Monday, December 19, 2016

Meet My Characters: Josh and Isabella

I thought it was about time I introduce another of my fictional couples. Actually, this time it's a trio of characters, because the third character is too important for me to leave her out!

Meet Josh. Josh is a widowed father struggling to keep up with his growing daughter since he lost his wife. Quiet, serious and rather stern, Josh finds it easier to shut people out of the protective little world he has created for his daughter, rather than take chances that the life he has made for himself and his daughter might be disrupted. An architect by trade and Christian by choice, Josh has to face facts that having a broken arm, a rambunctious daughter and trying to take care of everything by himself isn't exactly possible at the beginning of this story, which brings me to my second character....

Meet Isabella. Pretty, rich and heartbroken, Isabella has had her heart broken in love, though not quite like Josh has. Her dream of becoming a teacher has never quite came true, though her wealthy aunt and uncle would gladly help her if she would only ask. Being raised as a only child by her aunt and uncle after her parents death, Isabella isn't quite sure how other families live, and has been rather secluded by her family due to the heartbreak she has endured. And offer to become a nanny changes her life for the better, though, and that brings me to my third character....

Meet Lily. She's 5 years old, never still, and loves glitter with a passion. Like her father's life, this story pretty much revolves around this blonde haired, bouncy, frilly little girl. She was my comic relief, my bittersweet moments, and my favorite character in this book, I'll be honest. I used a few of my siblings' antics to inspire her, and it shows. I may or may not have used a few of my own qualities (yes, the love of glitter) when writing Lily.

Josh and Isabella's story was one of my favorite to write. I actually laughed so hard at one part, I had to stop writing for fifteen minutes till I could clear the tears out of my eyes and see the keyboard. And there were sad tears, too, especially when Lily talks about her mother. Maybe the next Meet My Characters will be Isabella's aunt and uncle, Grace and Harry, or Josh's sister Ashley and her large family, because they played an important part in this story, too.

I hope you enjoyed this little preview into one of my books and meeting Josh, Isabella and Lily!

