Tetelestai: “The Masterpiece Is Finished”


Tetelestai: “The Masterpiece Is Finished”
by Amy Catlin Wozniak

It’s there on the closet door.

Black and smudgy against the white enamel. An inky fingerprint.

Ryan’s fingerprint.

I’m deep cleaning Ryan’s room as I always do before the holidays. Vacuuming corners and washing woodwork and walls when the jolt of seeing it sends me spiraling.

Grief grabs me by the throat.

“Why,” I cry. Just as I did that day on that dusty trail when my husband, Michael, Ryan’s dad, and I found Ryan’s lifeless body. That single moment shattering our lives and embedding shards so deep into the scars that they can still make us bleed with a memory.

As I trace the jagged edges of that fingerprint with my own, the tears stream. I don’t have the heart to wash it away. Even though we’ve seen seven holiday seasons since he died, it still feels too painfully soon to let more of him go.

I look over at the chair where Ryan used to sit and play his guitar. I close my eyes wishing I could hear him playing his instrument of choice—the bass, the electric—both right there, poised and ready, in case he could somehow step back in and pick up where he left us… I’d even be happy to hear him play his Ukelele, though I can admit too much of that twangy sound used to make me cringe.

But all I hear is Burl belting out Have a Holly Jolly Christmas…  “Stop,” I yell at the Alexa. The holidays—life—would be a lot jollier if Ryan was still here.

But—he’s not.

As we slowly step into the season, my mind races with how we should embrace the joy of Christmas when there will always be a ribbon of sadness twisting through our celebrations. An empty seat we long to be filled — if just one more time.

I walk over to his bookshelf and begin dusting when I see something hanging down in between the shelves. I pull on it and release it from where it’s been hiding. It’s an ink drawing. Ry was a gifted artist in ink and chalk. I unfurl it and hold it up, noticing how close it is to being finished. There are just a few blank spaces. You can tell it’s a Ryan Wozniak original, the details are all there… it’s even signed.

Looking at it, I can’t help but wonder if he ran out of ink, or ran out of patience. Or did he just ran out of time?

It’s just another of the things he left here.


Standing there holding that black and white drawing, my mind latches onto another opposite phrase.

“It is finished,” (John 19:30), or in Greek, tetelestai, the last words of Jesus on the cross. Hope slices into the walls around my heart.

In New Testament times when an artist would complete a work, during the unveiling he would shout, “tetelestai.” A declaration that they finished their masterpiece.

Yes, we’re tiptoeing into the joyous season. The beginning. Christ’s Birth. But before He took his first human breath, the ending was in place. The ending of his life, yes, but also the end of death, as we know it. When Jesus said “It is finished,” he meant, “I successfully completed the work I came to do.”

Although Ryan didn’t finish that piece, and sometimes, if I am being honest, I feel like he didn’t finish his life here, I’m reminded he’s not finished. He’s just ahead of us on our chase to meet Jesus in the flesh.

We lost him, but he gained Heaven.

I smile at the thought of him fully alive. My mind reaches back to those first few months after he died when his room still smelled like him. Even now, surrounded by his things, his books, his Bible, his Bongos, I can almost sense him in the room. I look back over at that fingerprint and smile, feeling the tension trickle out of me, knowing I could walk over and scrub it away because Ryan’s fingerprints are all over our lives.

They are in his artwork, so vibrant and still here, the music he made, the writing he did.

Planted on the very souls of those who love him. They grow more deeply rooted each year in an untold number of hearts and lives touched by the gifts we give in his name at Christmas.

I’m filled with gratitude for that faded fingerprint. For now, I’m beyond my grief, past all the uncertainty, and on the other side of all the whys, I have about Ryan’s death. Standing securely on certitude, I’m now prepared to step into another holiday season. Ready to invite others to fix their faith on The Christmas Gift. To welcome them to plant their hope right next to mine, on the birth and truth of the One who came down from heaven on Christmas Eve to embed His fingerprints into the lives of poor lost souls with no hope.

