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Florida, United States
Southern born, Southern reared. It's a quirky place and we are unique folk... These are my people and these are my stories.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November Writing Contest (Repost)


"When You Find the One"
Original Oil Painting. Used with Permission of the artist.
c 2014 Karen Winters Fine Art

We're excited over here at Pen In Hand about my upcoming novel, Five Brides, which will be released June 2015 by Tyndale Publishers. So excited, we're going to start looking at a few special painting between now and then, talk about your stories, add bits of trivia about weddings, etc.

How to Enter This Month's Contest

1.  Share this on Facebook or Twitter and link  my name to your shares.
2. Write a 250 word (or less) story, poem, or song  based on the painting above  and submit in the comments section below.
3. Be sure to put your name on the bottom of the submission in case your entry comes up "anonymous."
4. Check back November 15, 2014 to read the winning entry. (Jot a note in your calendar! The winner may be you!)


Mama slowed as we approached the storefront bay window showcasing the bridal gowns, like an apparition stood beyond the glass.

Or Daddy.

She neared it, drawing me with her. I looped my arm into hers, feeling the autumn air growing cold as winter around us. Mama let out a long breath, but I couldn't tell if this was a happy sigh or one of her weary ones.

"Mama," I said. "Did you wear a dress like this one when you married my daddy?" I allowed my eyes to scan upward to the red crepe balls hanging motionless but adding a pretty touch nonetheless. To the folds of the pale gold drapes and then back to those that swept the skirt of the dress Mama couldn't seem to take her attention away from. "Mama?" I asked again.

"Yes," she finally said. "Exactly like this dress. Nana and I shopped all one day and half the next until we found the right one."

I pondered a moment. "I guess that's important, huh? Finding the right one?"

"As important as finding the right man to marry," she said, "is finding the right dress to marry him in."

"Where's your dress now, Mama?"

"Had to sell it, little 'un."

This time I sighed too, squeezing her arm with mine. "I sure do miss him," I said. "There won't be another one like my daddy."

"Nope." Mama swiped at a tear. "He was one of a kind."  ~~Eva Marie Everson

Okay! Your turn! Have fun ... winner will receive a gift certificate to Amazon.

A note on the painting: It's for sale, so if you are interested, you can contact the artist at the website above. Karen Winters kindly gave permission to use this once, but not for anyone to copy it, change it in any way, etc. I'm so appreciative of her generosity ... let's all be respectful of this incredibly talented artist.


  1. Mom stopped in her tracks and stood graveyard still as she noticed the bridal gowns in the showcase window. From the look frozen on her face, I realized she was reliving sweet memories of her own wedding day.

    As a brisk breeze ruffled my hair, she drew me to her and let out a sigh.

    “Does it remind you of your wedding day and Daddy?” I feasted my eyes on the beautiful white dresses dreaming of my own wedding. Mom’s attention was focused on one dress, the one in the corner nearest the door.

    Finally, she gazed at me with tears in her eyes. “My dress was just like this one. Yes, it transports me to another time. It’s like the years have fallen away, and I’m a young bridge getting ready to stroll the church aisle and meet my groom.”

    “What happened to your dress?”

    She sighed before she answered. “Had to sell it after your father died.”

    I hugged her. “I miss him so much. Always will. He’ll never be able to walk me down the aisle and give me away.”

    “Me too.” Mom squeezed my hand. “He’ll watch from heaven. You’ll wear my dress. Your aunt sold it back to me. It’d mean so much to me to see you wear it.”

