The Nativity Painting

By Sharon Rose Estores Montojo, Philippines/USA

For the last six years, my family and I have been decorating the house in preparation for Christmas. We usually start with putting up the Christmas tree. ThisChristmas ball freedigitalphotos means bringing out items I have stored since last year like the stockings, tree-shaped candles, snowman cookie jars and Christmas village figurines.

One thing that we have always wanted is a Nativity set to serve as a visual reminder of the birth of Christ. One Tuesday morning, my husband and I went to a specialty store for home decorations and furnishings. Of all of the wall decor and different colorful items, one item caught our attention. It was a nativity painting hanging on top of the wall. It looked beautiful and captivating with the light from a lamp in one of the shepherd’s hands illuminating the darkness. My husband was curious how much it cost. He was debating whether to buy it or wait for the after-Christmas sale. As it was the only one, he decided to buy it.

When the sales lady handed us the painting, my husband took a closer look. He noticed a nail piercing through the lower portion of the canvas. He thought he might be able to get it at a discount. We then proceeded to pay for it.

As I started to reflect on what had just transpired, it occurred to me that in the same manner, celebrating Christmas is like being in a store with so many beautiful things that can easily distract us from the real meaning of Christmas until God directs our attention to the time when Jesus was born.

While we may have bought the painting at a discount, it dawned on me that it was not the case for Christ. He paid the full price for the salvation of mankind. The nail piercing the lower part of the canvas reminded me how years later His hands were pierced with nails on the cross for my sins.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulder. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” -Isaiah 9:6

O God, may your light continue to shine upon us and give us hope as we live our lives each day.

Sharon Rose Estores Montojo is an aspiring writer and a full-time mom. She completed a course of study in Writing for Children and Teenagers from the Institute of Children’s Literature. She is formerly the Director of Literature and Publications in IVCF-Philippines. She is married to Tim and they have two amazing kids. She currently leads a Bible Study group in the International Ministry of Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont, Texas, USA.

 Photo above by Gualberto107, Freedigitalphotos

God Amazes Me

This article is an entry in the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. Try your hand at a 400-word devotional to encourage fellow writers worldwide. See contest guidelines and rules.

Twikyirize Mercy Cover picBy Mercy Twikyirize, Uganda

For two days, I sat behind a computer, laboring tirelessly to have my writings in soft copy. I was tired of living scared that one day I could find my writings burnt to ashes. My sister constantly complained that they were attracting rodents in her home. If I didn’t do something, I knew soon or later, I could lose them.

This was to be the third day on duty. I was about to pat my back for this kind of commitment when I discovered my file was missing. The previous night, I had been working on it; How come that the search engine could not locate it? I was puzzled.

My shock came when the Church Administrator bluntly said he had deliberately, permanently deleted my file. To him, this was not a private computer on which I could do personal work!

For more than a year, I had been volunteering as the chief editor for my church’s weekly bulletin. Whenever I finished my ministry duty, I could do any thing with this computer without inconveniencing anyone. Why would he all of a sudden delete my two days’ hard work without warning?

The feeling I got was unexplainable. Was it anger, fear, hate, worry, wonder, disbelief? I couldn’t tell. Not even the tears that were flowing uncontrollably could explain it.

With the memory still vivid, four days later I went for a writer’s workshop. The trainer from Ghana sent by MAI donated laptops to my group. He particularly said I should immediately borrow one in which I could type all my writings. I was amazed. I had not shared with the group my traumatic experience with the church computer. None of them knew how my sister had been threatening to burn my books. Only the God who sees and cares about our call as writers knew how much I needed a laptop and surprised me with one, just in time. Wasn’t that amazing?

I put in “my” laptop a user password, GODAMAZESME, as a constant reminder that only “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Heavenly Father, help us as writers to always come to you for supply whenever in need. Let us know that only you can give us whatever we need to advance our writing call. Amen

Mercy Twikyirize is a member of the Uganda Faith Writers Association and the founder of K-AIMER, an NGO in Uganda. She is executive director of The AIMER’s Generation (TAG), a project under K-AIMER, which reaches out to youth, offering life skills, counseling and guidance through motivational speaking.

