In Fiction

WINIFRED’S WISDOM ©

A Short Story of Fiction by Rose Michels

If you asked me to describe what my life and relationship with Winifred was like, I’d have to say it was like Charlie Brown and Linus.  One always seemed to be lost in life while the other had wisdom beyond their years.  Looking back now, I can honestly say Winifred, without a doubt, had more wisdom than anyone I have ever known.

I met Winifred when we were both going through a period of grief and loss.  Losing my husband of nearly 42 years had to have been the hardest thing God has ever allowed me to go through.  Had it not been for my faith, I never would have been able to one day see happiness in life.  Winifred showed me that she, too, had her loved one taken quickly and without a moment’s notice.  Winifred knew sadness almost exactly as I had yet she seemed to manage life much better than I was.  I digress.  Let me start at the beginning.

Well meaning loved ones would not leave me alone after Frank had died.  They saw the loneliness in me and were worried.  They worried that my fragile state was an indication of not being able to bear up under the sorrow of it all.  “There’s this great group from the senior center that meets at the park every third Monday of each month.” my daughter pushed.  “C’mon Mom, you need to get out and be with people!”  I can honestly look back and see that my daughter meant well but solitude is really all I wanted.  I would get through it but time was needed.  Not some social get-together with a bunch of white haired, busy-bodies who had nothing better to do with their time then sit around and gossip.  Okay, I’ll admit, that was my perception and probably not very accurate.  I would go to the park and meet them, if for no other reason than to quiet my nagging daughter.

Not wanting to just push my way into this group of laughing and perfumed women, I decided to hold off and just sit nearby and try to listen in to what the conversations were.  I made my way to a bench near enough and THAT’S where I met Winifred.  She, too, was sitting nearby and I suspected for the very same reason.  We both sat quietly, me eyeing her, her eyeing me, although both of us trying everything in our power to not let the other know it.  Unfortunately, one of the women from the group noticed us and came over to introduce herself.  “Hello.” she said.  “My name’s Linda.  Are you here for our get-together?  I see you’ve already met Winnie.”  Glancing over to my side, I said, “Well, we haven’t been formally introduced.  My name is Clare … with a C.”  “Well, welcome Clare, with a C.  Feel free to come over and make yourself known to the others when you’re comfortable.  Or, you can sit here and visit with Winnie.  Actually, it’s Winifred, but you can call her Winnie.  We all do.  Also, you might like to know, Winnie can’t speak, never has been able to so it might be a bit quiet for you.”  Off waddled Linda, much to my relief.  I actually preferred sitting next to quiet Winifred rather than the babbling women.

The weeks went by and my intrigue of quiet Winifred was enough to get me back to the next get together in the park.   There she was in exactly the same spot as she had been previously.  “Well, if she can get away with sitting alone then so can I.” I thought to myself as I made my way to the bench.  Feeling a bit more talkative today and wanting to get to know Winifred as best I could, I decided to strike up a one-sided conversation.  “I lost my husband this year.” I blurted out, mostly due to nothing else clever enough popping into my head.  Winifred then looked over at me and I saw sadness in her eyes.  Without one word from her, I saw that she, too, knew exactly what I was feeling.  “You know how I feel.” I said to her.  Winifred turned her eyes away but I sensed her shoulders relaxing as if becoming a bit more comfortable with her new found acquaintance.  “Thank God for my faith or I’d never have been able to have gotten through it.” I said a bit quieter.  Sharing my faith openly and to a near perfect stranger was out of character for me.  I was surprised that what I got in return sounded much like a “snort”, for lack of a better word.  “Okidokee!” I thought.   Obviously not a subject I sensed Winifred was too keen on.  I mumbled a few more things over the course of the next 45 minutes and Winifred seemed more than happy to give me her undivided attention even though I was, of course, doing all the talking other than a sign or two from Winfred to which I had no idea what she was trying to say.  As I left that day, I noticed a bit more spring in my step as it had felt good, really good to talk about what my life was like.  “Perhaps my daughter isn’t so meddling after all.” I thought.

The following month, I was actually looking forward to going to the park and visiting Winifred.   While she wasn’t able to share any thoughts of her own, I have to selfishly admit, it was nice to just talk.  Simply talk to one whose warm eyes held the glint of understanding.  As I approached ‘our’ bench, Linda came rushing up to me before I had a chance to reach my usual spot. “Oh, it’s awful, so sad, so very sad” Linda said without a hint as to what she was referring to.  “It’s Winnie.  She has to leave her home and has to find another home immediately.”  I couldn’t believe that feelings of sadness washed over me to the point I almost cried.  “What happened?”  I implored Linda.  “I don’t know all the details but was told she can’t stay at her house any longer.  Too many there already.”  Thoughts of some sort of group home came to my mind but it didn’t really linger there long for now I was engrossed in the ‘what to do with Winnie’ scenario.

“She can come home with me!” I blurted out to the group, surprising myself more than anyone else.  Cheers of gratitude and joy swept through the ladies although I immediately thought, “Clare, what have you gotten yourself in to?”  And so it was that Winifred, or should I say Winnie, came to live at my house.  After picking up her things, we slowly made our way down Main Street in my car.  Slow, because I needed time to think about what I had just done and what was I going to tell my children.  One part of me thought I had done a good deed and God would be very pleased with me.  The other part was more like, “Are you nuts taking a perfect stranger into your home?!”  For surely that’s what my family will say.  As I glanced over at Winifred she looked at me. She gazed directly into my eyes and I knew.  I absolutely knew that she was telling me I had saved her life.  I smiled back at Winifred and said, “It’ll be okay, Winifred.  We’ll do just fine.  You’ll see.”  She turned to glance out the passenger window and nodded her head in agreement.

That was over seven years ago and I must tell you that I really and truly believe I made the right decision that day.  Winnie, while sometimes obstinate and certainly showing a will of her own, was indeed a kindred spirit.  I’d sit hours chatting with her and she would sit and listen, always with eyes filled with happiness and joy.  She liked listening to me and that made me feel as if what I had to say was important.  She always seemed to know when I was in a funk and starting to feel a bit sorry for myself.  Those times, Winnie would start to do something that always brought me to tears of laughter.  She would dance.  It was the most horrible of dancing but she didn’t care as if to show me by sign, “I can make you laugh.  Go ahead … try not to laugh.”  And of course, I always did and it brought me out of that funk and into a more joyful sense of myself.