The Sunday School Teacher's Bible- A Short Story

By Melissa Holliday
 Seven little faces looked up with awe and fear at the stern, wrinkled face that gave no sign of friendliness as they entered the Sunday school room. Seven pairs of eyes took in the sparsely decorated room, wondering how they had managed to deserve moving from the fun kindergarten class to this scary, unfamiliar first grade class. Seven pairs of feet shuffled in unwillingly as the old lady who was to be their teacher boomed out,
 “Let’s take our seats boys and girls.”
 Little Rhoda Jones sat down on the closest chair to the door, her best friend Amber sitting next to her. The two scooted their chairs as close together as possible as if being closer to each other would protect them from whatever happened in first grade Sunday school.
 “Now, since this is your first Sunday in my class,” Miss Todd said, her voice monotone and somber, “I’ll go over the rules. Do not talk during the lesson, do not draw on the table, no kicking and no playing during the lesson. If you finish in time, we will have a snack and then you may talk. But it is very important that you listen to our Bible story so you can remember what God wants us to learn.”
 Rhoda’s feet shook in their black leather shoes. Why hadn’t her sister told her Miss Todd was so… so…. So grouchy?
 It was a wonder than any of the seven little minds were able to concentrate on their lesson. The fear of what Miss Todd might tell their parents if they misbehaved was enough to keep them still and silent.
     Five Months Later
 Rhoda raced into the Sunday school room, determined to tell Miss Todd her memory verse first so she might claim the prize. No one had practiced harder than she had to win the coveted Bible for memorizing the most verses this quarter. But when she reached the door, the other kids still paces behind, she didn’t see Miss Todd. Instead, a young, happy lady was laying out the morning’s lessons.
 “Hello there!” She smiled at Rhoda, who shrank back in confusion.
 “Where’s Miss Todd?” Rhoda asked.
 “Miss Todd had to go in the hospital, so the pastor asked if I would fill in for her until she recovers.” The lady smiled. “I’m his niece, Miss Kate.”
 Rhoda looked questionably at the young woman, then eased into the room. The other children did the same as they took their seats. Knowing their routine, they laid their Bibles on the table, sat still and waited for opening prayer.
 But Miss Kate didn’t follow the same routine.
 “Who wants cookies? I made them fresh this morning.” She asked, producing a container of sugar cookies that still were warm and looked so delicious.
 Rhoda licked her lips in anticipation. The cookies smelled much better than the crackers or occasional sweet treat Miss Todd brought.
 “And then after our snack we’ll work on our craft.” Miss Kate said cheerfully.
 Craft? Miss Todd never let the kids make crafts. They always spend the Sunday school time reading verses as she told the Bible story and working on the little quizzes and puzzles she brought to help them remember their lesson from the previous Sunday.
 Sunday school had never been better, Rhoda thought, as they savored the cookies- Miss Kate let them have as many as they wanted- and colored pretty pictures of Joseph’s coat of many colors. They played a game, sang a song, and then Miss Kate hurried to tell them the story of Joseph and his brothers. They barely had time to finish the story before someone came knocking on the classroom door to let them know they were out of time. Rhoda clutched her Bible in her hands and skipped from the room as happy as a lark. Miss Kate was definitely a better Sunday school teacher than Miss Todd!
 Four weeks passed and Miss Todd still wasn’t back. Rhoda sort of missed her teacher, but Miss Kate was too much fun for Rhoda to wish Miss Todd back. She asked God to help Miss Todd feel better, but made sure He knew she didn’t want Him to rush Miss Todd into getting better if she needed longer.
 The cookies were still a treat each Sunday, and more kids were coming to Sunday school now, which made Rhoda happy. Miss Kate always had plenty of cookies and crafts for all the kids, and each Sunday Rhoda and her classmates looked forward to that thirty minutes of fun and games. Rhoda hardly missed the long Bible stories or looking up verses in her Bible-
 “My Bible!” Rhoda thought, realizing she had left it at home. Miss Todd would have never approved of her coming to class without her Bible. Maybe Miss Kate would be a little nicer about it.
 After the cookies, Rhoda raised her hand.
 “Yes, Rhoda?” Miss Kate said, barely looking up from the jigsaw puzzle of Moses she was cutting out.
 “I forgot my Bible.” Rhoda admitted.
 “Oh, well, that’s okay. Just bring it next Sunday.” Miss Kate said, smiling.
 Whew, good! Rhoda sighed in relief. At least she wasn’t in trouble.
 But Rhoda didn’t remember her Bible the next week. Again, Miss Kate just told her to bring it next week. Pretty soon, Rhoda forgot all about it, and didn’t even think to tell Miss Kate she had forgotten it.  After all, she didn’t really need it. They never looked up verses anymore.
