22 April, 2015

Chatterbox Linkup - A Short Story

Several times now I've come across the monthly chatterbox link-up on Rachel Heffington's blogFor April though, I decided I wanted to participate and so set to work on this month's theme: travel-by-foot. In her words: "Chatterbox is a monthly event created and hosted by me, designed as a quick dialogue exercise. It doesn't have to be strictly dialogue, as I enjoy good description too, but centering your piece around a conversation is the general idea. I assign a topic (usually one that can be taken any of several ways) and it is your job to write a conversation between your characters, using this prompt. When you've posted your piece on your blog, come back here and leave your link on the link-up below." I got a little involved in the characters and conversations though, so it's more like a short story rather than a 'quick dialogue exercise.' It's not perfect, in fact it seems rather childish now that I re-read it... But, I had fun, and hopefully the old saying proves true - practice makes perfect!  And if you have some constructive criticism, please share!


She stepped onto the platform, suitcase in hand, another bag clutched under her arm. Everybody else scurried off, the train puffed away, and Alise was alone. She tip-toed through the station, and onto the road, while a sigh escaped from her lips. “Why did the train have to be delayed?” she whispered. The moon hadn't risen yet, and the light from the train station was not going to last far enough. Alise looked up at the night sky and pled for safety. She had to walk a little way to get to her aunty's house; a pleasant stroll in daylight, a fearful stepping in darkness. She'd only done this once before, and that was with her brother – and when she was with him, she could be scared of nothing. Her face clouded as the thought of him came again. It had been four years now since his place of big brother, and closest friend had been vacant.

Photo credit
As the illumination from the train station faded and night took over, Alise heard footsteps. Human footsteps, and they were approaching her. Her drumming heart threatened to escape its cage, while her imagination conjured up all the grave possibilities. But fear hadn't very long to work, because presently, a tall man stood beside her.

“It's a bit dark to-night isn't it ma'am?” the man said, by way of greeting.

“Y-yes, very.”

If the sun had been shining, it would've revealed Alise's very pale face. Surely only suspicious people brought up conversations by commenting on how dark it was. Others would've commented on the pleasant breeze, or glowing evening star.

“You just got off the train I see.”

“Ah... yes. Did you?”

The man chuckled; a friendly little chuckle. “No Ma'am. The old ford finally decided that enough was enough. She's on the side back up the road a piece.”

“Oh.” Alise couldn't even banish her own worry for long enough to express some sympathy for the man's plight.

“The stationmaster isn't any help; I know the man,” he went on. “So I'm goin' up this way to my mate's place. It's too late tonight, so I'll call the missus, and stay over. Get the old rattle trap on the road again tomorrow.”

“Oh,” said Alise again, wondering how far up this road it was the 'mate's place' and how that corresponded to the couple of miles to her aunt's house.

“Where are you from?” she ventured.

The man laughed again, a strangely familiar laugh that made Alise fear the more. “Long story to that one, ma'am. At the moment we're livin' on a farm 'bout twenty mile back that way.” He jerked his thumb in the opposite direction to what they were walking. “Bit of a shack really; the missus would like better. But I've got work there, so we're staying.”

“Do you have any children?” Alise wondered, her voice a little less strained than before.

“Yes indeed, ma'am,” the man responded, his voice echoing the twinkle that would've been in his eyes had she been able to see them. “One little tacker – he's up walking now. Gettin' into everything within reach.” The man chuckled, then sobered. “Another one on the way too. That's where I was today... The missus is having troubles, so I had to get some pills from the doctor.” He held up the case in his hand. “Not leaving it in the car,” he said, his chuckle returning, “Never know who's about.”

This last remark brought back the chills to Alise's spine. Was she really safe walking with this man? She was only just past halfway to her aunt's house.

“This night air does wonders.” said the man, breathing deeply as they strode along.

“What is your name?” asked Alise, ignoring the last remark. At least then if something did happen she would be better informed.

“You can call me Bruce” he said, a smile in his voice.

The road fell behind them, one step after another, until Alise felt constrained to ask, “Where is this place you're walking to?” They had already passed several houses.

“Just around the next bend.”

Alise wasn't sure where that was in relation to her aunt's house so she kept quiet, and looked up at the stars. The next bend came and went, and Alise, caught up in her own thoughts, unwittingly followed the man when he turned into a gateway, and began unfastening the latch.

“Oh!” she cried as she bumped into the gate. “Is this really your friends house?”

“Sure is, ma'am. You headin' here too?”

“Yes, this is my aunty's place. I'm staying here for a couple of weeks.”

Alise looked up at the stars again as she waited for the man to get the gate open. They reminded her of her brother and the nights they'd spent stargazing. It had been their favourite hobby, whiling away hours naming the bright, glowing planets, and making up their own constellations. What if she never saw Johnny again? A tear dropped to the ground at the thought, and Alise's head filled with memories.

“Are you coming Ma'am?”

The voice startled Alise, and she jumped, before stepping through the open gateway. How could she let herself get so caught up in her emotions again! “I must stay fully alert,” she chided herself, “It is not safe yet.”