Wait, there’s more! Did you enjoy this article? Click the Facebook “Like” icon to vote for it in the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. The entry posted with the greatest number of Likes will win the People’s Choice Award and $100 USD.

Enter the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. Pen a 400-word devotional to encourage fellow writers worldwide. See contest guidelines and rules.

Written in Tears

This article is an entry in the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. Try your hand at a 400-word devotional to encourage fellow writers worldwide. See contest guidelines and rules.

By Yessy Sutama, Indonesia

To become a well-known writer is one of my big aspirations in life. To imagine that someday my book becomes a classic reading and my name will be timeless in  history is really exciting. I even started thinking about what pseudonym to use, a name which would be mysterious and unique. On many occasions, I tried to write short stories, novels, poetry, devotionals, and include them in various competitions. I was motivated by the desire to make my mum proud. In the Chinese tradition, the idea of “make your parents proud” is important in a child’s life. This motivation really burns my spirit.

However, March 24, 2013, all of that dreams vanished. My mother died of liver sad asian woman Witthaya Phonsawat freedigitalphotoscancer. I was so devastated. Whatever I did seems to hold no meaning anymore. At that moment, I felt as though my life stopped suddenly. I no longer had any interest in anything including writing. I feel there is nothing else to be pursued in this life. All is over. Only regret and guilt remained. I look at myself as a shameful loser who couldn’t make her mum proud. Then, when the sadness engulfed, I began to blame myself for my mum’s death.

So dark was my world. I felt that no one can help me in this valley of sorrow. Like Jesus who felt abandoned by the Father in His sufferings, so did I. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk 15:34).

Now, one year and seven months has passed. My grief is not completely gone, but the recovery has occurred in me slowly. The Lord comforts me by giving me a daughter, who I had never imagined that I would be able to have.

Seeing my daughter’s smile and eyes, I know that God never abandon me. With a little faith, once again, I take my journey as a writer. Whether my writing will become a classic or not, whether my name will be immortalized in history or not, it no longer matters. I just want to write! Writing about my story, my joy and sadness. I believe that my mother is still and always proud of me as long as I endure to do my work well, enjoy my life, and keep writing.

I pray that God’s love will light up any darkness that buries our passion to write.

Yessy SutamaYessy Sutama lives in Jakarta, Indonesia, with her husband and one little daughter. She is editor at BPK Gunung Mulia, one of the largest Christian publishers in Indonesia. Besides editing theological books, she also edits Saat Teduh, the Indonesian edition of The Upper Room. Reading, writing and listening to music are her hobbies.

Wait, there’s more! Did you enjoy this article? Click the Facebook “Like” icon to vote for it in the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. The entry posted with the greatest number of Likes will win the People’s Choice Award and $100 USD.

Enter the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. Pen a 400-word devotional to encourage fellow writers worldwide. See contest guidelines and rules.

Laugh Out Loud

This article is an entry in the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. Try your hand at a 400-word devotional to encourage fellow writers worldwide. See contest guidelines and rules.

By Joy A. Valdez, Trinidad

I chuckled at the copy book page I was holding in my hand, words written by my son in his early teens.

Dear Mother, my problem, I could say, is that I have not been focusing on my schoolwork. I am still eager to play around. As a result my marks have been continually dwindling in the past term. I am regretfully sorry and I have a feeling that this month’s mark is not going to be any better. I will speak to the Lord about it and ask him for the guidance and maturity I need to settle down. I will speak to him tonight.

I decided to WhatsApp a copy to him. His response was immediate and typical: “lol

I reflected on the day my son had gotten married. When it was time for me to giveID-10075932 my speech, I had thanked everyone for coming and explained that I had written a poem entitled, “To My Son on His Wedding Day”, which I felt would best capture all I had to say. Other persons gave their wishes for the happiness of the couple and when it was time for my son to respond he stood up, laughing and waving a sheet of paper in his hand.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, “I just want you all to know that my mother and I did not talk to each other about what we were going to say today.”