Saving them.

Saving me—and offering me the promise that I will see Ryan’s smile again.


Feeling better, I tell the Alexa to resume. Joy To The World fills the air, and I close my eyes and listen to the words…

The Lord has come—


The masterpiece is finished.



Amy Catlin Wozniak was raised in Nebraska-Go Huskers-and now resides in Northeast Ohio. There she shares her life with her soulmate, four children, two grandsons, and a Great Pyrenees named Scarlett O’Hara, who has absolutely no problem living up to her name sake.

She loses all track of time when she’s hiking, reading, or writing. Her passion is sharing stories that reflect God’s hope. 

Website: AmyCatlinWozniak.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AmysEchoingHearts

Twitter: @echoinghearts

Instagram: @echoinghearts

New Year Wide Open

New Year Wide Open
by Sarah Freymuth

Snow shakes from the tuft of clouds like salt falling from its holder. There’s a freshness in the air that’s breathing quiet, steady. Cold is smooth, like satin on my exposed skin. And above in bare branches, birds speak with one another, their whistling coos calm across the trees.

This white-painted world washes the new year wide open.

We believe the burning hope within to start again.

But I, I wonder.

Where am I beginning?

Do I reset and start from scratch? Or simply continue in new cadence, found rhythm? I am still experimenting with the intricacies of this unexpected life.

To embrace the uncertainty and rest in what I cannot see. Stir with hope a resilience that balloons my chest for reasons unexplainable. Revel in wonder and unlatch “What if?”. Step into my destiny and approach it, not with fear, but anticipation. And truly let my belief bloom. Believe God to be bigger than my mess, bolder than what makes me afraid, and working beautifully on my behalf.

I know I don’t need a new year to clear my slate and start fresh—every day is a new beginning; His mercies rise abundant. But there is something to be said about a pause, a stepping back to assess a bridge between years. What is behind me, where I have come. How I’ve been rebuilt from the rubble, and now it’s time to burst forth.

These muted colors of steel and slate blanket the earth in dusty white as daylight slips behind the horizon. All is silent for the time. All is as it is becoming. I break in bleak midwinter to sing a safe admittance of my heart to Him who knows my tender speech.

Open. Surrender. Ride out the mystery. Recognize this wonder. Live as if there is nothing in this world that can stop what He has in store for this year, for my heart. Because if He who stirs this snow globe is for my good, this way to come is worth exploring.


Sarah Freymuth enjoys listening to the heartbeats of the world and conveying them through words. She is the editor of Awake Our Hearts, writes for numerous nonprofit international organizations and publications, and has a strong affinity for dark roast coffee. Sarah is a member of Redbud Writers Guild, a vibrant and diverse movement of Christian women who create in community and who influence culture and faith. In the in-between moments, she likes to write narrative and lyrical essays exploring the longings of life and soul at www.sarahfreymuth.com and on Instagram.

When They Leave

When They Leave
by Nancy Ramsey

it is a wonder
these small sufferings
whether for months
or the rest of one’s earthly days
it is a wonder how mourning
turns slow to unthought-of gladness
for fleeting awareness of the
the invitation to discern
as through glass dark
new knowing of the
Man of sorrows
His dearness
His nearness
widening the eyes of one’s heart
stretching one’s soul
strengthening one’s resolve to
persevere in this precarious pilgrimage


By God’s grace Nancy was rescued from sin at the age of twenty and writes from continued astonishment at His steadfast goodness. She is mother of three grown people with four small ones – making her a four-time Grammy winner! She is passionate about missions, the sanctity of life, adoption, soul-nourishing community, writing, and making the name of Jesus known through all the above. A Spanish teacher and sometime Bible study leader, the native Kansan makes her temporary home in the land of open sky and stunning sunsets.

