A Chosen Life – Finale!

Hello! I’m very excited because today is finally the day that I get to share with you all the finale of my short story! It’s been a long time in coming – 5 weeks in fact – and I hope you haven’t become too impatient! Hopefully this last bit will live up to all your expectations. 😉 If you haven’t read part 4, you can do so here. Now, without further ado, may I introduce you to… the finale of A Chosen Life!

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The next moment, Elah began to push. In the time it took for me to draw a handful of breaths, the child’s small and slippery body slipped out into the silent world, into my waiting hands. I drew it up onto a piece of cloth I had waiting in my lap and began to rub it vigorously. It was small and silent, eyes crinkled shut, body covered in blood. The silence grew louder, deafening our waiting ears.

Oh God grant mercy.

Then, a mewling cry erupted from its tiny mouth. Then another. And another.

“Thank God!” Elah gave a sound between a laugh and a sob and reached out her hands for her long-awaited child. I handed the naked baby to her, and watched as she drew it close to her, tears running down her cheeks. “The LORD has seen, and he has provided.” Aram said softly, bending over his wife and child.

“And what exactly has he provided?” Puah asked with a nearly undistinguishable note of worry in her voice. She looked at me, fresh fear in her eyes. I shook my head, sending her a reassuring look.

“Oh!” Elah’s voice broke as she peeked between the baby’s legs. “Oh praise the LORD, he has given us a son!” Fresh tears rolled down her face as she clasped her son close to her.

The phrase rolled around my head

Praise the LORD!

A son!

The words I had dreaded so deeply as I had stood on the threshold of this house not long ago now held no fear in them – only mercy and peace. My heart was no longer thudding in fear of what man could do to me – the fear of God was greater.

Puah and I worked quickly then, delivering the afterbirth, cleaning the child and mother, settling them into the bed. As I began to pack my satchel, Puah cornered me and whispered “Shiphrah, it is a boy.”

“Yes…” I responded, hands busy retying bunches of herbs.

“Remember the decree?”

“Yes…”

“Shiphrah, our lives are at risk.” Her normally jovial face was crinkled with concern.

“Have no fear, Puah. We have the God of Israel on our side. We are to bring life, not death. And I am confident in my decision.” My whisper was soft but steady.

“Very well then.” Puah bowed her head in assent. “I shall submit to your decision. Let what will, come to pass.”

I turned back to Elah who was reclining on the bed, her son suckling at her breast. Though she was limp with exhaustion, her face was shining with a joy unspeakable. A lump grew in my throat at the sight. The barren woman redeemed. The mercy of the LORD was truly great.

“I give you many thanks, Shiphrah.” Elah said softly, her eyes shining. “And you too, Puah.”

“You have granted mercy upon my household,” added Aram, tearing his gaze from his tiny son to look at us. “We are deeply grateful.”

“Thank the LORD, the God that we all serve,” I responded. “It is he who has granted mercy this night. To him belongs all praise.”

“Yes, to him belongs the praise…” echoed Elah, her gaze dropping down to her son.

Peace flooded the room, warming my heart, and filling my gaze with unshed tears.

I had chosen life.

Perhaps at the risk of my own…

But I had chosen the right.

And I knew my life would never be the same again.

“So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.” – Exodus 1: 20-21

~

Aaaand, that’s it!! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this short story as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing it with you! 🙂

Let’s chat! How did you like this finale of the story? Have you enjoyed reading my take on Shiphrah’s story? What other Biblical accounts would you love for me to put a fictional spin on? Let me know in the comments below. 😉

 

A Chosen Life – Part 4

Greetings, and happy February to you all! My weekend so far has been full of snow… A ‘snow bomb’ hit the area where I live on Thursday evening, and dumped about 7 inches on us. Since then we’ve been revelling in this rather unusual cold white stuff. Long snowy walks, igloo-making, sledding and lots of fun and laughter have comprised the past 48 hours. It’s been such a lovely way to start off the new month!

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I captured this photo in a field at sunset yesterday after it finally stopped snowing… Such beauty!