I looked at him quizzically.

“I want you to know that I too have written a poem which I feel will best capture what I have to say today. It is entitled, “To My Wife on Our Wedding Day.”

His laughter became infectious; the gathering erupted. I too was laughing, but I was mostly thanking God. The Bible tells us that we should “start children off on the way they should go and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6 NIV

The poem was well-written. In it my son pledged his love to his wife until death separated them. I had taught my son to love and follow the Lord. What became clear to me that day, however, was how much more he had been learning from me while he was growing up.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for always blessing your children beyond our expectations.

Joy Angela Valdez is a Christian mother and grandmother who has accepted her first name as her life’s mission. She has been writing for as long as she can remember and is a published poet. She loves photography and enjoys creating imaginary characters from cloudy skies.

Wait, there’s more! Did you enjoy this article? Click the Facebook “Like” icon to vote for it in the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. The entry posted with the greatest number of Likes will win the People’s Choice Award and $100 USD.

Enter the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. Pen a 400-word devotional to encourage fellow writers worldwide. See contest guidelines and rules.

Photo above courtesy of Tanatat, Freedigitalphotos

The Season of Oranges and Unfinished Writing Projects

This article is an entry in the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. Try your hand at a 400-word devotional to encourage fellow writers worldwide. See contest guidelines and rules.

By Melanie N. Brasher, Canada

He has made everything beautiful in its time. ~Ecclesiastes 3:11

In the cool November air, I sip tea on my porch, watching my boys play make-believe under the orange tree. Today they transform sticks into airplanes and our broken cricket bat into a sword, but all play ceases when my preschooler finds a treasure.

“Look, Mama,” My preschooler presses his nose to the green screen. “It’s orange! Can we eat it?”

Laughter crinkles my eyes. A few weeks ago, I had told the boys not to pick or eat OrangeBloss_wb  Ellen Levy Finch Wikipediathe green oranges before they were ripe. But today, the sun has kissed the peels orange. We pop the juicy segments into our mouths, smacking our lips.

In the summer, our family enjoyed our fill of mangoes. Churned the yellow flesh in our blender. And for some time, we watched our gardener knock down a fruit the locals call jamun, our house helper sprinkling salt on the purple fruit, sucking the flesh from its pit. And now the trees sport oranges sweeter than clementines. Petite lemons perfect for pickling.

In my corner of the world, I’m learning to eat fruit in season, to wait for the ripening, for God makes everything beautiful in His time.

My dad turned seventy-five this year, and though I had hoped to gift him the completed manuscript of my first novel, I only sent the first one hundred pages. Somewhere in my mad rush to complete, I realized my first draft needed rewriting. In the midst of reconstructing my story, people knocked on my door. Three little boys begged for their Mama. Fellow co-workers experienced an extended family tragedy. And in those moments, I put aside my writing and simply lived.

Though my novel is still unfinished, I know it is ripening like the oranges. My experiences are sweetening the story, deepening the flavor, and I will complete the story at the appointed time.

“Can I have another one?” My preschooler asks after we’ve consumed two of the sweetest oranges I have tasted in a long time.

“Why not?” I pluck the ripened fruit ready to fulfill their purpose—to satisfy all those who have waited.

Dear Jesus,
Teach me to wait for your perfect timing in all aspects of my life. I entrust my dreams and this gift of writing to you. Amen.

Melanie N. Brasher is a fiction and freelance writer, the wife of a professor, and the mother to three young boys. When she’s not chasing little feet or feeding hungry mouths, she creates stories, entering her world of make-believe. Follow Melanie’s writing journey on Facebook, Twitter or her website.

Wait, there’s more! Did you enjoy this article? Click the Facebook “Like” icon to vote for it in the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. The entry posted with the greatest number of Likes will win the People’s Choice Award and $100 USD.

Enter the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. Pen a 400-word devotional to encourage fellow writers worldwide. See contest guidelines and rules.

Photo above by Ellen Levy Finch, Wikipedia