Our writing assignment was to make a special card for someone for any
reason. It just happened to be my mom’s birthday on Sunday and this was
perfect for a gift.
Inside the card I was listing the number of prayers I would say for her,
along with how much extra work I’d perform. At an early age I had learned
to write big numbers–high enough to impress anyone. But now my teacher had
stopped by my desk.
“Make sure you’re not just putting any numbers down,” she said
gently after she’d read my card. “The Lord wants you to be honest in what
you promise and to keep your word, even in small things.”
I stopped with a groan. I’d written my card so carefully–and in permanent
ink! I shuddered as I thought of really having to read two chapters in the
Bible each day, pray for Mom, and keep my room picked up! But
there was no way of changing things now. And I knew Mom was worth it, even
though I did manage to squeeze in the words, “for one week”, beside my
When I handed Mom the card on Sunday, she smiled. “Why thank you, Emma,
this is wonderful! How nice of you to pray for me and pick up without being
told. I can always use the extra help.” She set the card open in the middle
of the table as we started breakfast.
I noticed my older brother Ryan peek at the card and give me a look that
said, No way are you going to do all those things.
I returned his challenge with one of my own. I scrunched up my face like
I’d chewed on a lemon, and quickly stared down at my plate as I shoveled in
the food. His mean look only made me more determined to do what I had
That night I took a survey of all I had written. “OK, seven days of
cleaning up my room. I may as well do my reading and prayers as soon as I
finish my room each day. That way I will be done in about an hour!”
The week loomed large over me, but I knew I would make it through–
That night, after scurrying around to hang up clothes and dust the dresser
top, I set the mood that night by plugging in my old night-light. Then I
knelt on the soft, white throw rug by my bed for prayer. The small bulb
gave off a warm, friendly glow and just enough light for reading. I found
myself still alert after I had finished. I had even added a prayer for a
friend who was sick.
That wasn’t so bad
, I mused. Maybe I shouldn’t have cut short the number of days for this. I
climbed into bed feeling pretty holy.
The next two days passed without problems, but on the third day things
My brother Ryan had had a rough day at school and had come home intent on
making my life as miserable as his. He immediately set about teasing. I
hated to be teased, but I didn’t always get satisfaction from my parents
when I complained. Sometimes they’d tell Ryan to stop, and sometimes they’d
look exasperated and say, “Emma, you must be teasable–just ignore
it.” This was sooo maddening!
Well, by that evening I’d had enough! Nothing seemed to squelch Ryan’s
desire to get to me, even though he had been made to sit on the couch and
“behave”. For some reason I couldn’t make myself turn away from him.
Instead, I tallied up every face he made at me until I was ready to burst!
Suddenly a devious plan popped into my head. I checked out site A–Ryan
sitting on the couch. Then I calculated distance and obstacles to site
B–my mom folding laundry in the bedroom. I knew I could make it; I was a
fast runner. It would take a little sacrifice on my part, but it was worth
it to see him get into trouble.
I sauntered up to him with an innocent look on my face. Then, before he
knew what happened, I kicked him in the shin and took off running. I could
hear his heavy footsteps closing in on me as I rounded the corner and
rushed into the bedroom. Ryan caught up with me just then and let me have a
good slug in the back–right in front of Mom!
Did I ever play it up big–lots of howling, and tears, and everything!
“Ryan! You know better than to ever hit your sister! I want to talk to you
With the sweet sound of scolding ringing in my ears, I quietly slipped away
feeling good, and rather smug about my revenge.
What’s the deal?
But an hour later, kneeling beside my bed, I felt bad. I had tried
reading the Bible several times already, but something kept distracting my
thoughts–interrupting my routine. I suddenly realized the problem: I felt
guilty! Of all the dumb deals! I finally figure out how to get even with
Ryan, and then I can’t even enjoy it. I jumped into bed without reading or
praying at all and forced myself to go to sleep. I’d catch up later.
Things were pretty peaceful on Thursday. Nothing was said about the night
before, and Ryan was behaving himself quite well. That made me feel even
worse! At dinner I could hardly eat. I watched from the corner of my eye as
Ryan minded his own business and finished his meal.
Then, for some unearthly reason, thoughts of tenderness toward him washed
over me. My brother, who had come to my rescue when a bully at school was
bothering me, and had so often let me tag along and play ball with him. I
couldn’t stand it!
After dinner, I meekly approached the table where he was doing his
homework. I stood there for a full minute before he looked up. “What do you
want?” he snapped.
I swallowed before answering. “I–I just wanted to say… sorry about last
night.” Before he had a chance to recover from the shock, I ran upstairs
and prepared for bed.