A Feather in Winter

A Feather in Winter
by Michele Morin

“The feather flew, not because of anything in itself, but because the air bore it along.
Thus am I a feather on the breath of God.”  Hildegarde of Bingen

Sister Hildegarde knew
we are all
“feathers on the breath of God,”
and it’s an image I
struggle to live toward.

on this particular January afternoon,
time-bound and booted,
my feet crash through snowy crust
in a jolting cadence
as I follow my granddaughter’s delighted experiments with
cold and gravity.

Making not a dent in the snowy crust,
she travels like a feather,
her tiny lightness encased in a purple snowsuit.

Puffy and buoyant,
it catches her whenever she tumbles,
unfazed as the falling flakes that
land on our hats and our lashes.

Lord, may I, too, learn
to hover, held
on your breath,
falling forward
in blessed lightness.


Michele Morin is a teacher, reader, writer, and gardener who does life with her family on a country hill in Maine. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, and three adorable grandchildren. Michele is active in educational ministries with her local church and delights in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles.

After Christmas

After Christmas
by Cheryl Grey Bostrom

your velocity
rises with the drop
in my heart’s barometer.
No windbreaks here, you grow
to a howl in my mown
inner fields—low pressure zones,
short of breath because
those I love have
flown home again,
crossed state lines, and
my arms are empty.

you swirl memory through
this hollowed home like snow,
proffer wintry options to
busy me in this
lonely weather.
You tempt me to numb you until
time can ice their visit,
dessicate our togetherness.

Blow past me, will you?
You and those evasions?
I’ll wait.
For Love will breathe
his holy Zephyr,
inflate the void,
resuscitate me with
positive pressure,
indwelling, warm,
as only He can do.


Pacific Northwest naturalist, photographer, and award-winning author Cheryl Grey Bostrom lives with her veterinarian husband and two irrepressible Gordon Setters in rural Washington State. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the American Scientific Affiliation’s God and Nature Magazine, for which she’s a regular photo essayist. A member of the Redbud Writers Guild, she has also authored two non-fiction books. Her debut novel Sugar Birds launches August 3, 2021. Website: www.cherylbostrom.com. Instagram: @watchingnatureseeinglife. Twitter: @cheryl_bostrom. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cgbostrom/.

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty
by Katelyn Jane Dixon

Before the beginning,
I imagine our world
as a tiny diamond
floating in space,
a rock among countless shining others.
Not special, but waiting—
little knowing she was about to be kissed awake.

I imagine You,
in all your solitary splendor.
not needing, but wanting—
leaning forward with a breath of anticipation,
blowing your first Kiss out into the void
the force of which loved our world into being
as she shattered into a million pieces of light.


Katelyn is a writer and photographer living in Seattle, WA. She loves cooking, keeping plants alive, and singing Disney karaoke with her husband. Through her work, she strives to weave her every day experiences of the world with truths that illuminate the paradoxical Kingdom of God.

Website: https://www.tenthousandplaces.com
Instagram: @tenthousandplaces

The Garment of Sadness

The Garment of Sadness
by Paula Peckham

Sadness is a heavy garment.
A well-made garment, with tightly-sewn seams.
We can forget—for a moment—that we wear it.
It would be easy to drown under that garment.
So easy.

But faith is persistent.
And it seeps through those tightly-sewn seams
one drip at a time.

Faith is our lifeline.
We grab it like a drowning person grasps an offered hand.

Though the garment is heavy, and it weighs us down,
we grasp that lifeline, and struggle through the next breath.
We force the next step.

We search through the darkness for the tiny spark of life inside.
The spark that faith protects for us while
we grieve
and rave
and die inside.

When there is trust enough to let sadness go,

lifts it away and leaves peace in its place.
And we realize we can breathe again.
And smile.
Even laugh.

We leave the garment of sadness lying in a sodden heap
heavy with its soaking from our tears and horrible sorrow.
And we crawl from underneath its crushing weight.

So we wait on the LORD for that day.

We wait.
We wait.
We wait.