With the years that had passed, aging came, for me and for Winnie.  While I had my family to always look out for my health, Winnie had no one, no one but me.  This particular morning I noticed that Winnie had a slight limp in her walk.  “You okay?”  I asked Winnie.  Never an utterance of complaint, she only walked away as if to ignore my question.  As the days went by, the slight limp turned into a very obvious limp and it was then I insisted to Winnie, “You really need to get to the doctor!” and off I went to the phone to make an appointment for her.  Winnie didn’t like this idea. Not one bit and she made sure I knew it.

Dr. Sloan was kind and understanding and with gentle eyes on Winnie he said, “We need to do some tests.”  He glanced at me and back at Winnie but Winnie only looked away.  “Go ahead, Doctor.  Whatever needs done.”  I replied.  Three days later the phone rang.  Answering the phone, a nice young girl’s voice said, “Dr. Sloan would like you and Winifred to come down to the office this afternoon, if possible.”  This type of phone call never means anything good, I thought to myself but answered back, “Yes, of course.  We’ll be there.”  At promptly 2:00 in the afternoon, there we sat, in Dr. Sloan’s office.  Dr. Sloan glanced at Winnie then back at me and began to speak.  “It’s cancer, Clare.  Metastatic cancer and, by all appearances from the x-rays, it’s spread and it’s spread quickly.”  Dr. Sloan glanced back at Winnie knowing she wouldn’t be able to reply but, nonetheless, wanted to offer her some sort of warmth and kindness in his eyes.  “Is there anything we can do?”  I asked Dr. Sloan. “We can do chemotherapy and radiation, Clare, but all of that is very expensive and with no insurance, I’m not sure what can be done.”

Winnie and I left Dr. Sloan’s office that day and the ride back home in the car seemed to be the longest ever.  He had made sure that Winnie would have some medication to take to help ease the pain giving us time to ponder the decisions that needed to be made.  It didn’t take but a few days before I found myself on the phone with Dr. Sloan’s nurse explaining that Winnie had taken a turn for the worse.  I was beside myself but knew I needed to hold myself together for Winnie’s sake.  While Winnie had always been the one to listen and offer comfort with her attention and jovial eyes, it was now my turn to be there to ‘listen’ to the pains of Winnie’s discomfort which were so evident in her eyes.

Arriving back at Dr. Sloan’s office, Winnie, now waiting out in the waiting room with the nurse to keep her company, Dr. Sloan gave me the heartbreaking words I knew in my heart were coming, “It’s time, Clare.  It’s time to put her down!”  My head bowed in resignation as I knew that Dr. Sloan was speaking the truth.  Winnie had been my faithful companion for nearly 8 years now.  She was always there by my side.  Winnie was always there to listen and comfort me on the darkest of days.  Never once was a bark ever uttered from Winnie, never a sound to be heard; only the still, soft breathing that offered me comfort and assurance day after day.  “Yes, Dr. Sloan.  It’s time and it’s okay, but I need a few minutes with her.”  Dr. Sloan got up from his desk and said, “You go ahead and take Winnie to exam room three and I’ll be in after a little while.

As I sat on the floor of the exam room, now face to face with Winifred who, for the very first time, actually whimpered as she sauntered up beside her beloved friend.  Winnie took her place at my side and laid her head down on my crossed legs.  Winnie continued to whimper and I knew she was in pain.  “God, I have loved her so much. I don’t know if dogs really do go to heaven but, she’s been so good and kind to me.  Please, let her know the joys of romping once again only in your heaven, Lord.”  Everything went so quickly at that point.  The technician came in to put an IV in Winnie’s arm.  Dr. Sloan came in and said, “This will only take a minute, Clare, and she’ll be out of pain.”  Dr. Sloan injected the medication into the IV as Winnie lay on my lap.  Just as he had said, within a minute, Winnie looked up into my eyes one last time and then quietly slipped away.

I’m alone again now.  But, unlike the time years ago when my husband passed away, I was okay.  I looked back through the past eight years and was able to see now that Winifred had come into my life at a time when God knew I needed her most.  I didn’t need someone to talk incessantly at me, yet I needed an ear to hear my sorrow.  I didn’t need people around me but I did need someone who gave me comfort from her very presence.  When I felt sad or melancholy at what my life had brought, I had a silly dog that knew how to dance and make me laugh.  Winnie knew, she just knew at every moment of my life what I needed to feel better.  Winifred had wisdom far beyond any human being I have ever known.  Every day I remember Winnie and I say a prayer, “Thank you, Lord.  Thank you for Winifred and her wisdom!”

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THE HEART OF A CHILD ©

A Short Story of Fiction by Rose Michels

“You’re going to do WHAT?” Mariah asked.  “You heard me,” her husband, Carl, said trying to stifle the chuckle welling up in his throat as he continued out into the darkness of night into the privacy of their back yard.  Mariah was familiar with his stunts but this one caught her quite by surprise. Not daring to follow him to observe the spectacle, she recalled in her mind his exact words.  “I’m going outside to urinate on this coat!”  Knowing her husband to be of sound mind, at least up until now, she rolled her eyes awaiting his return from his endeavor. “Lord, please don’t let him bring that thing back into this house.” she prayed under her breath.

Carl completed his endeavor and, to his knowledge, it was unknown to anyone but his wife who surely thought him a bit ‘unstable’ at this time.  It was needed in order to pull off one of his greatest tests to date.  This one would make for his best newspaper story yet.  Carl went over the well-worn clothing he had acquired from the second hand store from downtown.  “Hat…done!  Shirt and pants…done!  Shoes, no socks…done!”  The pièce de résistance was now complete with what would soon be the wreaking odor emanating from the coat.  As he made his way through the garage, he dropped the coat into the bag that now held all the items he had accumulated.  Off to a hot shower before crawling into bed where his wife eyed him warily.  As he leaned over to kiss her goodnight, she turned away quickly chiming out emphatically, “Not until you shave that face and brush those teeth, my dear!”  This having been the nightly ritual for the past three nights, he laughed out loud as he turned back over to his own side of the bed. “You know I can’t.  After tomorrow I’ll be able to and you just wait!  It will all be worth it.” he sneered assuredly.

Saturday morning brought with it sunshine and comfortably cool temperatures.  Sweater weather, as his wife liked to call it.  September’s end had arrived and today turned out to be exactly what Carl had hoped for.  Crawling out of bed, he was as giddy as a school boy.  He always was when on the heels of a great story and this was going to be a doozy.  “Those freakin’, goody two-shoes were going to get their come-uppance” he mumbled, and he was going to be the one to expose them all.  His plan was masterful.  “I’ll hit ‘em where it hurts…right in their pride and pompous attitudes.” Carl muttered as he put on only the basics he knew he needed.  He was sick of it and this would be his revenge.