    “Yes, a beautiful gown with special memories.” I pulled her to me and wrapped her in my arms like the gift my mother had always been. ~~B. J. Robinson

  2. Today, a passerby sees a mother and daughter window shopping on this warm day—possibly daydreaming together of a future wedding day where the daughter would be a princess for the day. The passerby would smile whiling passing them and continue on, oblivious as to what world of turmoil surrounding the two females.
    Lily’s wig masked her red swollen eyes. The young girl had also worried a small sore onto her bottom lip. Jan held her hands closely wrapped around her torso to hide the tremors from her daughter and bravely summoned a calm tone as she discussed purchasing the wedding dress for Lily now. This one in the window looked like it would fit, and it was what Lily really wanted.
    No one knows the number of days we will walk this earth, but some of us are given an estimated timeframe. Lily was given a timeframe. Today her oncologist explained that they had reached the point of where it was time to say enough. Options and treatments had been exhausted and there was nothing else to be done.
    “You will have a good month. Possibly more…” The mom and daughter were both playing the doctor’s words over in their heads.
    “How can that be?” Jan silently screamed this over and over in her head.
    “This is the dress, Mommy. I will look like a Princess.” Lily grabbed her mom’s hand and the two walked into the store to purchase the dress Lily would be laid to rest in.
    ~T.I. Lowe

  3. “There it is.”

    I tried to keep walking.

    “I just want to look, Bethie.” Mama halted. Her breath whooshed like a boot-flattened balloon. Footsteps pattered the sidewalk around us, but she didn’t notice. I tried not to.

    I pulled mama’s arm – arms too thin from working long hours. Worse, arms too weary to wrap around me much anymore. “Come on, mama. Let’s get home.”

    Frank Galley, the town cabbie, honked from Devon’s main road. I glared at his unwelcome greeting and leaned into her. “Let’s make some peppermint tea and read about Avonlea again.”

    Mama loved those stories. And peppermint tea, sweetened with two sugar cubes. But memory called stronger. My dead papa’s old furniture store mesmerized, now all decked out with fancy white dresses that promised things I didn’t understand worn by fake plastic people with no heads.

    I frowned at the gaudy red balls hanging from the ceiling. “I have a math test tomorrow. Need to study.”

    “You can pass the Algebra test with your eyes closed, Bethany Marie. Oh, there it is. The place your papa and I met.” Momma pointed to the corner of the window display. Droopy gold curtains hung low, tiny cobwebs dotting their folds. "That’s where I started to fall and your papa grabbed me by the waist to catch me."

    She always whispered the memory like it was the most precious moment she lived in her thirty-two years on God’s green, blue, and brown earth.

    Today it felt more brown than ever.

    ~ Kerry Johnson

  4. Jean’s heart skipped a beat as she slowed to admire the elegant display window. Her lips parted, and a soft whispering sigh escaped. The most beautiful dresses she had ever seen adorned mannequins as if each were a bride awaiting her groom. She looked down at her own dress for a moment, and her imagination took over. In that instant, she transformed like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. The street disappeared and she became a grown woman standing in a church bursting with flowers. A real-live prince smiled at her from the end of the isle. She walked forward, her wedding gown rustling with each step. Music filled the small chapel. The prince’s hand extended as if anxious to have her by his side. Joy surged through her entire being at his touch.
    “Beautiful aren’t they.”
    “Huh?” The exquisite fantasy melted from her sight in long sagging drops.
    Her mother smiled, “The dresses, Jeanie-loo.”
    “Oh, yes. They are so pretty.” Jean snuggled close until they were arm-in-arm. “Mom?”
    “Yes, sweet heart?”
    “Do you think I will get to wear a dress like one of those someday?”
    Jean’s mother leaned down, and kissed the top of her head. “I think that one day, when you least expect it, a young man will sweep you off your feet. Then you will be the most beautiful bride.”
    “You promise?” Jean smiled.
    She felt a silent chuckle from her mother. “Yes, but for now, just be my wonderful ten-year-old. Deal?”