And when that moment arrives,
we realize by its absence how heavy that garment had been.
We realize by its absence we are free without it.

And we soar.


Paula Peckham is a retired math teacher. She is working on her first historical romance novel. She is a member of the ACFW, and lives in Texas with her husband.
Author website: paulapeckham.com

I Wonder

I Wonder
by Bekah Jane Pogue

I wonder, if when God designed the cosmos, did He clap his hands in gleeful delight?

Did he grin as Spirit-dust fell on sweet souls below, making its way into their essence? Shimmering and drawing one another through a familiar connection?

Did he dance as Spirit-dusted sojourners weaved and worked and noticed in others, there’s something familiar about that one. There’s a kindred light, all the while reflecting an infinite galaxy cupped in His palms?

Did these Spirit shimmers cross paths, become brighter and focused? Like flashlights searching until ah! a bright dot connects two beams?

Then another beam and another; Spirit-dust souls playing and peopling and going about their wide-open way, sensing a deep knowing that they are gathering, connecting, holding the Divine design inside, as they reach out to the next light, and together, hold hands and mirror the constellations above.

I wonder.


Bekah Jane Pogue is an author (Choosing REAL, Choosing REAL Devotional, and Praying Your Way Toward Forgiveness) founder of Pasture Experience Retreat, spiritual director-in-training, listener, and design enthusiast. She is most fully alive sitting on her porch listening to people share their hearts. She communicates from a space of intentionally unclimbing the Someone ladder in order that God- not she – is the one glorified. Bekah loves off-road wildflower picking, antiquing, dancing while she bakes, and exploring Nashville with her crew. She loves connecting face-to-face but her blog is where you can find her as well: bekahpogue.com. Instagram: @BekahJanePogue

The Work of The Garden

The Work of the Garden
by Michele Morin

There are no minutes in the garden–
only rows,
a measure not of time, but of task.
In the first garden, Adam was given the task of naming:
zebra and musk ox;
cheetah and gerbil.
He punched no clock, but poured out creativity, fulfilling his role.
Eve may have pruned apple trees for optimal fruition, but she wore no floppy sun hat.
There were no obligatory tick checks at day’s end.

In the garden,
without wasteful frenzy, the job gets done.
So when I say,
“I’ll weed for a half hour, and then I’ll come in and start supper,”
what I really mean is,
“Supper might be late tonight.”

And there I will be,
under a floppy sun hat,
soaking in bright afternoon rays which generate a heat amounting to
just about what the tomato plants ordered.

The beets I replanted after torrential rain are sprouting,
but so are the weeds.

And those five rows of cucumbers…
I’ll hill two of them right now, and then stand in the shade to drink water
and admire the work.

Is this how time will move and be measured in eternity?
In God’s forever garden?
When arms and legs accomplish what the heart and mind have conceived,
the hands of the clock will
tick tock
no more.

All that will matter is the work of the garden,
the work our hearts and hands were made for.


Michele Morin is a teacher, reader, writer, and gardener who does life with her family on a country hill in Maine. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, and three adorable grandchildren. Michele is active in educational ministries with her local church and delights in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles.

In The Depths

In The Depths
by Prasanta Verma

Can we be our own worst enemies?

Do you think I haven’t said all those things to myself? Chastised myself? Assailed myself over my own mistakes?

And also these—not words spoken, but more often, those words not spoken, tongue-tied at the thought of it, because I believed lies about myself and stifled my own voice. Believed myself unworthy. For far too long.

Have I been living in some sort of purgatory? Who doles out these sentences?

Here, I shall name them for you, all of it, the wounds, the aches, the endless.

I can point to each one, name them; the scars visible to all, not hidden. Time completes the healing, after the wounds, the clotting, then sealed up, the signs of battles fought visible to all.

When walking in fields of green—I wondered—does nature taunt me, too? I felt nature taunting me with her beauty, fullness, life, imperturbable joy, insouciant existence, unconcerned for my presence, onlookers, any other creatures.