Church people! As far as Carl was concerned they were some of the lowest forms of life and he need only remember the way those church people had treated him and his Mom when he was a boy.  He hated the way she had to beg at the local church food bank.  Even at the age of 10, he knew humiliation.  He remembered the stares from the ‘Christians’ there who looked down on them as if they were trash.  He begged his Mom not to make him go but Mom always insisted he be dragged along.  It wasn’t the Christians who helped his Mom as years went by and her health deteriorated rapidly.  It wasn’t the Christians who were there for him as he pulled himself up by his own boot straps and fought tooth and nail to get through school and onto college.  And it sure as heck wasn’t the Christians who got him a lucrative position at a prestigious newspaper.  The very newspaper where he planned to write the article that would, in return, humiliate the people he despised.

Savannah ran precariously through the house searching out Mommy.  “C’mon Mommy, we’ll be late, we’ll be late!” exclaimed five year old Savannah.  “Relax honey.  We aren’t leaving for another five minutes and I have to get Charlie’s diaper changed first.”  Savannah, not known for her patience, sat restlessly on the couch as Mommy finished fastening the tabs on baby brother’s diaper.  “NOW can we leave, Mommy?” Savannah implored dramatically.  “Yes honey, get your sweater and we’ll get going.”  Saturdays were always hectic for Savannah’s family but today was particularly hectic for it was the day of the church picnic to be held at the park.  It was going to be big this year.  Probably bigger than any picnic they’ve had to date.  Even the newspaper had it advertised.  Savannah was more excited than anyone.  She loved church, she loved Sunday school and, above all, she loved Jesus more than anything.

Arriving at the park, Savannah had no interest in spending time spreading out the blanket or arranging their picnic food.  No.  Friends at the playground were calling her name and she scurried off before Mommy could utter a word in protest.  “Let her have fun.” Savannah’s Dad spoke to her Mother, “That’s what it’s all about. Yes?  She’ll be back when her stomach signals her to return.”  An hour later he was right, because there she was, wolfing down her peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  “Ice Cream?” she mumbled with her mouth full of food.  “I can buy ice cream if I eat it ALL?” she reminded them.  “Yes”, Mommy and Daddy chimed and laughed at the same time.

Carl, now fully dressed, or as fully dressed as a would-be homeless person would look, walked lazily down the short alley behind his house that would ultimately lead him to the park.  He looked the part perfectly and smelled it as well.  Going over it all in his mind as an actor would playing the part, he felt the inside pocket to his jacket where his trusty hand held recording device was.  He would dictate notes throughout the course of the day.  It would look like he was talking to himself but that would only lead credence to his part.  The part of a filthy, smelly, down-on-his-luck homeless person. “It will be like their Samaritan’s story told in modern day,” Carl thought to himself, “and if I remember it correctly, I know exactly what will happen.”

DONE!  Savannah proudly announced as she swallowed the last bite of her sandwich.  Looking anxiously at Daddy, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet.  “Okay. Here’s $20 but do you remember what you’re to bring back?”  Knowing Savannah to recall details of everything, she repeated it back to Daddy. “Three ice cream sandwiches!” Mommy chimed in, “Annnnddd?”  Searching the recesses of her mind, Savannah’s eyes widened as if seeing the light bulb go on,  “And the money left over goes in the jar for the poor!” she proudly announced. With nods of approval from Mommy and Daddy, Savannah skipped off to find the ice cream truck.

Although the park was filled with dozens of church families familiar to them, Savannah’s parents kept a watchful eye on their daughter as well as their tiny son now cooing in delight while playing on the blanket.  The ice cream truck the church had hired was situated some distance from their blanket so Savannah’s skipping now tired out to a fast walk, the bill held tightly in her hand.  Savannah was right on course for the truck but her eyes continued to dart to and fro for the park was full of such wonderful delights.  Then she saw him.  She stopped dead in her tracks and looked off at the man sitting alone on the bench.

Carl noticed the little girl staring at him off in the distance.  “Crap!” he thought. “The last thing I want to look like is a child molester so just let her keep her distance!”  Much to Carl’s chagrin the girl did indeed turn towards him and started walking in his direction.  Carl froze on the bench not wanting to run and thus lose the opportunity he waited so long for.  As the little girl approached, he tried his best to look as menacing as possible and hence scaring the little girl off.  He underestimated her determination and in a BIG way.  She walked right up to him and smiled the most perfect smile he had ever seen on a child.  “Hello.” she said.  “What do YOU want?” he growled back at her in hopes she would run away.  “What’s your name?” she asked.  Not believing the unraveled composure of this little girl, Carl wondered to himself, where on earth were her parents?  Shouldn’t they be close by ready to scoop her away from this unsightly man?  Unknown to Carl or Savannah, Savannah’s Father was indeed but 100 feet away, rushed there the moment he saw his daughter veer off course.  But Carl was transfixed with this little girl now holding out her hand as if to shake his in a how-do-you-do motion.  Savannah’s Father was watching carefully and ready to step in at any moment.

Carl reached out his hand in return and shook the little girl’s hand noticing how small and fragile she really was.  “My name’s Carl.” he uttered, totally amazed that it even came out of his mouth.  Savannah had noticed that this man, Carl, didn’t smell very good but, then again, many times her baby brother didn’t either.  Kind of just like Carl.  She loved her baby brother anyway, smell or no smell.  “I’m going to get ice cream sandwiches for me and my Mommy and Daddy.” “Well, be off then, stop bothering me.” Carl spoke gruffly.  Then something happened that shook Carl to his very core.  This little girl took the $20 bill she had and lifted it up to hand it to him.  “Jesus says that we’re to take care of the poor and you, Mr. Carl, you sure look poor.”  Carl just sat there as if time had stood still.  Savannah’s Father, just feet away, was now proudly smiling at what his precious daughter was trying to do.  “Go ahead, Mr. Carl, you can have it.  We don’t need ice cream.  I love Jesus and he loves me and I just know he loves you, too.”  Carl reached out and took the $20 from this little girl.  Savannah grinned the biggest grin a little girl could ever have and skipped off to go tell her Mommy and Daddy that she did something better than put money in the jar.  She actually gave money to someone poor!

Back at home now, Carl freshly showered, shaved and teeth properly flossed and brushed, sat at his laptop to prepare his article.  He had known failed endeavors before but was always able to spin it around to get the affect he was going for.  But this was different.  He couldn’t get that little girl’s face off his mind.  “I love Jesus and he loves me and I just know he loves you, too.” his dictation machine played back at him.  This little girl, not more than 4 or 5 years of age, did to him what no person had ever done before in his life.  Looked right through him, through the filth and the stench of his life and smiled at him.  Not afraid to touch him, she shook his hand.  Her own money that she could have spent on such a childhood delicacy as ice cream she gave away, she gave it to him.  “We’re to take care of the poor.” she had told him.  And it was Jesus who told her this.