    ~S. M. Salvo

  5. The mother stopped to admire the beautiful wedding dress. She recalled the sage advice her grandmother gave to her as a young teenager. She gazed at her young daughter’s innocent face. Surely, she is too young for that talk.
    Her daughter clutched her arm. “Mom, that is the exact dress I want when I get married”.
    Maybe a daughter is never too young to hear it, She mused.
    “I can see you wearing it and walking down the aisle to marry your Prince Charming. Our Heavenly Father knows you better than you do. He loves you more than you can imagine. If you will put the choice of your future husband in His Hands, our Lord will bring to you a man who will love you and treasure you.”
    Pain shot through her as she remembered the trauma in her childhood. Why didn’t her own mother heed grandmother’s teachings? Oh Lord, help my daughter to understand. She sighed and placed her hand over her daughter’s and gave it a quick squeeze.
    “Our families were created to reflect God’s love. The enemy will try to convince you that you aren’t pretty enough, that somehow you are flawed, and that you have to settle. Never believe those lies. Love isn’t always a feeling. At the core of a happy marriage is committed love. That means no matter how you’re feeling, or the circumstances, that you and your husband will love God and each other. Committed love is the highest expression of genuine love.”

  6. The girls strolled through the touristy town, their flip flops flapping as they went. The youngest pulled her tall friend to a stop and pointed to the store window and gasped, “Did you ever?”
    “Heck, no!” came the reply. Both stood still, silent before the beauty captured in the three panels of the window.
    The sun’s dimming rays glinted on the glass, highlighting the sparkling dresses on display. Chelsea put her arm through her friend’s. “Which one would you pick?” she dared ask, her eyes darting between the panels.
    The girl shrugged but continued to stare. “Hmmm…”
    “They are so beautiful, I don’t think I could pick one,” Chelsea sighed.
    “I think you have the groom help you, maybe?” her friend replied.
    Chelsea chuckled. “No, that’s the ring. The groom can’t see the dress at all.”
    Her tall friend finally looked away from the window. “That’s stoop-pid.”
    “Naw-huh,” she said in defense. “It’s bad luck for them if he does. Everyone knows that!”
    Her friend shrugged again. “Maybe that’s why no one stays married anymore.” Chelsea looked confused so she continued. “Bad luck having all these dresses for the guys to see.”
    The girls laughed and walked closer, still arm in arm. “I think you’d look beautiful in all of them, Chels.”
    Chelsea smiled and pointed to the dress closest to them. “You’d be even more beautiful in that one, Jess.”
    “Where else can you wear a dress like that? Boys are so…“ Jess mused.
    “Halloween?” Chelsea suggested.

    TLC Nielsen

  7. Sweat beaded on Ramey’s upper lip. His head, light. Dizzy. Misty grabbed his right arm. He cupped his left hand over hers, and played with her new ring. Combing through all the magazines and websites in her parents den didn’t have this effect on him. The movie was the needed distraction from their recent event planning, but the stroll afterwards landed them here. Illuminated gowns in the window made it real.
    He vowed to himself not to let her in on his doubts. He released her hand and eased his arm around her waist, pulling his love closer. Overwhelmed by his final exams and recent interviews, he held onto her for balance. Her hoody was soft and warm against him on the cool spring evening. The four-year wait had been trying and the separations hard, but worth it to start out on the right foot. Her father insisted.
    She squeaked, and he released. He stepped between Misty and the dresses. She craned to meet his eyes, a foot higher. He leaned in for a kiss, but she turned at the last minute. Ramey agreed to wait until the wedding day, so close now, but it was worth a try. As he settled for a tight hug instead, his head stopped spinning. Butterflies dissipated. Certainty replaced doubt, and fear gave way to strength and courage. The rules, the waiting, the planning…all worth it when you find the right one. He walked her back to her father’s house one last time.

    -Sally Hampton

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  9. Sixteen-year-old Bethany Lambert flipped the bridal store’s sign to open and stepped outside to inspect the window display. Her younger sister Emily followed and sidled up next to her. Together they gazed at the sparkling white gown as if it were a work of art.

    “It’s Momma’s best yet, isn’t it?” Emily said.

    Bethany squeezed her sister’s hand and sighed. “Yes, it certainly is.”

    The girls gazed at the intricate beadwork of the bodice, hand-sewn by their mother. Soft folds of satin fabric draped from the waistline into a full skirt.