Anyways, let’s move on from cold and snowy England back to our story set in the black of an ancient Egyptian night… If you haven’t read part 3 of A Chosen Life, you can do so here. Now onto part 4! 

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A scream tore through the air, ripping me from my memories.

Elah was writhing in the grasp of Puah and Aram, her body taut with pain. “Elah, listen,” I spoke forcefully. “Listen to me.” She gasped in distress and then went limp as the pain passed. “Elah, look at me.” She looked down at me, pain and weariness spilling from her eyes. She struggled to catch her breath, tears pooling in her dark eyes. “Elah, when the next pain comes, push. Push with all you have. You must deliver this child. Don’t scream, just push.”

She nodded weakly in assent. I had seen the look in her eyes in others before. It was a look of ultimate weariness, of growing despair, of extreme pain. I had seen it in hundreds of other women before. I had felt it in myself, years before. But I knew it was a sign that the end was near – when a woman looked like that, the child was near to drawing its first breath.

Watching her breathe raggedly, I felt a sudden kinship to this woman. We were so different – she Hebrew, I Egyptian. Our people were divided – one the slave, the other the conqueror. And yet, we were so alike… We worshipped the same God. And we both had lived through the immeasurable pain of an empty womb.

I had too failed to produce a living child. It was a nightmarish stigma – for a woman to fail to conceive and bring to fruit a child was a failure to fully live. This was my reality. This was her reality.

In my pain, I had chosen to become a midwife – chosen to replace bringing my own children into the world with the responsibility of bringing hundreds of other children into the world. But this woman…

This was her reality.

The pain.

The fear and hope mingled with tears.

The endless waiting.

The sorrow hidden by darkness.

A final chance.

And was I to crush all hope?

Desires waged war in my heart as I waited, the life of a child resting in my hands. If I feared the king, I would obey him. If I feared the God I followed, I would obey him. Oh Great God, grant me wisdom!

The next pain wracked the woman’s body, and she pushed as I mechanically instructed her. Looking up from my squatting position I saw the three faces above me – Aram’s tight with worry, Elah’s lined with pain, and Puah’s all calm as she murmured encouragement to Elah. I felt again for the child, and this time I brushed its head with my fingertips.

“Now, Elah! Push!”

The woman bore down again, channelling her pain into a strength greater than one would’ve supposed she could give, given her fatigue. I had seen it time and time again – the incredible pain, the despair, the exhaustion, followed by a leonine effort to bring the awaited child into the world. It never ceased to amaze me. Where did such strength come from?

The fear almost choked me. The moment of reckoning was nearly here. If this child was a son… A son. How could I kill any child, much less the only child of a barren woman? The decision I faced overwhelmed me, and my brain raced in circles.

Kill the sons, spare the daughters.

I have had three others, all born dead…

Oh God, grant me wisdom.

The people of Israel are too many and too mighty.

I beg of you, grant mercy upon my household.

Is this decree clear, midwives of Egypt?

I beseech you to grant me wisdom!

Suddenly the child’s head bulged into my hands. Elah gasped in pain and her body shook with a violent trembling. “Oh God!” She whispered. “Grant mercy!” In that moment, a life suspended in my hands, my heart echoed her prayer.

Oh God, grant mercy.

And then… peace.

In the brief moments before the child’s body was delivered, the room was silent. All the fear passed from me, leaving me feeling strangely light. It was as if a great burden had been lifted from my shoulders. In that instant I knew that the mercy of the God I followed was greater than any fear that the king could instil in me.

I knew what I was here for. To grant life.

I feared the God of Goshen, the God of the people of Israel. The fear of the King’s wrath was nothing compared to the reverence I held towards the God of the Hebrews. I was at peace.

~

Come back next week for the finale of A Chosen Life

Let’s chat in the comments: How have you enjoyed the story so far? Do you think Shiphrah has come to the right decision? Do you think the baby will be alright?