Carl stood up and walked over to his bookshelf and after some time searching he found what he was looking for.  A bible!  One given to him at the very church that used to feed him and his Mom.  As Carl opened the book, the first thing his eyes caught hold of was Matthew 25:35 “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”  With eyes now full of tears, tears that fell silently to the page opened before him, Carl now knew there would be no spin to this story.  This would be no failed attempt but surely the truth as he had witnessed it.  A broken man, in spirit and body, full of the filth and stench of bitterness, had been treated exactly like any human should be treated, and this by a little girl.  Carl, now sitting again at his laptop began his story.  A story inspired by a little girl who was filled with the simple truth of the love of Jesus.  He softly typed out ‘Having the Heart of a Child’.

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THE ELEVEN STEPS ©

A Short Story of Fiction by Rose Michels

Eleven steps.  Catherine knew these eleven steps by heart for she had climbed those very steps hundreds, if not thousands, of times during the course of her lifetime.  With six kids of her own and the old washer located near the beastly oil furnace in the basement, those eleven steps had been unintentionally counted off in her mind up and down, up and down.

The old house that she had lived in most of her life had far surpassed her in age.  The rickety stairs to that basement sat directly up against the old stone foundation of the house.  A large, Victorian style home, complete with two turrets, sat beaten and worn down from years of neglect.  The house deserved a much better owner but life had not been good to Catherine and her husband and with many mouths to feed, upkeep was done at the barest minimum.  She always thought it a shame for surely the architect of such a fine home would be rolling in his grave if he could see it now.

With those six children now mostly grown and on their own, a spattering of grandchildren to call her own, Catherine’s life had not been a happy one for more years then she cared to recall.  The house, now an almost empty monolith, stood as a sad commentary to her existence.  A husband she had known as the only man who knew her, he was not an affectionate man by any stretch of even her imagination.  She knew many lonely days and nights, and even her own children denied her of the much needed affection she thought she so deserved.   Though she thought no one would ever know, she found the comfort she so desperately wanted, but only in the constant pouring of one drink after another.  The cool liquid and ice cubes tapping the inside of her never ending glass brought her the much needed relief she felt she deserved.

Night after night, her routine, while known by most family members, went mostly ignored.  If she was quiet about her unhappiness and found comfort in the bottle, that somehow made it easier for her husband to bear life, side by side, with her in that giant house.  The only thing she sought now was the warmth and comfort of her next drink.  That warmth was always there for her, unlike the loved ones who had little regard for her.  “God, I am so unloved.” she mumbled into her glass.  “You, God, you’re the only one who loves me.  But why give me this life, Lord?”  She paused before her next sip as if in her stupor she might actually hear God.  “Hmmmpfff … of course you won’t answer.” she sneered and belted back the last of that glassful.  Off to the kitchen for another refill, pouring as clumsily as she walked.

Just as her nightly routine was the same, so was his.  Somewhere around 3:00am he would wake from his slumber to climb out of bed and out to the living room and pick up her tiny frame, now passed out on the couch in front of the TV.  “Sad,” he thought “this is my life.  I don’t even know where I went wrong.”  With only an hour left for him to sleep, he got her into her nightgown and in bed as quickly as possible.  Once again angered that he would feel the lost sleep, he climbed back into his own bed on the other side of their nightstand.  Night after night this routine went on.

Catherine had poured her usual drink this night although she had lost count on how many.  Her husband had long since gone to bed with only the usual double peck on her cheek before retiring.  At this point, she didn’t care.   She was warm again and at peace.  She prayed her prayers silently as she did each night.  Never spoken for uttering words at this point was useless and unintelligible.  This night held nothing for her on the television so she decided to go to bed.

As she approached the bedroom it occurred to her that she had not taken care of an earlier load of wash in the basement.  With no thought to time, let alone her condition after a full night of drinking, she opened the basement door to proceed down the eleven steps.  Flicking on the light first, she let down her foot onto step number one.  Number two.  Number three.  As she stepped out onto the fourth step her foot slipped from underneath her and she was now falling forward as if into space.  As quickly as she had lost her balance, a hand reached out and grabbed her arm at just the moment her face would have gone full force into the stone wall at the bottom of the steps.  Trying desperately to regain her composure, she looked up at the source of her saving grace.  There he stood, not her husband as she surely suspected, but a man she had never seen before.

“Catherine,” he spoke, “all is well now.  You’re safe and you’ll never be hurt again.”  As she gazed into the man’s eyes, she was alert now.  It wasn’t the fall that jolted her into soberness but something else.  Something she couldn’t put her finger on.  She did indeed feel safe at that very moment.  She knew her life had been saved by this man yet she questioned not who, or what, he was.  All she cared about at that moment was peace.  There was a peace that encompassed every fiber of her being.  She spoke no words but only followed.  She followed the man knowing all was well.

There, at the top of the eleven steps stood Catherine’s husband.  “Is she dead?” he called out with a face filled with anguish and defeat.  With eyes fraught with tears, his daughter fought feverishly to breathe life back into her mother.  Her forced breathing into her mother’s lungs was met with the sound of only gurgling.  She stopped and gazed into her mother’s eyes, eyes that now held large black pupils that were veiled over.  She couldn’t look anymore so she found something … anything, from the laundry pile to cover her mother’s face.  “Yes, Dad, she’s dead.” was all she could say before a flood of tears rocked her body.

He had noticed the light first when he awoke early in the morning.  Unusual for the basement light to be on at that hour.  Thinking it was one of the kids still at home, he opened the basement door to shut off the light that shone over the eleven steps.  As he reached out, he had noticed her.  His Catherine, at the bottom of the steps, face bloodied and battered as she lay up against the stone wall of the foundation.  With no stomach to descend the steps, he rushed to his daughter’s room and woke her with frantic calls for help.  She rushed to her mother’s side while her father dialed 911.  Paramedics arrived.  Police arrived.  Finally, the coroner arrived.

As they sat at the dining room table, just feet from the basement, Catherine’s body ascended one last time up those 11 steps.  Not by her might or power but by man’s power.  As Catherine stood in the corner watching alongside the man, she reached out to touch her husband yet this time she felt his love for her.  Glancing over at her daughter, she smiled to herself.  She saw her as one who truly did love her as did all her children.  She knew no unhappiness at this very moment but only love.  They would be okay now and she grieved not.  Looking at the man, they turned and slowly made their way out of the dining room, out of the large rooms that followed and finally through the heavy wooden front door.  There would be a new home for her now, one she waited a lifetime for.  One she knew would never again bear those eleven steps.

