Like rain falls upon the field
Let Your word fall on my soul
Let it give me peace and joy
And make me perfectly whole

May Your Spirit fill me
May I never be the same
May I ardently work
To glorify Your name

May You like rain wash me
And make me pure and clean
Put Your mark upon my head
I would want it to be seen

So that I could proclaim You
My love for You never hide
And when people look at me
May they see You inside

This is my petition
This is what I pray
But my ultimate request is
God, please have Your way

Honesty is the Best Policy

Once upon a time, in a land far away, lived a young man named Nicholas Sullivan. He had been orphaned at age thirteen when his parents died of a strange sickness. Now he was a peasant, living with his wife Alexis and their two children in a tiny shack outside Darcenea, the capital city of that kingdom. Nick had no education, so he had trouble finding a good job. The only jobs he found were unreliable, low-paying jobs.

Nick was walking down the street one day when he saw a woman with a purse go down the road. He asked her, “May I have some money please?” The lady looked at him with sharp eyes.

“No,” she flatly answered. “I am not spending any money on a  hooligan.”

“Oh, Miss,” Nick lied, “I am gathering funds for the Darcenea orphanage. They could really use some money. Would you please give?”

“The orphanage, eh?” the woman said, looking at his thin frame and tattered, dirty clothes. “So you are not some kid from the street? What is your name?”

“Nick Sullivan,” Nick said. “I am not a street kid.”

“I guess I will give,” she said, and handed him ten coins (which is worth one hundred dollars today).

“Thank you so much, ma’am. I will take it to the orphanage,” Nick said as he left. The lady was smart. She did her errands, and then went to the orphanage.

Meanwhile, Nick went  to his shack. He was excited. He called, “Alexis, I have ten coins to spend! We will not go hungry!”

“Great, Nick!” Alexis called. Then Nick told Alexis what he had done.

“Will they get me? Will she find out it did not go to the orphanage?” Nick asked Alexis.

“They probably will not, Nick,” Alexis said. They decided not to worry about it. They had a nice meal that night.

When the lady entered the orphanage, she inquired, “Hello, sir, did you receive a donation of ten coins today?”

“No, Ma’am,” the worker replied. “Do you wish to give?”

“Yes, but not right now,” she said as she stormed away. She ran to the royal castle and  called to the guard, “Someone stole from me!”

“Who?” the guard asked. “How much?”

“A kid named Nick Sullivan stole ten coins from me!” she replied. “He told me it was for the Darcenea orphanage, but it was not, so he lied and deceived me too!” The lady told them everything she knew about Nick and the money.

“We will find him and bring him to trial,” the guard assured her. She left, feeling very angry at Nick.

The next morning Alexis was in town to buy a loaf of bread. She heard the town crier calling, “Wanted! Nick Sullivan! Wanted for theft!” She bought the loaf of bread and ran to the old shack.

“Nick! You are wanted!” Alexis called. Nick took the rest of the money and hid it in a hole under his mat. They were scared. How had the lady found out? They sat there and waited, worried. Would they be found?

The next day some of the king’s soldiers arrived at the Sullivan shack.

“Hello,” Nick said. “What are you here for?”

“We have a warrant for your arrest, Mr. Sullivan,” one guard said. “Come with us.”

“What? I am innocent!” Nick lied loudly.

“Then prove it! You are coming with us,” he said as he led him away. Alexis took the hands of their two children, Joseph and Kate, and followed behind.

“Where is Papa going?” six-year-old Joseph asked, his little face looking up at his mother.

“He is going to court,” Alexis said.

“What is court?” Joseph questioned.

“It is where they do judgements,” Alexis answered.

“So they will judge Papa?” Joseph wondered.

“Correct,” Alexis said. When they arrived at the Darcenea court house, they took a seat in the back. “Quiet, children,” she whispered, her heart beating.

“Court is now in session,” the judge called. “We are here to try a case between Mr. Nicholas Sullivan and Mrs. Victoria Baldwin. Mrs. Baldwin, state your case.”

