more slow, lazy, and useless Christian life, or we become more and more on fire, giving our utmost for His highest – our best for His glory.”
His glory. I forget the simple truth that His glory is my story to tell. It was Maggie’s story. She expressed a faith so brave she refused any chance at supernatural healing that would allow anyone other than God to receive glory due Him alone.
Now the high calling of His glory could rescue me from the cowardice of laurel-resting and spiritual laziness arising from self-satisfaction and fear. Would I follow His steps and her steps in duty to give my utmost or be content to entertain myself with the reading of worn pages in a journal? What would keep her memory alive more? A stand-alone volume of her journey or a shelf of life lessons from her, since her, and inspired by her?
My family has adopted a banana spider this fall with full knowledge her time with us is short. Harriet located her web between the gables of our house and our pear tree where the wind guides unsuspecting creatures her way. We watch in fascination as she repairs and migrates the web’s position in response to changing weather and inevitable damage. We’ve worried several times as she remains motionless in the center. Then we start counting new anchoring supports added to reinforce or notice a broadening of the web’s footprint. She’s taking a brief rest from her never-ending labor. Ever-spinning, continually weaving. Adding to the old. Using new strands to keep the whole web anchored yet pliable.
Meanwhile back at the crossroads, life has not stopped. Several chapters of Maggie’s story I thought complete have reopened for further weaving. Who will write them if not me? My foolish fear of leaving her behind as life continues in diverging threads is laid to rest. And time here reminds me of one other reference in the Bible. “Go out therefore to the crossroads, and everybody you meet invite to the wedding.” (Matthew 22:9, Weymouth) In Jesus’ parable of the banquet, his servants are directed to the place the roads meet to find both good and bad to
invite to the feast. Each chapter of my writing is my invitation. Who am I to refuse to extend it?
In rejecting fear at the crossroads, we find ourselves part of a work that never ends and always seeks to display the fullest measure of His glory.
by Heather Snyder
This month has been an interesting one for me. My distress generally arises when there is an unknown outcome in front of me. My fear begins to rise, and I completely forget to place my trust in God Almighty. For some reason, I tend to forget all the moments He has brought me through, and I start to wonder about the future and what it might bring. I find myself dreading what lies ahead, and instead of being excited about future prospects, I find it easier to stay where
I am and pull the covers over my head–even if I am not completely happy or satisfied in my present circumstances. Growing pains and pressing on are quite difficult activities, and sometimes I would prefer to skip those parts of life altogether.
Of course, this is not possible. Inevitably, life comes with many changes. Some we are very excited about, such as getting a new job, going to college, or adopting a new puppy. But many events can also be scary, such as moving to a new town, meeting new people, and essentially starting over. It is so important to remember, yet can be easily forgotten, that the Lord is with us each step of the way–no matter where we go. As with most, there have been many challenges
thrown at me during my lifetime. There have been events that have either brought me tears or laughter, and I have had to decide how to handle each one.
I found myself in such a situation about a week ago. My life has been one medical journey after the other, and once again, I was required to undergo a medical test–one that I really did not want to pursue even though I knew I had no choice.
Sometimes you must do what is right even when you would rather retreat. As I began preparing for this test, I contacted several friends and asked them to pray for me, and I began to pray for myself as well. On the morning of the test, I didn’t
think my heart would ever calm down. It was beating a thousand beats a minute–nerves. I asked God to calm my heart as I prayed for the medical staff I would be dealing with that day. And He calmed my heart. Amazing.
The day was exhausting but bit by bit I made it through each part. I still do not know the results of my test, but I choose to trust in Christ for my tomorrows–even as difficult as that is at times.
He is trustworthy. Oddly enough, being at the hospital reminds me of what He has done for me. It brings back memories of particular days along with thoughts of all the people who helped me and encouraged me along the way. I went through years of being sick and watching God take me through some very difficult days, and now I am able to stand on the other side of so much. I was given a second chance at life–a fellow patient reminded me of this that day.
During my medical test, I remembered the words to Lauren Daigle’s song, “Trust in You.” I had heard it the night before on the radio, and the words to this song matched my feelings perfectly.
Here are the lines to the chorus:
When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!
These words bring comfort, yet I know at certain times these sentences can be difficult to believe and apply to our lives. We want to know what is coming, and we want to understand every aspect of our days. Why did this event have to happen? What is the purpose? Why did I have to go through something like this? I completely understand these feelings, because I have felt them myself. Yet I try to replace these questions with knowledge and facts. The fact is that Christ
loves me and has never left me. He has never stopped helping me through difficult situations, and He has always been there walking with me through the good and the bad.
Each day is a new opportunity to set fear aside. The only way I know to do this is to replace my fear with the knowledge of Jesus' love. By trusting Christ with our tomorrows, we can move forward in confidence, because when I don’t know what is going on, He does.
We love to celebrate the creativity of our SCWC members by hosting online writing challenges. Be on the lookout for new challenges coming soon.