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PRAYING FOR CHARLIE SHEEN ©

A Short Story of Fiction by Rose Michels

This particular May night was no different from any other night for me.  Tossing and turning in bed was a routine that I and my husband were used to by now.  While my husband had the good fortune of falling asleep the minute his head hit the pillow, I did not.  Of course, pain that wreaked havoc on my body was always the source of my restless nights, something my husband could only sympathize with.  On this May night, or should I say morning, sleep finally came over me around four o’clock.

That morning, the sunshine streaming in the bedroom window at the ungodly hour of eight o’clock, was just too much. I fought against opening my eyes.  Doing quick math, I surmised that only four hours of sleep would be something I would pay dearly for later.  For now, what I had to pay for was the pain it would cost to just get out of bed.  Not something I relished but, history repeats itself and trying to go back to sleep at this point would be impossible.  “Come on, Theresa,” I mumbled to myself, let’s get this over with.” as I proceeded with the difficulty of getting up and getting dressed.  I would be of no good until I got up and moved around.

Not happy with the fitful night before and ready to snap at the first person who even looked at me cock-eyed, I knew what I needed to do first and foremost.  Pray!  As I prepared my morning coffee, I began my morning routine of talking to the Lord.  For quite some time now, my devotions included not only praying for people on the church’s prayer chain, but a large chunk of time was spent on one thing.  Asking God what I was to do with my life.  Ever since my diagnosis of Lupus, and having to be forced into early retirement because of it, I felt useless and unfulfilled.  “I have sought to do your will in my life, God.  Month after month I have moaned and groaned to you to reveal to me exactly what it is you want me to do to serve you.” I said out loud. “Should I be like the woman of Luke 18 and just keep coming to you day after day with the same plea, hoping you’ll show me something, if for no other reason than to quiet my nagging?”

I was growing impatient.  Admittedly, I was also starting to get angry. “Why on earth it’s taking so long for you to answer a sincere and heartfelt prayer on how to serve you, I do not know!” I muttered angrily.   Feeling the need to take out my frustration, I decided to take advantage of the cloudy and cooler temps to mow the lawn.  I knew this was a major no-can-do because of my illness, nevertheless, I forged ahead.  As I eyed my husband’s riding mower, I knew this was out of the question.  “Even if I knew how to operate it, I’d probably drive it into a ditch.” I said, slightly amused at the idea.   However, there stood the older mower that would need the engine primed and started by pulling the chord.  “Evil machine, this one.” I mumbled as I dragged it out of the garage.   So, there I was, bent over, priming, pulling, priming, pulling…getting angrier with every tug of the chord.  My neighbor next door saw me struggling and started to come over to the yard to help but was met with my firm hand being thrust into the air as if to say NO!  As my neighbor stopped dead in her tracks, I yelled out, “I’M TAKING OUT MY AGGRESSIONS!”  My neighbor pivoted a fast 180 and hurried back into her own yard.

Eventually the beast sputtered and roared into motion and I proceeded to mow at a speed that was probably against the law.  Still ‘praying’, mumbling, asking and seeking.  Then it happened.  Coming to a dead stop, I saw a man standing not 30 feet in front of me in the yard.  Ruffled and not at all amused, I let go of the handle to the mower bringing an immediate end to the running engine.  He spoke to me saying, “Theresa, you’re thinking too small. Think big!” Shaking my head as if to sweep away the cobwebs in my head surely left over from a night of too little sleep, I stood there dumbfounded.  “There’s something big I want you to do.” he said.  As if in a trance-like state, I could only mutter one word. “What?”  This tall and daunting looking man looked right at me and said, “I want you to pray for Charlie Sheen.”

Now coming to my senses, the sheer absurdity of the request brought out a much longer and incredulous reply.  “You want me to do WHAT?” I said, “Pray for Charlie Sheen?”  The man, now a bit irritated himself for having to repeat his words, said again, “Yes.  I want you to pray for Charlie Sheen!”  “You mean Mr. Surrounds himself with wizards and warlocks, goddesses and hookers Charlie Sheen?” I asked, looking at the man as if he had three eyes in his head.  Now thoroughly perturbed by such a ridiculous set of events, I bent down to once again start the mower while mumbling, “Millions of starving people in the world or out of work or suffering illnesses and you want me to…” as I looked up, my voice trailed off as I realized the man was gone.  I glanced to my right and then to my left,  then spun around to even look behind me but he was nowhere.  He was absolutely nowhere to be seen.  The air must have been cooler than I thought because the hairs on my arms were now standing on end and a shiver ran up my spine. “Oooooooookay,” I said as I left the mower sitting there while scurrying off to the back door of the house.

Knowing now that I had surely encountered an angel from heaven, I considered seriously what had been revealed to me.  “Okay,” I said. “I’m to pray for Charlie Sheen.  I know from all the recent press that he’s been going through some real upheaval in his life. And praying is something I already do no matter what my illness brings each day,” continuing.  “I’ll do it!” I said out loud as if committing to God that I was on board with this mission.

And so I did.  Each and every day as the months went by; I spent time in prayer and devotions, praying for many people and always for Charlie Sheen.  “I may be nobody to him, but I’m somebody to God and its God who hears my obedient prayers.” I would say out loud each day.  Nightly, I’d seek out entertainment news online or on TV specifically looking for the latest news of Charlie Sheen as if to see if God was moving in his life.  I followed him on the social network sites leaving him positive comments of praying faithfully for him, not being sure he would see it or care, even if he did.  It seemed daily the news brought only new and outlandish remarks being published.  Charlie, as he was now called by me, was crossing back and forth across the country on tour and making some people happy, others not so happy.  While he seemed cheerful enough at times, I wondered if behind the smiles and positive remarks, was he actually that happy and that confident?  News was not always so positive so I continued the mission of praying and leaving encouraging remarks for him.

One day, as I switched on my computer to check for emails, there in my email inbox was something that shocked me.  Surely it had to be a prank or some sick joke.  There in the inbox was an email from CHARLIE SHEEN.  With hands a bit shaky, I clicked on the email to open it up, praying the computer wouldn’t come to a crashing black screen as a result of this probable hoax.  Much to my joy, the screen not only didn’t go blank but up popped an email that read as follows:

‘Dear Theresa, I wanted to drop you a note to say thank you for your daily notes to me to let me know that you’re keeping me in prayer.  My life has indeed been a roller-coaster ride these last several months.  I don’t know why you decided to start praying for me and I guess it really doesn’t matter but I did want you to know that it’s meant a great deal to me during this time.  Keep on prayin’ and I look forward to your daily notes that keep me encouraged.’  ~Charlie S.

