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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Exhale (08/15/13)

TITLE: To Breathe Again
By Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom
08/18/13


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My husband, Chris, fidgets while sitting on the couch. “Honey, are you okay?”

His voice jostles me out of my reverie, and I jump. “Yeah, I'm fine, why?”

“You're breathing heavy and loud. I think you're holding your breath again.”

Waving his concern away, I exhale, allowing the captured air a way to escape.

“See, you’re doing it again.”

“I didn't even realize it. I’m in some pain, and you know I tend to hold my breath when I hurt.”

He looks at me, and I can see the worry in his eyes. “Why don't you go lie down if you're in so much pain?”

“Fine! I get it; I'm interrupting your precious TV time.” Feeling like a burden, I stomp off to the bedroom and slam the door.

Sobs wrack my body as I collapse on the bed. “It’s like Chris can't stand to be in the same room as me. How could anyone love a useless lump like me? Oh, God, I need you. Are you here?” I turn up the TV to drown out my cries. My body aches to be held. I desperately want to return to the time when my pain didn't define me.

Shocks shoot down my spine, and my skin breaks out in tiny blisters. Though I've never had anyone sprinkle acid on me, I imagine this must be what it feels like. Closing my eyes, I feel my body tremble. My lungs begin to burn, and I realize I've been holding my breath again.

I look around the dingy bedroom that has been mine alone since Chris started sleeping on the couch. Cobwebs hang in the corner, out of reach from my shaky body. The blinds are pulled tight and blankets cover the window, so the sunlight doesn't hurt my sensitive eyes. During the night, I used to thrash about, keeping him awake, and bruising his body. I can't blame Chris for wanting to sleep peacefully. I’m not sure when it happened, but the room holds no trace of him anymore. Knowing I need my rest, Chris keeps his clothes in the other room so it won’t bother me when he dresses for work.

For twenty-five years, I've been battling this illness, and somewhere along the way it has managed to swallow me up. I glance in the mirror, barely recognizing the bride my husband married over twenty years ago. I remember questioning him before the wedding. “Are you sure you want to be with someone who is sick?”

Smiling, I remember how his eyes sparkled when he answered, “I love you, and nothing will keep us apart.”

Neither of us realized how my illness would progress. Embarrassed because inactivity has caused my weight to double, I barely leave the house anymore. The pain torments my body until sweat drips off me as I battle the agony. My limbs tremble. I don't want to embarrass anyone, so I stay hidden.

As the door opens, I turn to see Chris looking at me with glistening eyes. “I’m sorry; I didn't mean to hurt you. I worry when I hear you breathing like that. I wish I could take away your pain. You know I love you, right?”

I nod my head. I do know he loves me. Chris has stuck with me through many hospitalizations, surgeries, and even a year of deep depression when I attempted suicide too many times to count. He has to do the laundry because walking down the basement steps is too dangerous for me now. I easily could fall and hurt myself even more. He also does the shopping and other chores. It’s not his fault that his eyes don't see the cobwebs.

He leans over and kisses me.

I look into his eyes. “I’m sorry I overreacted. Go back and watch your show.”

As he leaves the room, I hear God whisper in my ear. “You may not be able to do everything you want to do, but it’s your choice to stay holed up alone in your room. Not only do you hold your breath when you're in pain, but you have forgotten to breathe the breath of life. You no longer enjoy living. That’s your choice; you shouldn't blame that on your illness.”

I take a deep breath in through my nose, and blow it out of my mouth. I wipe my tears away, brush my hair, get dressed in something other than pajamas, and open the door. It’s time to remember to breathe again.


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This article has been read 382 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Dannie Hawley 08/22/13
Whew! You're story took my breath away, and I'm not kidding. Awesomely profound piece, full of raw emotions and transparent truth. The choice your MC makes is so right and an incredible message for many folks suffering from all sorts of pain. Her courage is commendable in the face of such long-term affliction. Thank you for sharing this piece with all of us!
CD (Camille) Swanson 08/22/13
Wow! This was powerful! I felt the MC's pain and frustration, and humility. The descriptions and the vivid account of her transition through the years was blinding.

Excellent job! Thank you for sharing this with us.

God bless you~
Mike Newman08/24/13
That is a gripping tale and well-told to boot. My wife suffers chronic pain and you have described what is often reality in these situations.

Thank you for sharing.
Danielle King 08/24/13
This is one of those stories that gets right down to the bare bones. As I read on I shared every emotion with your MC and I'm so glad she determined to get out there and breathe again. Brilliant writing, full of human frailty and written straight from the heart. This must be in line for a ribbon.
Ellen Carr 08/25/13
Very moving and tenderly written. Thanks for writing this.
Carolyn Ancell08/27/13
Beautiful, even though pain filled, writing. You take the reader right inside the feelings. Excellent job.
Bea Edwards 08/28/13
Your story rings with authenticity and potent emotion.
It's a brilliant reminder to make the choice to see beyond our circumstances. Well done Shann!
Lori Dixon 08/29/13
Wow. Thanks for being so transparent and letting us into your world. Praying for you but also doing a happy dance for your EC win. Congrats!
Edmond Ng 08/29/13
Congratulations on your receiving EC! God bless!
Genia Gilbert08/29/13
This is wonderful! Congratulations on your EC, and thanks for a beautiful, inspiring entry.
CD (Camille) Swanson 08/29/13
Shann,

Thank you for sharing this touching story.

Congratulations on a very well deserved EC!

God bless you abundantly now and always~
Dannie Hawley 08/29/13
Congratulations on your well-deserved E.C. with this powerful piece. Can you hear my yahoo-ing all the way over there? I'm hugging you to bits, as well.
Nancy Bucca08/29/13
This is so emotion-packed, there are few words to describe it. I love the way you ended it, with the MC remembering to breathe again. Great job.
Danielle King 08/29/13
Whoopee! HAPPY DANCE and somersaults to you Shann. Congrats on your EC win. Look at me, I'm doing back flips for you! Ha! Ouch!
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/29/13
Shann, you are beautiful clear through to your heart. Your writing is exquisite. and I'm so glad to see you in the EC column. . . again! Hugs!
Lillian Rhoades 08/29/13
From the crucible of pain, you have crafted a beautiful story - straight from the heart.

Congratulatons!
Charla Diehl 08/29/13
I felt the realness of this story from beginning to end. Pain can definitely be debilitating--physically, emotionally and spiritually. May God touch you with His healing hands and may you be inspired daily to breathe again. So happy for you that this found a deserving place on the EC list. Congrats and God bless--
Rachel Malcolm 08/29/13
Gripping, honest and powerful! The ending is perfect and encourages every one of us to face our weaknesses and take the next step. Congratulations on winning an EC!
Linda Goergen08/29/13
Congratulations Shann, so happy for your well deserved EC win! WOW what a powerful emotion packed story! My mother suffers chronic pain and I see how she struggles and this shows both physical and mental struggle so well! Awesome job!
Barbara Caldwell08/30/13
Congratulations on making 10th place. I can feel your writing.