    Emily broke the silence. “I wish she didn’t have to sell it. Maybe in a few years you could wear it.”

    Bethany wiped a tear from her cheek and turned to face her sister. “There’s no sense wishing for something like that. With Momma being sick, the business isn’t doing so well.” Bethany swallowed away the lump in her throat. “If I were a few years older, maybe I could take over the shop . . . . but I’m not, and Momma said we have to sell as much merchandise as we can before the new owner takes over next month.”

    Emily’s eyes widened. “She’s selling the store?”

    “Well, what did you think was happening with all the markdowns?”

    Emily turned away, crying softly. Bethany pulled her into a hug. “I’m sorry, kiddo. It stinks, but we still have each other. Wipe those tears, now. Momma needs us.”

  10. The sisters were ready to end Saturday afternoon’s window shopping with scoops of strawberry shortcake and chunky monkey at Fairfield’s legendary ice cream shop when Courtney, distracted by the glimmering wedding gown on display, pointed Candice to the storefront.

    “You like that one, Court?” asked Candice of her younger sister. “That looks like the one Beth picked for her wedding. I can’t wait to see what she finds for the bridesmaids. Hopefully, we won’t be in something tacky.”

    “No. Well, I mean, yes it’s pretty, but I’d do it differently.”

    Courtney’s imagination sparked, she described alternate skirt shapes, colorful trimmings, and adventuresome beading she would try on the gown if she were the designer. Her thoughts raced as she scanned the length of the dress.

    Candice stood surprised at her younger sister’s flood of ideas. “Courtney, that was really cool! You have an awesome eye. You should learn to sew and study design in college. I mean it!”

    “Candy, that would be awesome, but I’m only in 8th grade. Plus, Mom and Dad would never let me study fashion design or anything they don’t think is totally honorable. You know how they are.”

    “Yeah, Court, I do. I know they want us to do the thing that uses the talents God gave us, and I’m pretty sure He gave you a talent for clothes. And, who says creating beautiful things isn’t honorable?”

    Courtney’s questioning expression grew to a smile.

    “Now, can we get a cone little sis?”

    ~ Hally Franz

  11. “Come on, Nana! You said we could get some ice cream.”

    “We will, dear, in time,” I replied as I patted her shoulder.

    “What’s so special about this wedding dress anyway?”

    “It’s not so much about the dress itself as what the dress symbolizes. Commitment, love, faithfulness …

    A faint light from the street lamp revealed my teary eyes. Natalie put her head on my arm.

    “I’m sorry I asked about the dress, Nana, don’t cry.”

    “I was just thinking about Grandpa and how we still enjoy doing things together. Did you know he was the first boy I ever dated? We were so young and life seemed simpler back then. Like when we scraped together every dollar to pay two months security deposit on our first apartment.”

    We peered through the shop window admiring the different wedding dress styles.

    “That dress would swish when I twirl just like in ballet class!”

    “My hope is that you, too, find someone who loves you for who you are, Natalie.”

    And what a journey it’s been: a serious automobile accident just four months after marrying, numerous surgeries, discovery of my brain tumor, etc…,

    “How’d you know Grandpa was the one?”

    “Well, we shared similar values and the same faith. We felt comfortable with each other. Plus, I loved his crazy sense of humor and do-it-yourself outlook he inherited from his father. He’s STILL always busy working on something.”

    “Like my daddy?”

    “A lot like your dad.”

    ---Composed by: Teresa K. Lasher, 11/2014

  12. "Let's not stop here, Mom. It'll make you sad--especially today."

    "I'm okay, Honey. I just want to see the one with the draped bodice. You know, my dress was almost identical. I was something to look at back then."
    ~ Sherri Stewart

    "I bet you were beautiful."

    "You should have seen your father's face. He...." She took a tissue from her purse and dabbed at her eye.

    "How could he do it, Mom? What does she have that you...."

    "Let's not talk about that right now, Sweetie. We had some good times, especially in the first few years. Of course, you came along and made everything even better." She patted my arm.