As I read the email, I started to chuckle.  My chuckle then turned to laughter as I re-read the email again.  “Charlie Sheen wrote ME an email to thank ME for praying for HIM?” uttering in disbelief.  “It worked!” I yelled out.  “It’s really working!  Thank you, God.  Thank you!  Thank you!”…”Honey…” “Thank you,” I kept calling out over and over again.  “Honey, honey … wake up!” my husband said as he shook me gently.  “Theresa, wake up.  You’re dreaming!”  As I slowly opened my eyes to the bright sunshine streaming in the bedroom, I was having a hard time orienting myself to that moment in time.  “What?” I said to my husband.  “You’ve been dreaming.” he said.  “Hey, should I be worried?”  “What are you talking about?” I mumbled.  “Well, after 28 years of marriage, you suddenly start calling out Charlie Sheen in your dreams.  What’s up with that?” he chuckled.

As I struggled once again to get out of bed as my normal morning routine dictated, I couldn’t get the dream out of my head.  “I was told by the man in the yard, the angel, to pray for Charlie Sheen. I was so sure of it.  It was so real.” whispering to myself over coffee with my husband.  “Well, time for me to mow the lawn!” my husband belted out.  “Uh huh.” was the only reply as I was going over every detail of the dream.  Minutes later, I heard my husband call out from the garage, “Honey?  Did you have the mower out yesterday?”  My eyes opened wide as I suddenly realized I would never think of mowing the lawn because of my health.  I jumped up from the kitchen stool and bolted out the back door.  There, laying exactly where I had left it in my dream was the old lawn mower.  Hairs on the back of my arms now standing on end, I gazed to the sky as if looking to heaven and said out loud, “You want me to pray for Charlie Sheen, Lord?  You got it!” I exclaimed and as I turned, I winked at my puzzled husband while joyfully walking back to the house.

* * * * * * * *

THE TORTURED EXORCIST ©

A Short Story of Fiction by Rose Michels

Becky approached Rodger slowly and methodically.  She knew what her words to him would be yet it was her time to do so.  He appeared overwhelmed at this point but, nevertheless, she approached him.  As she stepped within feet of him, her shadow from the intense light behind her was now cast upon him.  “Rodger?” she began.  “My name is Becky, and … you saved my life.”

Rodger was a person, known in his younger years, as a hard and unbending individual.  He made a mockery of anything or anyone even close to God and was well known for his love of drinking and carousing.  Although a hard working man, he used those hard earned dollars for self-pleasing entertainment.  With no responsibility of his own, shy of showing up for work at the truck terminal every day, he could do as he pleased and so he did, in abundance.

Rodger eventually found a woman who was patient enough to put up with his shoddy and self-righteous attitude.  It wasn’t just patience that Lynn had; it was a true love for a man she knew would one day be her husband.  Where Rodger fell far short in having anything to do with God, Lynn made up for the both of them.  Prayer was her daily comfort and, little did she know then, comfort was something she would soon need with this man she loved.  They married just shy of one year from the day they met.

“Prayer will cover us both.”  Lynn would say over and over again as the days and months went by.  She loved Rodger even though he was a man who many knew to be difficult to love and rarely did he love in return, not unless it was for his benefit.  But as the months turned into years and those years brought forth three children, Rodger’s heart began to soften and mature with such responsibility now upon him.  Lynn knew her God to be a faithful God and in the late night hours following the viewing of a popular televangelist, Rodger went on his knees before God, asking forgiveness for his many sins and accepted the Son of God as Lord and Savior of his life.  While this could make for a happy end of a story for Lynn, she could not have known that this one act of Rodger’s would be the start of a very long journey.

The Holy Sprit’s fire came upon Rodger in a mighty way.  It could best be described like a gale forced wind, rain riddled as it beat against the rocks of some shoreline.  It encompassed him so forcefully that no longer was he on his knees but prostrate on his face, tears now streaming down his cheeks.  Surely it must have been hours he lay there as his soul was washed clean of every filthy sin he had ever committed.  Finally, laughter came.  A laugh that rose up from deep inside his chest and burst forth so abruptly and loudly that Lynn jolted awake from her sleep and rushed to her husband’s side.  When he finally composed himself to the point he could speak, he shared with her the words she had waited years to hear.  Her husband was saved and he was indwelt with the Holy Spirit.

Life for Rodger and Lynn changed dramatically as it did for their whole family.  Like Saul of Tarsus, Rodger had been transformed and would now be called to go forth with a mighty mission from God.  Those that knew Rodger ‘before’, like Saul, would find it difficult to believe that this man they knew could, in reality, be a changed man.  Time would have to prove to them that the former was gone and a new person now stood in his place.  Rodger, with a loud and boisterous voice, proclaimed to anyone within earshot his testimony of God’s love and mercy on him and how ALL must be saved from the perilous destruction awaiting those who turned their back on God.  Rodger preached, and he taught, and he ministered to all.  It would be the way he would live his life, conduct his marriage and raise his children.

As years went by, Rodger’s love of God became evident to all those that came into his presence.  No one was able to side-step a sermon from Rodger, even in the briefest of meetings.  But Rodger’s true calling of God came in the ministering to those in the clutches of evil.  An evil, so great, that the demons controlling all their moves blurred the reality of their lives.  Rodger could see evil in passing strangers, people sitting in the pews at church, working on the docks at the terminal, everywhere he looked he could see ministers of Satan weaving their nets over the lives of individuals without them even knowing it.  He could free them but only by their own choice.  They would come to him begging to be released from the hell that was their lives.  He was known by many as an Exorcist.

To step into the realm of exorcism, one must first know that you’re stepping into the realm of darkness, the darkness that rules this world.  Where light steps into darkness, there is a battle, one that is fought not in the visible, but in the invisible principalities of this world.  The prince of darkness and all his minions have great power and fight tooth and nail to not only keep, but increase that power.  Once the cold grip of their fingers would lay hold of a person, only one thing could free them but it would take power.  God’s power, the one and only power that every agent of Satan fears.  Rodger knew this power and was very aware of the danger of stepping into their realm.  But if it freed the bonds of one person, Rodger would gladly do spiritual warfare far beyond what most Christians are called to do.   And so it was when a young woman came to their door one Wednesday night as Rodger and Lynn conducted their weekly bible study.