“Nick Sullivan stole from me!” she called. “He said he was giving it to the orphanage, but he did not! I went to the orphanage, and the man said that they had not gotten my ten coins. Nick stole them!”

“How do you defend yourself, Mr. Sullivan?” the judge asked.

“How? I am innocent!” Nick called. “Check my house and see that I do not have her money!”

“We shall do that,” the judge said. Then he called an intermission so that the king’s soldiers could search the shack. Nick and his family sat together with guards watching them. Nick and Alexis were concerned. When the soldiers came back, the judge entered and everyone took their places.

“Have you found any evidence?” the judge asked the soldiers.

“Yes, your Honor, here are Mrs. Baldwin’s coins! We found them under Mr. Sullivan’s mat!” one of the guards said.

“Are these your coins, Mrs. Baldwin?” the judge asked.

“They are mine, all right,” Mrs. Baldwin said. “But I only see nine. Mr. Sullivan must have used one to buy something.”

“Is this true, Mr Sullivan? Do you admit to your crime?” the judge called.

“No, I am innocent!” Nick called.

“How do you prove yourself?” the judge questioned.

There was silence in the room as Nick slowly bowed his head. “I can not,” Nick admitted. “I spent that coin. I am sorry.”

“Sure you are!” Mrs. Baldwin called. “I don’t trust you.”

“Neither should he be trusted,” the judge said, “after what he said to us! Send him to jail until we have a judgement. He is guilty.”

Nick looked at Alexis shamefully and whispered, “I have done wrong. I hope you will be okay while I am in jail.”

“We will be okay, Nick,” Alexis said. “I love you.” Nick was taken to jail.

The next morning, Nick’s jail cell door opened. “Come out. They have made the judgement,” the guard at the doorway said. Nick promptly left the old, dark cell and went to the courtroom. He saw Alexis and his children, but only for a moment before he was taken to the front of the room.

“The judgement is, Mr. Sullivan,” the judge solemnly said. “for stealing and lying in court, three weeks in the labor camp by the coast of the sea. No exceptions. Your wife and children can come if they want to. You will leave on the next train. Mrs. Sullivan, will you be going?”

“Yes, your Honor,” Alexis said.

“Then go, pack your bags,” the judge said, and the guards led them to their house.

“Alexis, what are you getting yourself into?” Nick questioned as they went to the shack to get their stuff. “You are pregnant and you are going to a labor camp? Are you sure this is right?”

“I would never leave you, Nick,” Alexis answered. Then they packed their bags and went to the station. They got on the train and left.

“What is a labor camp?” Joseph asked.

“It is a place where Papa can work out his debt,” Alexis answered.

“Oh,” Joseph said and looked at his mama. “Will I have to work?”

“Some, but not more than usual,” Alexis assured him.

At the end of the day they arrived at the labor camp. The camp sergeant told Nick, “You must work all the time. You shall fulfill the tasks I have planned for you each day. You shall sleep when you can, but you must fulfill the tasks. If you do not, you shall take a beating and do the tasks the next day, in addition to that day’s chores. Laziness is not accepted. By the end of the three weeks, Mr. Sullivan, you are to have cleared all of the debris off these dirt roads leading to town.” Then the sergeant showed him a map of all the roads he needed cleared. Nick thought it was a lot of work, but he could do it. Soon he got to work, even though it was nighttime. “I can already tell that you are a hard worker,” the sergeant said. “Good job.”

“Thank you,” Nick said. Before long it was suppertime, and Nick went to eat.

He ate with his family, and met the other families there at the camp: James and Marie and their two children; Charles and Sarah and their little boy; and Adam and Samantha and their three children. Then the Sullivan family went to their shack to sleep.

Nick worked hard to clear the roads. Alexis also worked hard, but not as hard as Nick, for she was far along in her pregnancy. One night Nick came to the shack. “I am doing well on my work,” he said. “I shall have it all done by the end of the three weeks.”

“Great, Nick!’ Alexis said. “I am so proud of you.”

“I will pay Mrs. Baldwin the money, with extra, when I return,” Nick said. “I am sorry for what I did. It was wrong of me.”