 

A Chosen Life – Part 3

Happy Saturday to you! 🙂 Yes, we have a Saturday once a week, but surely it’s a day to celebrate… The end of a week, a tiny break in the rush of life to chill or in my case frantically work on a million different projects that are suddenly all due very soon – it’s all good! So yes, I do think that Saturday is a rather nice day, and today especially because we’re going to go over the 1/2 way mark of A Chosen Life! 3 parts down, 2 to go… I hope you’re enjoying this story! Click here to read the last part if you haven’t already. And now for the next instalment…

*Note: This part has a flash back scene in it that is identified by italics. Just thought I’d give y’all a heads up so you aren’t confused by the change of scene. 😉

~

Soon enough, Puah had the wide bricks situated at the edge of the bed and a pot of broth warming over a charcoal brazier. I helped Elah off the bed and into a squatting position on the bricks. I hoped that her labour was far along enough for this position to help the child move down and out.

“Aram, come here.” I said. “There is no other woman to help, so you must. Hold Elah like this” – I demonstrated sitting on the edge of the bed with the weight of the woman resting sidelong against me, her arm draped around my shoulder. “Don’t let her fall. Let her rest on you.” Aram took my place just in time, as Elah began to groan once more. I squatted down in front of her and felt for the child. Nothing yet. “Puah, is the broth ready?”

“Nearly” Came the answer.

I gave a distracted nod in reply and tried to focus my thoughts on the woman in front of me. My brain was swirling – swirling with memories of marble halls and a gold-encrusted rod and flail and most of all… fear. Oh Great God, show me the way out of this fear.

The waiting time had begun. Minutes passed as Elah groaned in pain and then fell silent, then again, then again. Puah held the warmed broth to her lips and let her drink. Then she sat down on the other side of Elah and held her up with Aram. I squatted in front of her, murmuring comfort during the pauses between pains.

Light flickered, pains came and went, and again memories flooded in…

I shift uncomfortably, my knees digging into the marble floor, feeling very out of place in this large, gold inlaid chamber. I hear the soft sound of water tinkling and the far-off sound of children’s laughter. The air is warm and scented with fruity perfumes.

I have been summoned to the King.

He sits on a golden throne under a sumptuous canopy, slaves with peacock fans and richly dressed attendants arrayed around him in an opulent display. His face is like flint under his double crown, his eyes as cold as steel. I hear Puah breathing nervously beside me and feel my heart pounding hammer-like within me.

“Fear not, good midwives,” The voice of the King sends a chill down my spine. “Comply with my decree and all will be well.” We rise slowly and stand, hands clasped in front of us in the traditional sign of respect and submission.

 “Behold, listen to the words of the great god, the King of Egypt, the mighty one!” comes the shrill voice of the scribe who stands to the side of the king, holding a scroll in front of himself. “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land. Midwives of Egypt hear the decree of the king. When you serve as midwives to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, you shall let it live. These are the words of the great god, the King of Egypt, the mighty one. Heed and obey!”

The words sink slowly at first, and then I grasp the meaning. Kill the sons, spare the daughters. Shock paralyzes my brain, I stand numb.

“Is this decree clear, Midwives of Egypt?” The King’s steely voice breaks into my shocked stupor. Puah and I both nod, slowly, and then more emphatically. We can do nothing else. “Good. The kingdom of Egypt will not be overcome by this foreign people.” The King waves his hand. We are dismissed.

Together, we turn and walk silently away. Kill the sons, spare the daughters. Horror pulses through my veins. I am a woman of life, not a bringer of death. I live to bring life into the world. Am I now to purposefully bring death?

We walk through marble halls, feet slapping in unison. Pictures of the King and his family line the walls, colour bleeding into marble, painting a picture of power and might and supremacy.

The King is to be feared – it has been drilled into me since I was a child.

The King is a god to be obeyed – my mother had told me this as I sat on her knee.

The King’s word is law – to disobey means certain and instant death

 But the king does not know my heart… Puah and I – we are followers of the God of the people of Israel, who dwell in the land of Goshen. Are we to betray our faith in him?

Fear snakes around my heart, squeezing it with a deathly grip. If I disobey the king, I will be killed. No one has ever ignored a decree of the king and lived to tell of it. But I am a midwife. I bring life into this world. How can I turn from bringing life to bringing death? The Hebrews’ God is my God. How can I betray his people? But how can I not?