She had heard about this man who freed people from demons that ruled their lives.  Wracked day and night with demons that sought her destruction, she now knew only two choices.  Go to this man of God and plead with him to do what he had to do to remove them from her or, take matters into her own hands and end her life, demons and all.  Her shaking and sweating hand reached up and knocked on the door to #8 Maple Drive.  Answering the door within moments was a kind woman with a face that she could tell knew exactly why she was there.  Opening the door, the girl stepped in but as she did the demons that gripped every fiber of her being, sensed the power of that place.  They retaliated by throwing her body brutally to the floor.  She began to sob and her pleas for deliverance were barely audible.  Demons again thrashed her body against a desk and she cried out in pain.

Rodger, now at her side, gripped his bible in one hand as he placed his other on the girl’s forehead.   Lynn and all the members of the bible study gathered quickly around the girl and Rodger.  Grasping each other’s hand, they completed a full circle. “What are your names, demons?” Rodger forcefully called out.  “My name is BITTERNESS, and remove your hand!” spewed forth from the girl’s mouth. “ALL YOUR NAMES!” ordered Rodger. “We are DISCOURAGEMENT, LUST and LIAR!” she screamed as her body now writhed in pain.  “Come out you demons from hell in the name of the risen Son of God, JESUS CHRIST.  I COMMAND YOU!”   The demons were now spewing out words of filth and blasphemy against Rodger and his God.  The caustic smell would not deter Rodger or any of the faithful gathered and praying with all their might.  “I SAID COME OUT DEMONS IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST!   YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER HER NOW OR EVER AGAIN!” Rodger bellowed.  Suddenly, silence came over the room.  Just then, the girl’s body jolted in the air with her mid-section and back arched high, then quickly slumped back to the floor.  Rodger, now covered in sweat, hand still on the girl’s forehead, started to pray, thanking his God for the mighty work He had done.  The girl cried soft tears of joy that fell now upon her cheeks.  She was tired, very tired but she thanked the man standing over her.  She was free.  Free of those demons that for so long ruled her body.

While Lynn and the members of the bible study were now singing praises to God and comforting the girl, they didn’t notice that Rodger was sitting slumped against the sofa, trying hard to catch his breath.  Rodger knew many difficult times following an exorcism so he continued in prayer knowing that God would renew his body as He always had before.  The girl now composed and hugging everyone for what they had done for her came over to Rodger and hugged him and thanked him.  She would leave his house that night never to see him there again.

It was hard for Rodger to be sitting there in the doctor’s office that day for he believed with all his heart that healing came from the Lord to those who remained faithful to Him in prayer and action.  But many months had gone by and it was Lynn who insisted that seeing a doctor was not a lack of faith for God surely blesses the hands of physicians as well.  As Rodger’s symptoms became glaringly worse, she knew, and so did Rodger deep down in his heart, that it was now time to get some testing done.  He didn’t like this, not one bit, but it was a concession he made to appease his wife.

Test after test, specialist after specialist, all brought the same reply, “We have no idea what’s wrong with you, Rodger.”  Once a strong and vigorous man, Rodger now knew pain like he had never known before.  At first battling even the suggestion of taking medication, Rodger finally gave in and took the prescribed medicine with reluctance.  Months went by and as if seeing a cascading line of dominoes, Rodger’s body was breaking down as well.  One body’s system after another continued to falter, baffling the doctors over and over again.  Rodger tried as hard as he could to remain faithful in his bible reading and devotions but medication made it more and more difficult for him to concentrate.  Lynn faithfully took him to one known faith-healer after another but none were successful.  This man of God, who once knew the power of freeing others from their torment, was now tortured himself.  Cries to God went unanswered and each new day brought more and more defeat.  By his side daily was his loving wife, Lynn.  Rodger’s children, now grown and with families of their own, gathered by his side as often as possible to offer up their own prayers to the same God they had given their lives to many years before.

Fifteen years of this existence of suffering and despair came to an end for Rodger during the early hours before the dawn of that Tuesday morning.  As Lynn sat by his bedside, she cried soft and gentle tears.  There would be many phone calls to be made but, for now, she sat alone with her husband’s body.  Her prayers, now bittersweet, were for this man of God who now knew no pain or suffering any longer.  The man who she remembered as one who overcame an early life of sin and degradation had become a giant in the eyes of God.  This giant, who willingly battled the very beings of darkness to save a life, any life, had done so at the high cost of his own.

Becky continued, “I came to you that Wednesday night, body racked with demons that had dwelt within me for years.  I was going to take my life that night, Rodger.  I thought it was the only thing left for me to do to end the torment.  I had heard about you from my sister so I sought you out.  Do you remember, Rodger?” she gently asked.  Rodger gazed into her eyes and smiled.  “Yes, I do remember you, Becky.  I remember you and Tom and Gene and Lisa…and all those that have come to me today.  I remember them all.”  Becky continued, “You saved us all, Rodger.  We are part of your reward now.  We’ve come to bless you and tell you that your obedience, even through your suffering, touched the lives of so many.  We’re all so grateful to you, Rodger.”  Rodger, not believing that such overwhelming feelings of joy and love could ever exist, stood now and did something he hadn’t done in a long time.  He began to dance and sing.  “Praise and worship and glory to the God of all!” he bellowed out as his feet glided across the heavens.   Once ignorant and in sin, once redeemed and serving God, once battling demons from hell, this man who suffered much would suffer no longer.  Rodger now sang and danced and not alone.  He joined with the angels in heaven to give glory and honor and praise before the very throne of God and his Savior!

* * * * * * * *

MY PEBBLE, GOD’S RIPPLES ©

A Short Story of Fiction by Rose Michels

Leah is the type of person that most people would look at and shake their heads in wonder.  She was quiet, serene and withdrawn.  I must admit that I, too, can be put in that same category of people.  Having said that though, the assignment for college was to write a paper on The Most Unusual Person You Know and it took me all of about ten seconds to know who that was.  I would write about Leah.

While I did indeed know Leah, I don’t believe that Leah actually knew me.  Oh sure, she probably knew my parents, but no, not me, really.  I did have my assignment come to mind quickly but how I would go about finding out what made Leah tick, well, that would be the hard part.  All the towns people knew Leah to be a bit of a recluse so getting one-on-one time with her might prove more difficult than anticipated.  Still, I knew it was meant to be and I was psyched.  She might be different but I, the next great orator to graduate from seminary, could handle this with no problem.

Leah sat in her kitchen this bright Wednesday, morning.  It was her usual time for fellowship with the Lord in prayer and in His word.  Today she was reading from one of her favorite books of the Old Testament, the book of Jeremiah.  It always brought her comfort and, for some reason, today Leah felt the need for comfort.  Almost like comfort before the storm.  She knew when the Lord was stirring in her heart but she knew not what He had in store for her.  So, with unease in her spirit, she continued reading and praying, always seeking what God would reveal to her in His word.

