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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Hard and Soft (04/23/09)

TITLE: Coconuts?
By Karlene Jacobsen


The chair scraped across the oak floor and crashed to its side as Jenna abruptly rose and stomped from the room. “What are we going to do?” Marissa and John stared at each other, horrified. “I don’t know how to handle her.” Her voice was barely above a whisper.

“I know honey, but she needs us.” John tried to reassure her. “I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but God will break through that tough shell.”

“Why is she like that?” She muttered. This must be the millionth time I’ve asked him this. Jenna sulked, stomped, screamed, and suffered horrific nightmares, but never talked.

The workers at foster care believed she could talk, but would not. They were about to refuse John and Marissa the chance to help, but John was persistent. “I’m sure she needs to feel loved and safe. We can give that to her.” His arguments won and Jenna came to stay with him and Marissa.

“I’m not sure, but if we don’t keep her here, she’ll be stuck at the group home until the state dumps her from the system; then where will she end up?” They both knew the clock was ticking. Jenna had just turned sixteen, and no one wanted a troubled teen on their hands.

“With an attitude like that…probably jail. I just wish I could be as optimistic as you.” John’s faith was rarely shaken as Marissa’s, for which she was grateful.

“Right, that’s why we pray. Ask for wisdom, God will give it.” He ended the conversation momentarily when he rose from the table and began stacking dishes then moving them to the sink. “Come on, you wash, I’ll dry.”

The two washed, dried, and chatted and giggled. When the last glass was placed in the cupboard, Marissa caught a glimpse of Jenna hiding in the dark corner of the family room, arms folded tightly across her chest; tears streaming and streaking her face.
Marissa’s heart melted toward the girl. “Jenna…is there something I can do for you?”

She did not answer, except for “Grrrrrrrrhhh…” and ran again to her room and knocking figurines from the wall shelf with the slam of her door.

Marissa turned to John who reflected her troubled gaze. “We’ll get through this with her, whatever it is.” He pulled her into his embrace, “We’ll get through this.” He repeated into Marissa’s soft, wavy auburn hair.

The following morning Jenna appeared for breakfast, chiseled mask set firmly in place. Her dark brown eyes smoldered beneath multiple layers of mascara. Her mouth set in a thin line, accentuated by maroon lipstick.

“Good morning, Jenna.” Marissa set herself to be patient and kind as her husband had encouraged. “Are you feeling better this morning?”

Silence answered. Jenna ate the toast and jelly set before her and was off again to her room with a glass of juice in hand.

“Lord, help me. I’m trying. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do.” Marissa’s resolve for patience cracked. She stepped to the deck off the dining room and followed the footpath at the bottom of the steps heading toward the little creek that separated their property from the neighbor behind them. She found the bench hidden among some reeds and crumbled in desperation. “God, what happened? Why is someone as beautiful as Jenna so hard? Please help me…help her.” The melting that began the night before continued until she was an extension of the creek beside her.


“What?” Marissa thought she heard a voice, but wasn’t certain if she had imagined it. It was soft, like the creek skipping over the stones.


Certain she heard it the second time, she asked, “What about coconuts?”


Marissa and John lay in bed talking about their day. “I’ve been thinking about something.”

“Were you?”

“Jenna is like a coconut.” She ignored his burst of laughter as she continued. “I was praying today and I kept hearing the word ‘coconut’. As I thought about it, I realized something. Coconuts’ shells are hard. It’s really tough to crack them open, but when you do, they have the sweetest milk and meat inside. In fact, it’s really quite soft in comparison to the shell.”

John, laughter under control, asked, “So, are you saying she’s worth the effort?”

Marissa’s voice cracked with emotion as she replied, “You bet she is. As long as it takes; she needs to know she is home and safe here.”

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This article has been read 839 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Marilyn Schnepp 05/02/09
Wow! This was such a sweet, tender, and gratifying story with a really Unique Title which caught my eye and lured me in. A great story of patience, understanding and leaving everything in the hands of the Almighty. I enjoyed the read, and Kudos for a job well done.
Virgil Youngblood 05/03/09
A well written story with a great message.
Shelley Ledfors 05/04/09
A wonderfully creative take on the topic. God bless those who accept the challenge to deal with the "coconuts" in the foster system. Very nice piece.
Seema Bagai 05/04/09
I liked the analogy and message in this piece. The beginning seemed just a bit rough. You don't have to always put a description or dialogue tag everytime someone speaks. Sometimes a tense conversation just needs to flow back and forth without anything else. I'm interested in finding out the girl's backstory. Let me know if you write more.
Lollie Hofer05/06/09
I enjoyed every part of your story. I use to be a coconut and I'm so thankful God didn't give up on me either. The dialogue was very believable. Thanks for sharing this well-written, encouraging story.
Joshua Janoski05/06/09
The title drew me in, and I really liked the analogy a lot. I sure hope that this couple was able to reach this troubled girl.

There is nothing else I can add here that hasn't already been said. Your writing keeps getting better all the time.
Beckie Stewart05/06/09
This was an excellent entry of what I admire so much in the many out there that foster, love, and many times adopt the children who hurt so badly and need unconditional and consistent love and patience in their lives. Well done.
Eliza Evans 05/07/09
Lisa gave terrific feedback. (bless her)

I want to thank you for being an encouragement to me. You always make the effort...and it shows!
Keep writing!

Yay, Karls! :)

Btw, Your feedback on mine was EXCELLENT and very helpful.

Yay again, Karls! :D
Laura Manley07/14/09
This is a lovely story. I was drawn in by the title, but the content of the story kept me with you until the end of the story. I appreciate your writing and look forward to reading and commenting on others in the future. Blessings, Laura