Oh God of Goshen, what am I to do? How can I live with the blood of a people on my hands? How can I live if I disobey this decree?

I am faced with two impossibles, and I do not know what to do. Fear grows and wages a war within me. I know I have little time to make up my mind. I will soon be called to a Hebrew house. I will hold life in my hands. And I will have to choose. The blood of a nation shed, or my own life blood spilled? How can I choose?

Oh Great God of Goshen, I beseech you to grant me wisdom…

~

See you here next Saturday for part 4. 🙂

Any guesses to what is going to happen next? Now that you know what Shiphrah is facing, what do you think she is going to do? Let’s chat in the comments!

A Chosen Life – Part 2

Hello! It’s Saturday once again (seriously how is it that we are already over half way through January?! #cansomeonepleaseslowdowntime) and that means that I’m back with part 2 of A Chosen Life. If you haven’t read part 1 yet, you can do so here. I hope you enjoy the next bit of the story! 🙂

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As Puah and I stood panting in the doorway, a familiar sight greeted my eyes. A woman, swollen with child, panting even harder than I was, sat on the edge of a low bed. A man, face tight with worry, hovered over the woman. This sight was familiar to me – I had attended at hundreds of such bedsides, seen many pain-stricken women and worry-wrinkled men. Except, this wasn’t a normal man and women. They were Hebrews. I was in Goshen – Hebrew territory. “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women…” An imperious voice threaded with ice rang like a stone striking steel in my memory. I fought to choke down a rising panic that threatened to overwhelm me.

“Elah, here are the midwives.” The man gestured to us, still standing on the threshold.

“Thank the Lord.” The woman closed her eyes, her body sagging in weariness. “I thought you would never come.”

Dread curled heavily in my stomach, but muscle memory took over. I had the experience of years, I knew what to do. Come on Shiphrah, move. In one fluid motion I undid my cloak and handed it and my satchel to Puah. “Get everything ready.” I strode over to the woman on the bed and squatted down beside her. “My name is Shiphrah. How long have the pains been coming?”

“Since midday.” The woman answered. “But they grew worse after sundown.” I quickly calculated in my head – it was now nearing the darkest hour of the night, which meant she had been in strong labour for about five hours.

“Is this your first child?”

“No.” The pain of sorrow flashed across her face. “I have had three others. All born dead.”

Her words stabbed me in my gut. I knew her pain too well.

Barren. Without children I was nothing more than a useless vessel. I was a woman who had failed to bring life into the world, now dedicated to helping others bring life into this world. And now… and now… This. The decree. The iron will. The fear.

 Oh God of Goshen, I beseech you to give me wisdom.

Shoving my memories back down to the depths of my mind, I asked, “Have your waters gone?”

“Yes, about an hour ago-Ohhhh…” Her words turned into a long moan as her body tensed up again. I guided her body so that she could lean on me, and then waited until the pain had passed.

“Elah, listen to me.” She raised her head to look at me. “Puah and I are here to help. You must do as I say.” She gave a weak nod, pushing dark tendrils of hair behind her ears with a trembling hand.

I turned to where Puah was bending over the hearth, stirring the healing herbal salve. “Puah, get the bricks. And we need some broth… Aram?” I twisted my head to lock eyes with the dark-haired man standing awkwardly in a corner. “Do you have any meat broth?” He nodded weakly in assent. “Get it and give it to my assistant.”

The mud walls flickered with light from several oil lamps, shadows of the moving figures casting odd shapes in the dimness. The tension was building inside of me, my heart pounding harder with every moment. I had seen many births. I had supported countless women, slapped breath into countless squalling babies, wiped tears, cleaned blood, shared in the joy of new life. But this time… This time might change it all. The power of life or death sat on my reluctant shoulders. The decree hung over me like a shadow. God of Goshen, I beseech you to give me wisdom...

~

Come back next week for part 3 of A Chosen Life! It is going to get rather interesting…

Let’s chat in the comments! What do you think of the situation that Shiphrah is now in? Do you have any idea what the outcome may be?