    Three months later
 Rhoda looked at the calendar on the kitchen wall. Just a few more months and she’d be moving to the second grade class in Sunday school! She bounced out the door behind her family, thinking how much fun Sunday school was going to be today. Miss Kate had promised to bring doughnuts and chocolate milk for their snack, and Rhoda could hardly wait to sink her teeth into the yummy treats!
 She was first to jump from the car and go running to the church. Hurrying to the back, she raced towards the Sunday school room, hoping to be first to pick a doughnut before the other kids had chosen all the good ones.
 Rhoda skidded to a stop. Miss Todd was sitting at the Sunday school table, laying out papers in each spot.
 “Miss Todd?” Rhoda’s eyes widened. “Where’d Miss Kate go?”
 “She got married yesterday, and I’m all well now so I can teach again.” Miss Todd smiled- probably one of the few smiles Rhoda ever remembered seeing on her teacher’s face.
 “Miss Kate won’t be back?”
 “No, no. She will be living far away from here, in a place called Connecticut.” Miss Todd frowned. “Rhoda, you seemed to have forgotten your Bible.”
 Rhoda looked down at her hands. “Oh… I did. Well, we never need our Bibles anymore in class so I…”
 Miss Todd looked disappointed. “I see. Well, please don’t forget it next Sunday. For today, you may borrow my Bible.” She reached down into her bag and produced a worn Bible.
 Rhoda took the old Bible and laid in in her spot, missing the buckets of crayons and pencils that usually were on the table. She sat down and looked around. No sweet treats.
 “Do you have your verse all memorized and ready to recite?” Miss Todd asked.
 Rhoda looked sheepishly at her teacher. “No, ma’am.”
 “I see.” Miss Todd nodded. “Well, you better practice before next week. You don’t want to get behind.”
 Rhoda wondered what Miss Todd would say if she knew none of the children had been saying their memory verses for the past three months.
 One by one, the other children came, until it was time to begin. Like always, Miss Todd said a short prayer, thanking the Lord for the time to learn and for each student. When she said Amen, Rhoda saw the children who had been coming while Miss Kate was the teacher squirm. Miss Todd began their Bible lesson- only a couple children had their Bibles, so they and Rhoda looked up the verses- and worked on their quiz for the day. Thankfully Miss Todd had given a quiz on Creation, so Rhoda knew the answers without having heard the Bible lesson the week before.
 Once they were done, Miss Todd looked at the clock. “Well, we are done just on time, so why don’t you all share with me what you have been working on during the months I’ve been away. What did you learn?”
 Fourteen pairs of eyes looked around. What had they learned?
 Rhoda searched her memory but couldn’t think of one single lesson they had been taught.
 “What did you learn last week, Rhoda?” Miss Todd asked.
 Rhoda shrugged. “I don’t remember.”
 Miss Todd said nothing, only nodded sadly.
 At promptly ten till, Miss Todd dismissed the disappointed students from class. Rhoda lingered behind, waiting to give Miss Todd her Bible back.
 She looked in the front cover of the Bible, reading the simple inscription,
 To Elizabeth Joy Todd, from your Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Wilkes.
 May you always remember to treasure and study God’s Word, commit to memory the verses you find within it, and may there never be a Sunday when you forget to take the most precious of books to your Sunday School class with you.
 Rhoda looked up, surprised to find Miss Todd watching her.
 “Your teacher gave you this Bible?” She asked.
 Miss Todd nodded, her smile causing the wrinkles around her eyes to deepen. “Yes, many years ago, when I was nine years old.” She took the Bible gently. “I’ve kept it all these years, because I learned long ago that this is the entire reason for having Sunday school in the first place.”
 Rhoda frowned. “The Bible is good, but it’s fun to have crafts and cookies and play games.” She pointed out.
 “Yes, those things are fun. But there is a time and place for everything, and an order in which we should do things. When we finish our lesson, Rhoda, what do we do?” Miss Todd asked.
 “We have a quiz.”
 “And when we finish our quiz?”
 “We get a treat.”
 Miss Todd nodded and reached into her bag again. She pulled out a box of cookies. “If I had seen that my class had done a good job of keeping up with their memory verses and remembered to bring their Bibles, I had special cookies for each one of you.” She said, sighing. “I wanted them to be a reward for doing a good job of learning to treat God’s Word as the most important reason for coming to class. Treats are nice, as are fun things to make or color. But there’s a lot of things we need to learn, and that is what Sunday school is for.”
 Rhoda looked at the cookies and wished she had remembered her Bible.