“Oh, Nick,” Alexis said. “I feel the same way.”

“I am glad we are together in this,” Nick said.

“Yes, Nick,” Alexis said. “We are together in sorrow and in joy.” Thus they continued to work side by side. The children had to be cared for, for they kept on wandering off the roads.

“Joseph, go get Kate,” Nick would say, and then again a few minutes later Joseph would have to get Kate again.

“I help you, Papa,” Kate would say.

“Sure,” Nick would say. Kate would then rake the ground a little before trying to leave again.

One day Alexis could not work any longer. She did things in the shack, watched the children, and rested.

Nick worked very hard. He observed that the others were not working hard enough. They would always say, “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Adam and Samantha worked some, but still only enough for the day. Marie and Sarah, the other two wives, just stayed inside and did not work outside. Nick tried to encourage them to help their husbands. He did not want to see the men be punished. But they would not listen.

When the three weeks were over, Nick was ready. The others were not.

At noon the inspectors came. They told James and Charles that they both had to stay another week and finish their tasks. Adam and Samantha were told to hurry and finish his tasks so his family could leave the next morning. When they looked at Nick and Alexis’s work, they said “Good job. You did it all! I will take you back to Darcenea with me.” The Sullivans were so happy. They went on the train from the coast back to Darcenea.

Nick set off to making a more honest life for himself. He did not trick or steal in order to get money. He was honest and told people he was poor. He ended up getting even more money that way. Alexis had a baby boy, and named him Emmet, which means truth.

One day Alexis saw a plant near their shack. She and Nick both thought that it looked edible, so they decided to try it in a salad. It was very tasty, so they sold it to others to make money. The business went well, and soon Alexis had a garden of the plants. They named the special plant “Sullivan herb.” They were not as poor any more.

One day news came that the king of that country, King Randolph, had died. He had left the kingdom to his great nephew. The nephew was somewhere in the country and had to be found. Nick wondered why this nephew was so hard to find. Nick was in town one day when he heard the town crier calling: “The great nephew of King Randolph has been named! If anyone can find Nicholas Sullivan, tell the authorities!”

“Well, it’s not me,” Nick thought. “There must be another Nicholas Sullivan. Strange.” He left to go home.

A few days later Nick was holding baby Emmet and watching Joseph and Kate while Alexis was in the front yard selling Sullivan herb. Some soldiers came over. “Hello, soldiers,” Alexis said. “Would you like some of my herbs?”

“No, ma’am, but do you know a Nicholas Sullivan?”

“Yes, he is my husband,” Alexis replied. “He is right over there.” Then she pointed.

“Hello, is this about the new king?” Nick asked.

“Yes,” they said. “It is. What was your mother’s name?”

“Her name was Jane,” Nick said.

“Jane Andrews Sullivan?” they asked.

“Yes,” Nick answered. “How did you know?”

“Because she is the niece of King Randolph!” they called. “You are the one we are looking for!” Nick was utterly shocked.

“How did she become a peasant then? How come I did not know about this?” Nick asked.

“She married a peasant,” the guard said. “And she must not have told you.”

“We did not talk much, and she trained me not to ask too many questions,” Nick said. “She never told me she was the king’s niece.” Alexis’s eyes bulged.

“You are the king, Nick?” Alexis bravely uttered. “And I am queen?”

“Yes,” Nick said happily. He wanted to be king, and was very excited.

“Wait. We will have to check your record first,” the soldiers said, and left.

Nick and Alexis wondered what they would think of Nick’s previous stealing of Mrs. Baldwin’s money. “We paid her back and did not do it again,” Nick said. “We should be okay.”

“I hope so,” Alexis said. “Because I want to be queen!” They waited.

The next day the guards came back. “We have checked your record and we found that you have stolen before,” one guard said.

“Yes, indeed,” Nick said. “But I would never do it again. I am terribly sorry and I always try to be honest now.”

“That may be so,” the guard said. “But we need a lot of proof of your new found honesty if we are to trust you.”

“He has changed drastically. He would never steal now!” Alexis said.

