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Scraped Off the Bone

Kristen’s Mount Hermon Writing Contest Entry

Scraped Off The Bone

Courage, huh?

You only see courage in the darkness. On those empty nights when even the stars look angry and cold. Courage rises up when you’ve taken a beating. It walks along shadowed paths, not through sunlit meadows. Do you really want to see courage? There is a cost to it, a terrible pain. Courage is never easy and plump. Courage gets scraped off the bone, after the flesh has worn away.

Yeah, I have seen courage.

In that little girl who kept house at the age of ten. Her Southern belle momma had died and while her daddy was fast with a gun, he didn’t care much for cooking. She was the finest hostess I ever met and always set the table with china. Her specialty: lemon meringue pies and calling children out of the cold with a cup of cocoa and a piece of gooey, bubbling cinnamon toast.

I have seen courage.

In that man in his fifties, standing to follow God. His kids kept a “swear jar” but he didn’t need it anymore. He retired, gave twenty acres of empty land to God, then worked every day for the rest of his life. He poured himself out in service until he died in his chair, at one hundred and four, in the log cabin he built next to the camp he founded.

I have seen courage.

In that young pastor who left safety behind. His church. His home. His paycheck. He moved his family into a single bedroom with the promise that his folks wouldn’t let them starve. Then he started the summer ministry at that tiny scrap of a camp where his parents had planted their hearts so many years before. He died there, working on the off-grid power system that gave light to their home.

I have seen courage.

In the woman who buried two husbands. One died suddenly, in medias res, caught in the daily grind of a dream. One died slowly, melted away, slipped from broad shoulders and strength to bedpans and bones. She was the one who was strong, so very strong. She carried us along until the day that dawn came once again. 

I have seen courage.

In the boy raised with anger. The hush of death, the hiss of words, the silence and chill of hatred. He walked out, broken but not crushed, scarred but still able to feel. And after all that, he dared the impossible. He loved. He loved me. Loved our sons. Loved every single angry hurting child the Lord sent our way. Loved until it stripped him bare and left him sobbing. Then he had the audacity to love some more.

I have seen courage.

In the girl doing CPR on her father, in her red slippers, out in the snow. Chest compressions until her arms trembled. In the woman making homemade soup. Another death. Another dad. Final breaths, again. In the woman afraid to serve, afraid because she saw the cost. But she did and she does and she writes every holy and terrible thing down. Stories and pictures, salvation and pain, inheritance and the hope of a future. She writes and walks forward and dares a broken heart, just one more day, just one more time, until it is broken for good.

Used up. Scraped from the bone. Till nothing is left but courage.

Kristen Joy Wilks


I promise you a crazed animal, a concussion, and a kiss in every single're welcome!

14 thoughts on “Scraped Off the Bone

  • Grandma Judy

    Oh My Kristen, This is beautiful!! You made me cry 🙂 That’s a good thing.

  • Cynthia Hickok

    Oh Kristen! I’ve been praying wit your mom for years and knew you wrote but this!!!! This is incredible!!! I’ll be reading you for more!

  • Oh, wow! Thank you Mom. Writing this was just one of those moments … you know.

  • Wow! Thank you so much, Cynthia. What an encouragement. Now, I must tell you that I write a variety of things, most of which are not from such a raw and hurting place. I can’t handle writing too many pieces like that, ha! I don’t want you to be disappointed when you read my humor or my children’s stories. They have a different calling and a different goal. However, the place that I write in this style the most is for the summer camp blogs. So you might enjoy them. The winter camps are short and don’t give me as much material, but when you have a week of ministry to write about there can be a lot of depth. Thank you again, and God bless!

  • Carrie Sorensen

    I know these people. I have seen them. I have seen courage. Powerful writing.

  • Oh, Carrie. Thank you. We have seen a bit more courage than we wanted in life, huh. All of us. Love you so much!

  • Patti Wade

    Beautifully written! Congratulations! I love every word!

  • Wow! Thank you so much, Patti! I sure appreciate your encouragement.

  • Merrolynn Burleigh

    Beautiful writing, Kristen!! And I can see each person that you wrote about. I haven’t gotten to know you & your wonderful family personally as well as the rest but never the less I feel like you are all an extension of the ones who went before you. I see the beauty of your precious grandma & mom in you. And the courage & humor of your grandpa & dad. I first met your grandpa & grandma when I was a 19 year old newlywed young girl. How they loved me just like their own. And dear Aunt Lily—another woman of great courage, when her husband was a Seabee in World war 2. He thought he would never get to come home so he didn’t write to Aunt Lily for 4 years. She didn’t know if he was dead or alive, but she never lost hope or courage. She had a burst appendix during that time so had to have a surgery that left her unable to have children. A real heartache!! After her husband (my late husband’s uncle) Clarence came home from the war they built a good & loving life together, which included your grandma Autumn (Aunt Lily’s sister) & grandpa Delbert (my late husband’s 2nd cousin) & your dad & his siblings. Then when Uncle Clarence was killed in a winter accident Aunt Lily grieved to the point of wanting to just give up & die. But God reminded her that He still had a plan for her. So she gathered her courage & had a home built up on the Camas to finish the dream that had been hers & Clarence’s. Then came the calling of your grandma & grandpa to build a bible camp. Aunt Lily was excited with the thought of doing something with your grandparents to honor God. so the camp came to reality & how God has blessed the work of these faithful ones who have gone before you & Daryl, & now both of you & your awesome boys, & all the faithful ones that God has brought along to help with the work there. Only eternity will tell of the souls saved because of all the faithful ones of all of you that He has called to serve Him in this place. I am sorry this is so long. May God continue to bless your faithfulness & love in all that you do to serve Him.

  • Thank you so much, Merrolynn! Yes, I remember Great Aunt Lily! She was beginning to descent into Alzheimer’s when I met her and so my memories are not of her in her prime (and are very exciting!) but I do remember her love for the camp and for her family. Thank you so much for sharing some stories about her that I didn’t know. They are precious to have and know!

  • Anita Randall

    You made me weep. And you encouraged me. This is real life. These are the tests in real life. Thank you. Your “verbal picture” is worth a thousand words. No more words needed.

  • Janet Spoon

    I can certainly see why you won! I love your writing style, verbiage, and syntax.
    (I know I sound pompous!)
    cordially yours,
    you newest fan.

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