Photo Credit
The man shut the gate behind them, and they walked up the lane together. A full moon was making its way over the horizon, bringing out startlingly shadows. Alise's aunt often visited late, so she may not be home yet. Uncle could be out as well. What was Alise going to do with this man until her relatives got back?

They stepped onto the veranda, and a light appeared. Alise exhaled gratefully: Aunt must be home. She turned to view the stranger now that there was light to see. He stood there studying her, his face beaming.

“Do you know me now?” he questioned softly.

Alise stared, her jaw dropped of its own accord. “Johnny? Johnny!” Her voice rose in pitch and volume. “You told me your name was Bruce!”

The man, laughing loudly now, swung her around just like old times, despite her squealing protest, adding, “Want to go stargazing Alli?” 

Linking up here.

15 April, 2015

Speak - Book Review

This book grabbed my attention as I was browsing the specials section in Koorong last week. I'd never heard of it before, but it looked interesting, and it looked enjoyable. My Mum bought it for me, and I started reading it immediately. It didn't take me that long to finish it, but I'm still thinking about it.

In Speak, Nish Weiseth basically talks about storytelling. She explains the power of stories; both listening to other's stories, and sharing our own. She points out that if we truly listen to the stories of others - how they got where they are - it would stop our judging. It's about seeing from someone else's perspective and realising why, instead of forming our opinions based on what we think we know. She also talks about the power of telling our story, and allowing others to have the opportunity of knowing that they're not alone. No matter how ordinary our life seems, our stories still have power; there are others who feel the same way.

Nish points out that storytelling bridges gaps; it breaks down boundaries. It allows us to appreciate what others have been through and how that has shaped them into who they are. On the other hand, through our stories others see that they're not the only ones struggling (or rejoicing, or whatever emotion we share), and there is hope. In her own words: “It's my prayer that this book will encourage and inspire you to explore your own stories – as well as seek out the stories of others – and to tell them with grace and abandon. It's my prayer that this book will remind you that your life and experiences have great value and that the world needs to hear about them. ...Stories can change us, change the hearts of others, and change the world.” (Speak page 28) This book shares a few stories, and the one I found most inspiring can be found here: link.

I have to add that while I came away feeling inspired to listen to other's stories more closely, and to find a way to share my own, I can't say this is an amazing book. The concept and ideas are, but I found it quite shallow, seemingly unconnected in places, and without definite conclusions. I thought the style was fairly amateurish, and sometimes it felt like there were unnecessary words and paragraphs – sort of in an attempt to lengthen the book. Of course that is just my opinion and my taste; I still really appreciate the book, and I'm glad to own it.

As I mentioned in the beginning, this concept is still circling in my mind... There are many ways to share stories, and the internet is one of them. I'm not sure how I even got there, but the other day I found myself on this blog. It inspired me even more, because each post shares a story or experience and ends with a thought-provoking lesson, made more powerful by the way it's linked to the story. To my mind, it was a very good example of what I'd just been reading and thinking about. I found it hard to stop reading, even after about eleven pages of blog posts; that's the power of stories I guess – they made the lessons hit home. These are some of my favourites so far: linklink, linklink, link

In closing, hear this: “Chances are there is someone in your orbit right now who's wondering if her or his story matters at all. As you share your very plain story of living out the stuff to which God has called you, they are set free to live and share their own.” (Speak page 189) See? Our stories don't have to be big or out of the ordinary, and they can still change the world. I like that.

I'm looking forward to hearing your story,

Jessica xxx :)

07 April, 2015

I Shall Not Want

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Psalm 23

I feel like I've known this psalm all my life. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” was possibly one of the first Bible verses that I learnt – and not from memorising but just hearing and knowing. Over a bit more time, I guess, I came to know the whole thing off by heart. But despite the fact that this psalm has always been a part of my knowledge, it was only last Friday night that I really learnt what the second phrase meant: “I shall not want.”

I was reading along in a book, when all of a sudden it quoted the first verse of psalm 23 from some translation I'm not familiar with: “The Lord is my shepherd, therefore can I lack nothing.” What?! I don't know what I thought “I shall not want” meant before, but this idea - because the Lord is my shepherd, it is impossible for me to lack anything that I need - was new.

I checked a couple of other translations, and yes, sure enough: “You, Lord, are my shepherd. I will never be in need.” (CEV) “Yahweh is my shepherd: I shall lack nothing.” (WEB)

So from now on, every time I hear or read, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” it's going to be a reminder that God, my shepherd, cares about me so much, He will never allow me to lack something that I need. Therefore, I can trust him.

On another note, probably because of being familiar with it, I've always sort of disregarded Psalm 23 as being... common or childish, or something. But after typing it out above, I just noticed how nice the words are. They're so descriptive and picturesque; imaginative. It's beautiful really; I think it's my next favourite bible passage. I don't know how I never noticed, or stopped to think about it before.

Is there anything else I've missed? What's your favourite verse or phrase from Psalm 23?