    "I have an idea. How about we go up in the attic and find your dress. You can put it on and we'll fix your hair and makeup. We'll celebrate you."

    She turned toward me--tears glistened in her eyes. "Thank you, but some things are better left in their boxes."

    1. Not sure why my name appeared in the second paragraph. Sorry about that.

  13. "Mama, do you think I'll wear a beautiful dress like that one day?" My daughter of nine couldn't take her eyes off the elegant gown in the window. "I bet you were beautiful when you married Daddy."

    Now how do I answer that? I didn't have a wedding dress or a wedding day with all the pomp and celebrating. I wore my best church dress and we stood before the Justice of the Peace. My mom cried and my dad fumed. This wasn't the wedding day they wanted for their seventeen year old daughter. But against their wishes, I refused to abort my baby. And like most teenagers, her dad and I believed our love could carry us through anything.

    Being a pregnant teenager is hard stuff. Judgmental looks. Nasty comments. Desertion of friends. Not to mention, the loss of my college scholarship and wedding day dreams. I've protected my daughter from the reality of her unplanned beginning. But she's getting older and one day, she'll do the math and realize her mother was only seventeen.

    I knelt down beside her and looked into those innocent eyes. "Honey, one day I hope to see you walk down the aisle in a dress just like that. But not all brides get to wear one. Your dad and I married young…and we didn't have money….so I wore my favorite church dress."

    Her eyes searched mine. "Did that make you sad, mama?"

    "No, honey." I smiled. "Cause I have you."

    Written by Tammy Van Gils

  14. Annabella strolled with her mother along bumpy, cement sidewalks, through their small town, arm in arm. Few were the days her mother felt strong enough to walk their old route, but early evening sunbeams slanted fingers of warmth through buildings, and birdsong buoyed them along.

    She tucked herself under her mother’s thin shoulder blade to lend support and catch her familiar scent. Underneath lingering hospital odor was the nameless fragrance worn by her mother and no one else. She longed to press her nose into her mother’s chest and draw it in - greedy inhalations to fill the empty, frightened spot between her chest and stomach.

    Her mother slowed to a stop in front of the wedding shop window, and they gazed in silence. Annabella felt the familiar pat, smooth, pat, smooth motion of her mother’s hand on hers and finally the squeeze as she allowed a percolating thought to escape in words soft and delicate as steam.

    “Baby, when it’s time to pick out your wedding dress, I want you to know I’ll be right there, so proud of you. Admiring your beauty. Because you will be a beautiful, lovely bride. Anna-child, when you find the one, I’ll be there.”

    Annabella nodded as desperate words crowded into a knot at the base of her throat – Mamma, will you get well?

    But she swallowed them down and returned the squeeze of her mother’s hand. They resumed the stroll through their small town, arm in arm, along bumpy, cement sidewalks.

    - Susan Simpson

  15. My little sister and I were headed to the bridal store. Allan had proposed to me last night. He is so handsome and; I love him with all of my heart. I can’t wait to be his wife.
    Excitedly, my sister, Sharon said “Marilyn, look at those beautiful dresses in the window. Do you like one of those? I can’t wait for you to try them on. You will make a beautiful bride.”
    “I know Sharon, they are all so beautiful, I don’t know where to start. I wish Mom could be here with us. The chemo she has to have is really tiring her out. ” Replied Marilyn.
    Sharon sniffed “I know, but we have to pray she will be strong soon and be at your wedding.
    “Yes” I smiled “I will picture her beautiful and smiling at my wedding. Let’s go inside and I’ll try some of the dresses on.
    We walked through the door and we saw racks and racks of beautiful gowns on either side of the store. In the back of the store were three beautifully framed mirrors set up on a platform so the bride to be could see all angels of the dress she had on.
    Sharon and I began to pull out some dresses for me to try on. The first one was a soft white with beading that looked like roses. At the waist there was a satin ribbon and the full skirt made me feel like a southern belle.
    Jann Martin