 “I guess we will try again once our class is back to routine.” Miss Todd said with a smile. “I had hoped that while I was gone, you all would remember your memory verses and Bibles.”
 Rhoda nodded and turned to walk to the church sanctuary.
 I should have remember my Bible, Rhoda thought. Mom and Dad had never had to remind her before Miss Kate had come, so they never thought to for the past three months. Now Rhoda would have to learn all over again.
    The Next Sunday
 Rhoda walked quietly to her Sunday school room. Her Bible was tucked securely in her arms and she had worked all week to memorize the long verse Miss Todd had given them. She repeated it once more under her breath to be sure she knew it,
 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
 “Galatians 6:9. Galatians 6:9...” Rhoda repeated.
 Miss Todd smiled at her from the Sunday school table. “Rhoda, good morning.”
 “I want to say my verse, right now before I forget.” Rhoda said, planting her feet firmly in the doorway.
 Miss Todd nodded. “Go ahead.”
 “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9.”
 Miss Todd smiled. “Perfect. Let’s see if you can say it by the time class is done.” She said, as other children began walking up behind Rhoda.
 Rhoda could hardly concentrate on the lesson, for fear she would forget the verse and Miss Todd would think she hadn’t tried hard enough to remember it.
 “Rhoda, do you want to say our verse first for this week?” Miss Todd asked, as she reached down in her bag.
 Rhoda stood up. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9.” She smiled and sat down.
 Miss Todd nodded and produced a bag of chocolates. She gave a handful to Rhoda. “Perfect. Congratulations, Rhoda.”
 Rhoda looked at the chocolates and smiled. The treats were nice, but there was something in her teacher’s smile of approval that meant more to her.
 Before Rhoda could leave class when they finished, Miss Todd stopped her.
 “I have had this waiting for a long time now, but I think you understand well enough that you have earned it.” She said, handing Rhoda a paper wrapped package.
 Rhoda frowned and tore the paper away. A beautiful leather bound Bible gleamed in the sunlight. Rhoda’s eyes widened. This was the Bible she had hoped to win three months ago.
 “Read the inscription.” Miss Todd instructed.
 To Rhoda Anne Jones, from your Sunday School teacher, Miss Todd.
 May you always remember to treasure and study God’s Word, commit to memory the verses you find within it, and may there never be a Sunday when you forget to take the most precious of books to your Sunday School class with you.
    Thirty Years Later
 Mrs. Whitley laid her Bible on the table next to the children’s Bible lesson book. Her class would be arriving any moment for the Sunday school time, and she needed to hurry. She put out a page with a short quiz on last Sunday’s lesson in each spot, along with a little cup of crackers, knowing that the McCormick twins would be asking for a snack as always.
 She heard the patter of feet running down the hallway, and knew her first students would be arriving at any moment. She put on her warmest smile and waited to see who was first.
 “Morning!” Jimmy Pettus laid his well worn Bible onto the table. “Can I get the memory verse done?”
 Mrs. Whitley smiled. “Alright, Jimmy, go ahead.” She said, folding her hands in front of her and listening carefully. Bless his little heart, Jimmy’s front tooth caused the cutest of lisps as he recited his memory verse, she thought.
 “And let uth not be weary in well doing: for in due theason we thall reap, if we faint not. Galathians 6:9.” Jimmy grinned as if he had just recited the Gettysburg address.
 “Very good, Jimmy.” Mrs. Whitley nodded. “You know, I remember a long time ago, there was a little girl who was just as proud as you to say that verse. She got a very special reward for saying it, too. So, if you can say it at the end of class just as well as you did now, I’ll give you the same reward.”
 “Really? Cool!” Jimmy sat down and stared. “Who elth thaid it?”
 Mrs. Whitley smiled. “Me. A very long time ago. And this is what my teacher gave me.” She pulled a lovingly worn Bible from her Sunday school tote, and let Jimmy hold it. She wasn’t worried about the young boy ruining her Bible, he had always been careful of his own hand-me-down Bible.
 “Wow! Thith is yourth?” He asked. “It lookth old.”
 Mrs. Whitley nodded. “It is. It’s thirty years old.” She nodded. “And I’m going to give a Bible to the one who knows all their verses by heart, just like my teacher gave this Bible to me.”
 “ ‘To Rhoda Anne Joneth, from your Thunday Thchool teacher, Mith Todd…’” Jimmy looked up. “But your name ithn’t Rhoda Anne Joneth.”
 Mrs. Whitley smiled. “It was thirty years ago. Now it’s Rhoda Anne Whitley.”
 Jimmy pondered that statement as the other children began coming in. Mrs. Whitley smiled and greeted each one, wondering which of them would get the beautiful Bible she had waiting in her Sunday school bag, wrapped just as Miss Todd had wrapped her Bible thirty years ago.