The knock came around noon that Wednesday.  “A most odd and inconvenient hour for someone to just show up unannounced,” Leah mumbled to herself.  With no intention of even inviting someone for lunch, Leah reluctantly answered the door.   There, in her small foyer stood a young woman no more than 21 years old.  “Yes?” Leah responded.  “Uh, hello.” stammered Renee.  “You probably don’t know me but…” she began, but Leah interrupted and said, “Why it’s little Renee, isn’t it?  George and Margaret’s little girl!  My, you have grown, haven’t you?”  Completely stunned that Leah actually knew who Renee was, and that she did indeed remember her parents, Renee went totally blank on how to begin. “What brings you all the way over here?” Leah questioned.  Shaking Leah’s hand and noting just how warm it felt, Renee began a brief description as to why she was there.

“Me?” Leah exclaimed, feeling her cheeks slightly blushed. “You want to write a paper about ME?”  As Renee began to explain to Leah what the paper was to be about, Leah then knew what God had stirring in her heart just hours earlier.  As Renee continued on, Leah only said a quiet prayer of thanks, totally unknown to Renee.  “What was that dear?” Leah asked.  “I’m interested in hearing about your life, from beginning to end.” Renee explained.  Leah looked at Renee with the kindest of expressions yet somehow Renee sensed a sadness which served only to pique her curiosity even more.  “Well, dear,” Leah began, “first and foremost you need to know, for most of my life, the only thing I’ve ever wondered was, why was I ever even born?”  Now with pad and pen in hand, Renee listened to Leah begin her story as she settled back in the armchair.

Leah’s story was one of sadness and regret.  She told of her childhood that was lonely for her.  She had a very loving and caring mother but a strict and hard father.  While she was loved, she just didn’t feel loved.  Even at that young age, Leah sought a purpose in her life, a reason to be.  It was not until she saw, with her own eyes, her father come to know the Lord that she would find some measure of comfort and meaning when she too, with the guidance of her father, would also accept Christ as Savior at the tender age of nine.  While she may have opened her heart, years of feeling unloved lingered.

Leah continued on to describe how wrong it is for people to assume that accepting Christ somehow protects you from the world’s hurts.  Hurts she would come to understand all too well as she endured the cruelty from her peers in junior and senior high school.  Because of her love for the Lord and her attending a public school, she stuck out like a sore thumb.  She might as well have had a target right on her forehead for all the pain and ridicule she had to withstand.  No matter how difficult the time, she never succumbed yet spent endless nights crying into her pillow at night.  “Why Lord?  I love you so much but why was I ever even born?” was a question she asked God over and over again.

Leah felt such joy when graduating from high school.  This would give her the freedom from such oppression.  Leah went on to explain that she met a young man.  A young man that appeared to be the friend and protector she so desperately felt she needed.  No long courtship was needed for Leah was sure she had met the man that God had placed in her life.  Looking back on all of this now, Leah realized that her immaturity and need to feel she belonged had left her overlooking one very important thing.  She never actually spoke to the Lord about any of it.  So enamored by this young man, prayer was something that never really occurred to her.  Prayer OR waiting, for that matter.

Leah went on to explain to Renee that it was the beginning of a long, hard lesson that she would need to learn.  She coveted those vows she took but quickly came to realize that she may have been the only one of those two that did.  If her father was once a hard and unloving man, her husband was as bad, if not worse.  Again, as in her youth, night after night was spent crying into her pillow. “Why Lord?  Why am I being punished?  I’ve always loved you and have given you my whole life, yet tell me, why was I even born just to have my life filled with such misery?”

Renee was beginning to understand this woman better.  Yet one thing really puzzled her and when she felt the moment was appropriate she asked her,  “Leah, you’ve described a life of loving God from such an early age yet enduring a life of hardships.  I need to know how it is that you have gone through so much yet you talk about it calmly.  Weren’t you bitter?”  Leah smiled a gentle smile and almost melodically chimed out, “Tea!  Let’s have some tea.”  Off she went to the kitchen as Renee listened to her pouring water from the faucet.

As Leah returned to the sitting room, she neatly arranged the tea tray and began pouring tea for her and Renee.  Renee figured she had hit a nerve of some kind so waited for Leah to make the first attempt at continuing the conversation.  “You see, dear,” Leah began, “I’m not bitter, not bitter at all. Let me tell you why and whether you believe me or not, it is the truth.”  Renee, setting down her tea, grabbed her pen and paper.  “God spoke to me!” Leah stated matter-of-factly.  Renee, now trying not to roll her eyes up into her head, set her pen and paper down knowing that what was coming was most likely the overzealous story of an overtly religious woman.  “Call it whatever you want in your paper, a dream, a vision, a word, whatever.  God spoke to me.  Would you like to know what He said that has changed my life forever?”  Leah asked.  Renee could only reply, “Yes” in the quietest voice.

“How many prayers would not have been prayed?” Leah spoke.  “That’s how He started.” Leah continued.  “You see, Renee, He explained to me that through my faith, I have touched so many lives that I never even knew.  He heard my faithful praying for people like the woman walking her dog, or the young boy on his bike or the gentleman on the airplane … all of them I prayed for because I believed that if I could do nothing else in my misery of life, I could pray.  My whole life has been filled with one bad memory after another.  One let down upon another let down.  Life never gave me a break yet every time I cried out to God he always said the same thing.” He always said, “How many prayers would not have been prayed?”  Leah continued, “I started to understand that, in this life, we pass people every day.  People who are suffering and hurting just like I am yet I can touch their lives by lifting up a prayer to God for them.  I’ve come to know that each prayer is like a pebble.  Throw that pebble into the water and God will take care of the ripples.”

Renee understood now and sat silently, eyes intently on Leah.  She knew that what she was hearing was a life’s lesson that not only would make for an excellent paper, but one that she would carry with her the rest of her life, all part of that ripple effect that Leah talked about.  Renee rose from her chair and thanked Leah for her time and promised to give her a copy of her graded paper.  “Renee?” Leah spoke, as if remembering something very important, “Just remember this, when you think you’ve had enough and just can’t run the race anymore? Ask this. Is it worth one soul or maybe two?  God’s answer will always be YES.”  The women hugged and said their good-byes.  As Leah watched the young woman descend the steps from her house, she thought to herself, “Yes, Lord, one life at a time.  Thank you … I’ll throw the pebble, you take care of the ripples!”

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