Those delicate flowers will die soon. Or get trampled upon, or destroyed by wind and rain. And then the snows will descend; a bitter cold.

But they possess life there, in wooded beauty, little living things…only living in glory for One.

And then me, walking along and disturbing the peace, with years of wanting, and thirst drying my tongue.

I was a shadow in the beauty of the place, soaking up light and letting it fill me, borrowing beauty from flowers, so I would not sink in darkness.

I couldn’t fully express what my mind wanted, way back then.

I had a naïve, youthful hope. I had known only what I had known; and limited books, limited knowledge, and confound it—a generational dysfunction that plagued me in all sorts of relationships, all sorts of living…“the gift that keeps on giving.”

But now, yes, I can express it.
It was simply what everyone else wanted. No different. No more, no less, what I was seeking.

When you find out how wrong you were, what you misunderstood, misinterpreted, and realize your own years of dysfunction seeded within that you need yanked out of you, and abuse and lies heaped on you….

Finally, one day, at some point, you wake up.

Oh, God’s grace.

My back snapped with the weight, and I woke up.

No, I said.
Wrong, I said.

You find yourself
waking up to a world of possibility.

You no longer want to be a piece of dirt… but ironically, that is what you are.

A restored, redeemed piece of dirt.

And it’s true, real, balanced.
Dust in human form, that is.

A conduit for something holy, for something more real, more resplendent than anything else you’ve known.
A conduit for love to reach the world, despite broken limbs and inadequate voice.

What you wanted…
no, it wasn’t perfection that I sought.
Just. This.
Relationship. Love. Companionship. Friendship.
To be believed. Wanted. Heard. Loved.

When it knocks your breath out, when you find yourself stunned, silent, when you find out what was a massacred heap of lies, when your words, ideas, and thoughts were discarded like forgotten, torn pieces of cloth, when you felt boiled down to nothing, and upside down became the way you walked for so long, in confusion and swirled in a vortex of lies…

When it turns out.
When it turns.
You go out.
You go within.

You look up.

On sunny days, I still feel the spinning, because it all still exists. Massacres don’t disappear, but live on, a recurring nightmare. Aftershocks discharged from unpredictable swells of cyclonic memories. No one knows the end date of your own nightmares or nightmarish realities. Or another’s tempests and inner storms. Shredded. Insides. Heart. Life. Hope. No weather predictions are accurate. A circle doesn’t end. Continuous storms. Within. Without.

Not fully, not really living, completely, not fully myself. Not living in the full sense of the word.
As one would think. As you, in your lives, may be living. Or not be living.

My eyes, full of visions of faraway suns and moons. My desires, stirred from youthful expectation and anticipation.
I watched them wither, flounder like a fish out of water, writhing and struggling to survive, flapping and gasping on hot concrete.

Regrets. Yes, oh, too many. Let me not recount for you—regrets mostly of what was left unspoken, undone.

What ifs. They cut one open.

Stop surmising, imagining, dreaming.

for the hands of One who plunged me into waters, deep waters, where I thought I would drown, but where depths saved me, as water is what I needed.

for a gleam of hope from years of living, that one silver thread
that kept me from dying.
A golden sunrise was visible
in pains, pains of this life,
to keep my feet from slipping.

Keep two feet planted in the ground. But always looking up, hopeful.

Looking to what? Not to stars and nebulae, which have a death-wish, a finite life.

But looking to a further light, that is beyond the realm of the eye. To a hope beyond any horizon seen with once distraught, cloudy eyes, but now reflecting the light of a Love unseen.


Prasanta Verma is a freelance writer, poet, and artist. Prasanta was born under an Asian sun, raised in the Appalachian foothills in the southern U.S., and now lives in the Midwest. She has been published in Relief JournalBarren MagazineExhale Journal, Silver Birch Press(in)courage, and Tweetspeak Poetry.