  16. Sarah stood there with Adrian, her heart so full she felt like bursting.
    “See the one in front?” I’m going to be wearing that.
    “Wow Mum! You’ll look like a princess
    “I feel like a princess”.
    While she realized she was babbling, she just couldn’t help it. Everything she’d ever thought impossible had taken on a life of its own when Sam proposed. At 28 she’d felt old. A narrow escape from an abusive husband and striving to parent a seven year old, had taken its toll. The last thing she’d felt like was a catch.
    But that was before God had opened a door and big hearted Sam had walked into her life.
    He made her feel beautiful by just a look and now he’d asked her to be his bride.
    In one full swoop, dreams she could have never imagined were coming true. She squeezed Adrian’s hand tighter to remind herself she wasn’t dreaming. The shop was closed, but she was going to come in tomorrow to pick up the perfect dress for the perfect man. She knew he loved her regardless of how she looked, but she wanted to show him a side of her that that had been in hiding for more than half a decade. She wanted to show him a side of her that was girly and beautiful. She kissed Adrian on the head and savoured the thought of being a June bride.
    “Let’s go home dear, we’ll come get the princess dress tomorrow.”

  17. Joy tugged at her home-made skirt and clung to Susie’s arm. “Why’re you always stopping at the rich peoples’ store?”
    “Cause I have a plan, that’s why.”
    “See the way those wedding dresses hang? Two different ways. Loopy to the front and loopy to the side.”
    “Who cares about that?”
    “Because, kiddo” said Susie, “I’m gonna make me one.”
    “You ain’t gettin’ married.”
    “Well, one day I will. And my dress is going to be prettier than those.”
    “You better practice up. This skirt you made is all cockeyed.”
    “I’m practicin’.”
    “What are you goin’ to make it with? Daddy said he ain’t payin’ for no wedding.”
    “White. ‘Cause I ain’t sleepin’ with no boys.”
    She pointed her finger. “You know about that, don’t you? You sleep with a man you can’t wear white on your wedding day.”
    Susie wrapped her arm around Joy’s and turned back to the window. “A white lace tablecloth. I seen ‘em in Family Dollar.”
    Joy dropped her shoulders and rubbed the toe of her flip-flop against the concrete. “Come on. Let’s go.”
    “Hey, what’s wrong with you? Why are you sounding depressed all of a sudden?”
    “I won’t never get a dress.”
    “What are you talking about?”
    “Don’t you remember? When Sammy and his mom came over on Christmas Eve?” Her eyes glistened with tears. “We all fell asleep on the couch.”
    Susie smiled. “Don’t worry, Joy. That one doesn’t count.”
    Written by Jennifer Odom

  18. Laura spent months trying to find Mom’s wedding dress she wore. Their parents’ wedding pictures would end up being the best clues to what material was used, the style of bodice, length of train and sequins delicately attached over the embroidery. Laura was diligent to look for the dress that Mom sold to a consignment shop ten years after she made her vows.
    Now, sixteen years following that trade, Laura was due to marry in December. She wanted to honor her mother’s presence in her life. The strength she displayed through her darkest days secured an everlasting equity. An equity that, even though the cancer won, paid dividends to her daughter.
    Since Mark and Laura’s decision to marry, Laura knew the only thing she wanted to wear that day was her mother’s wedding dress. There would be no trying on dresses until she found it. Its creamy color, its distinct pattern of sequins, the smooth silk that whisked its way around the dress’s hoop skirt underneath. It would represent her mother’s presence on that one, significant day.
    While cake tasting and venue browsing downtown one day, Laura and fiancĂ©, Mark, approached Laney’s Bridal Shoppe. The boutique showcased three dresses in its bay windows. In a moment, Laura recognized the shape of the dress, pausing to search out the details. The silk, the sequins, the soft hue of ivory. It was beyond beautiful. Laura inhaled and held her breath.
    “That’s it!” she said, in a quick whisper. “We’ve found her.”