“We need more proof,” the guards said.

“Then stay today and ask all the guests that come to our store how honest Nick is,” Alexis said. “You will see I am right.”

“Okay, we will do that,” the guards said, so they did. They asked every guest about the honesty of Nick and Alexis.

“Oh, they have not done anything wrong,” one lady said.

“Oh, they are very honest,” another said.

“They are as honest as can be,” another said.

This went on all day. At the end of the day the guards said, “You did steal, but because of how honest you are now, you can be king.”

Nick was so happy, Alexis was bouncing up and down, and the children were excited.

And so, the next month Nick became king and Alexis queen, with Joseph and Emmet as princes and, not to be forgotten, the darling Princess Katherine. King Nicholas was a very good and honest king. He did what was best for the kingdom, and his subjects were very proud of their king. He had honest and peaceful relations with other countries as well.

King Nicholas and Queen Alexis went on to have more children. They trained them to be honest because, after all, honesty is the best policy.




I looked slowly down at my dress. Do I look fancy enough? I wondered. My dress was red satin with a black satin sash, but still I wondered if it was grand enough. I was going to a party at the Hampton House, an elaborate home in the middle of town that was owned by my Papa’s boss. He and his family were having a party to celebrate summer, and they had invited our family.

I was a shy girl of fourteen, who did not have much self confidence at the time. My good mother had tried to teach me to have some more faith in myself, but I was still unsure of myself. “Mama, do I look okay?” I asked.

“Yes, dear, you look lovely,” Mama said, looking fondly at me.

My identical twin Alisina, who had been fixing her hair at the mirror, walked toward us. Even though we are identical, our personalities were quite different. Alisina was always cheery, with a big smile on her face, but I was very shy and rarely showed my timid smile. “Oh, I am so excited!” Alisina called. “Are you excited, Marina?”

“Yes,” I said, quietly as always, but inside I was not so sure about this party. I knew that Mr. and Mrs. Richards, the owners of the Hampton House, had invited many people, and I did not like crowds.

Then we heard Papa call, “Get in the wagon, children!”  We hurried down the stairs and to the wagon. Our other siblings, eleven-year-old Josiah and nine-year-old Clara, were already in the wagon.

“You all look so wonderful,” said Mama as she eyed our outfits of blue, pink, and red. Every strand of hair and every curl was combed and tamed. Mama was pleased. We drove away to the Hampton House. We are the only people with a wagon now, I thought as I saw all the cars driving through the streets of Savannah, Georgia, our city. But then I counted three other wagons on the short ride. Dust blew from the streets as the cars drove by. I tried to keep my dress clean. I was still very nervous that I would not be fancy enough for the party.

“Alisina, make sure you don’t get dust on your dress!” I called above the roar of the cars.

“I will just brush it off when we arrive,” Alisina replied. Alisina is so carefree, I thought. I don’t want to be seen in a dusty dress.

We soon arrived at the Hampton House. Alisina brushed the dust off her dress quickly and ran, her brown waves flying, to the Richards’ dog Nannie. I chewed nervously on my brown braid as I stood hesitantly on the brick front porch. A butler greeted us and let us in. Alisina ran to join us.

We stepped into a grand tile foyer. Strains of music came from the parlor. A beautiful wooden staircase climbed to an open hallway above. Mr. Richards and sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Richards came from the parlor just beyond the foyer. I was so amazed by the house that my face was aglow like Alisina’s. “Alisina!” Elizabeth called, giving me a hug. I blushed slightly.

“Good day, Elizabeth,” I muttered.

“Elizabeth!” Alisina called, as her eyes caught sight of her friend. Then Elizabeth realized she had mistaken me for Alisina. I was too shy to be acquainted with Elizabeth previously.

“Forgive me, Marina,” Elizabeth said sincerely. I nodded politely as Mrs. Richards walked over.

“Greetings,” Mrs. Richards said. “Don’t you look pretty?” she continued as she looked at us children.

“Thank you, ma’am,” we all said in unison.

“Now which one is Alisina and which one is Marina?” she asked.