 

Short Story – A Chosen Life – Part 1

Hello! It’s Saturday, and so of course I’m back in the blogosphere to bring you another post. 😀 Today I have the great pleasure of introducing to you all the first short story of 2019 on The Way of Delight. I wrote this story probably a good three months ago, but it has taken  while for it to be suitably edited and ready for the world’s gaze… It was originally going to be a short assignment for school, but my imagination took over, and… well here we are… 3700+ words later. I had a wonderful time letting my imagination run loose as I wrote this story, and I hope that your imagination will be sparked as you read it! One final thing that I will tell you is that it is based off of an account found in the Bible – Exodus 1 to be precise. Now, with all the introductory things out of the way, let’s get onto part one of.. A Chosen Life.

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The darkness hung like the cloak around my shoulders as Puah and I hurried through the narrow streets. Up ahead I could barely make out the figure of our guide – a man who had called himself Aram when standing at our door a handful of minutes before. A dim light in his grasp bobbed up and down with the movement of his strides, and I strained my eyes to follow where he was leading us.
We turned down a narrow alley, and I could feel the ground squishing soft beneath my feet. The air was thick with the reek of human waste and wild creatures. Something soft brushed against my feet and between my legs, and I stifled a small screech. Looking behind me, I saw a pair of eyes gleaming silently in the darkness. It’s only a street cat. I tried to calm my racing heart and forced myself to keep moving.
Ahead of me I could hear Puah breathing heavily, and I wondered how long it would take to get to our destination. Dread was bubbling in my stomach, knotting my intestines and threatening to creep up to choke me. This might be the night…
“God of Goshen,” I murmured under my breath, “Oh Great God, I beseech you to give us wisdom.”
Suddenly, I bumped into a solid shape in front of me. “Ooof!” Puah let out a gasp “Shiphrah, watch out.”
“I beg your pardon.” I murmured, my hands grasping mechanically in front of my chest in the traditional sign of apology. Just as quickly, I shook my head and let my hands fall. Though Puah was much the older and deserved the respect, I was, in fact, the one in charge here. And besides it was much too dark for her to even see my hands. I could barely make out the outline of her short body in front of me.
“Good midwives?” Came a pleading whisper. “Good midwives, I… I…” The low voice of our guide suddenly broke and trailed off.
“Well, what is it?” Came the sharp whisper of Puah. I bit back a smile – I was fond of this plump little woman with such spirit. We had worked together for many years now, and her steady hands and ready tongue were good companions for my more retiring and quiet self.
“Good midwives.” Again came the whisper. I could not see the man’s face, for the lamp was small and he held it low. “I beg of you, grant mercy upon my household this night. Please, you must deliver this child alive. My wife is barren.”
“And so you shall continue be, if you don’t take us to your house soon!” Puah shot back in a biting whisper. “This alley stinks and this is no time of night to be standing around discussing the condition of your household.”
“Be silent Puah.” I placed a hand on her shoulder. “Sir, we will do what we can. Take us to your woman.”
The man gave a sigh, lifted the lamp high and set off again. The light was weak against the heavy pall of darkness, and my breath came thick with apprehension. We turned another corner, made our way down another steep and slick alley – Puah muttering under her breath about the time of night all the way – and then came out into a wider street. Above us the sky suddenly opened above us in a flurry of stars – a tapestry of wonder against the velvet darkness. I caught my breath in a gasp, awed by the beauty that peered down upon this silent town.
But the man was already striding quickly down the street, with a whispered “This way!” trailing over his shoulder. Squat mud-brick houses lined the soundless street, and I felt as if they stared at me with empty eyes as we passed along. Suddenly a faint cry pierced the silence. As we continued to walk briskly, it came again, louder this time. The man picked up his already hurried pace and before I knew it, the three of us were fairly flying down the street. Then the man abruptly turned left, hurtled down an alley, and came to a skidding stop by a small house on the right. Puah and I rushed breathlessly behind him, the cries ringing louder in our ears with every step. We reached the house just as the man opened the door and entered. We followed behind….

~

That’s all for this week! Come back next week for part two of the unfolding story of Shiphrah, Puah and the distraught man…

Let’s chat! What do you think of the story so far? What do you think is going to happen inside the house?