“I am Alisina, she is Marina,” Alisina answered.

“You two look so alike. Come along to the drawing room,” Mrs. Richards said, leading us through a beautiful dining room with a globe in the corner and beautiful curtains, then through double doors into a drawing room with windows all around. There on the couch was Grace, who was the youngest Richards at nine years of age. She was wearing a pretty pink dress that looked lovely with her blonde hair. She stood up to greet us. She and Clara were friends, since they were the same age. Then we greeted the Richards boys, Walker and Oliver, but soon all of the Richards family left to greet more guests.

I sat shyly on the settee while Alisina looked happily out the window at the guests who were arriving. “Alisina, you don’t want them to see you,” I said, not wanting to draw attention.

“Why not?” Alisina demanded, her brown eyes laughing. I shrugged. Elizabeth came and led us back to the tile foyer to meet the other guests.

I shyly greeted the guests. Many of the older ladies had stylish dresses with chiffon overlays. Their large-brimmed hats were decorated with flowers or feathers. But the young ladies had simple dresses like mine. I don’t look too bad, I thought hesitantly.

Alisina was very outgoing, speaking to the other guests with Elizabeth and Clara. Josiah and Grace joined a group of children who were playing cards at the dining room table. I sat down to watch the game as the dealer started to pass out cards. He dealt to me, thinking I wanted to play. My heart raced. I did not want to play cards, but yet, I did not want to be rude. Then a boy came over and said, “I want to play!”

“You can take my place. I do not know how to play,” I said bravely.

“Okay,” he said and sat down in my place. I sighed and watched while standing at the side of the polished oak table. Then I looked and saw Alisina spinning the globe.

“Alisina, be careful,” I said quietly.

“Why?” Alisina said. “Be careful for what?”

“Be careful that you do not damage the globe,” I replied.

“You are silly, Marina, to worry so much,” Alisina said quietly.

Then Elizabeth came over and said, “We are going to play croquet!” The young people headed outside to play. I slowly followed at a distance, so as not to be confused with the people who wanted to play. I stepped out onto the brick back porch and then onto the stone pathway around a beautiful fish pond. Alisina followed me. She started stepping on the rocks around the pond.

“Stop, Alisina,” I said. “You might fall in the pond.”

“Do not worry,” Alisina replied.  “These rocks are large.” And she continued into the garden, balancing on the rocks there. I walked around the path and stood watching the game. Alisina went to play croquet. Soon it was time for supper. Mr. Richards said the blessing. I took my plate inside. I was not interested in being outside with all the other people. I was also concerned that my manners were not refined enough. I sat at a table by the kitchen where the Richards family ate when they had no guests. As I finished my meal, I could see the young people coming inside to the parlor. Some of the young ladies took turns playing the piano. When I entered the parlor, Alisina turned to me and said, “Marina, you should play the piano.”

“No, Alisina,” I gasped.

“Why not?”

“Because I am shy,” I whispered.

“You play the piano?” a girl asked.

“Please do play,” another girl said.

“Marina James, please do play,” said a lady.

“Play, Marina!” called Clara.

“Yes!” Alisina called, looking at me with an encouraging smile. I tried to feel confident, but I was still shy. I blushed brightly. Then I realized it would actually save me embarrassment by playing the piano, so I played my best song. My fingers knew what to do, and I did not make one mistake! I was so happy!

“Take a bow, Marina!” Alisina called, so I took a bow. I was so thrilled.

“That was really good,” Elizabeth said, smiling.

“Thank you,” I replied. I felt like I was walking on a cloud. The compliments boosted my morale. I played more songs on the piano later in the evening, and I even joined others to play games. It was such a wonderful time. For the rest of the night I did not think of my dress, my shyness, or my worries. I was just enjoying myself. For once I felt like Alisina, carefree and joyful. That was one of the loveliest nights of my life.

Now I am happy. I try not to worry, and I try not to be abashed. I am gaining confidence to use the talents that God has given me. I do not want to hide my talents like the man in the parable did. I want to be brave and bold as I share God’s blessings.