My Shepherd

12 (2)

Psalm 23:  1-4 (NLT)

The Lord is my shepherd;

    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.

 

Jesus is our Good Shepherd who takes care of us and provides for our physical and spiritual needs.  After teaching the people, He gave them bread and fish to eat.  He offers to give us rest.  He encourages us to, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

When we look at a still or calm body of water we are filled with such peace.  And this is the kind of peace we can enjoy with Jesus.  Our fears are abated and our hearts aren’t troubled anymore.  And how sweet it is to take a break from the demands of life and find a quiet place where we can be renewed and strengthened.  Jesus did this many times with the Father and He encourages us to do the same with Him. “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile(Mark 6:31).

As long as we hear Jesus, listen to His voice and follow Him, we will never be lost.  He promises to stick close to us.  With Him at our side, we have nothing to fear because He will protect us when we feel threatened and comfort us when we are hurting.  He’s right there with us in the green pastures and in the dark valleys–during the good times and the bad.  He will never leave us nor forsake us.  We are His and He will take care of us.  He has already laid down His life for us. 

Today, won’t you let Jesus be your Shepherd?  You have nothing to lose and eternal life with Him to gain.

Dawn’s Story

Serious mature Woman looking away through a window, note the reflections

I recently found out that my husband of 20 years has been having an affair with one of his students.  I found out when he told me on day that he had been fired from his teaching position at the university where he had taught for 23 years.   The girl, an African exchange student, was expelled and to make matters worse, she was pregnant with his child.

I was so devastated that I almost passed out.  I had to sit down and gather my wits about me.  Shock, rage, jealousy ripped through me.  I wanted to throw things at him, lash out at him and throw him out.  I loved and hated him at the same time.

I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me.  I was a Christian woman married to a man I believed to be Christian only to discover that he has been cheating on me with a girl young enough to be his daughter.  We didn’t have any children.  We tried but nothing worked so it was painful to me that he was going to be a father to someone else’s child.  It was like a punch in the gut.  I felt like Sarah in the Bible when she was despised in Hagar’s eyes because she was able to get pregnant with no problems at all.  I wanted to meet this girl whom my husband had betrayed me with.

My husband said he never meant for the affair to happen but one day when they were alone in his office, one thing led to another and…He said that after that one time, he tried not to let anything happen between them again but the feelings were too strong.  He was too weak to resist the temptation and so he took her to a flat he rented.  They managed to keep their relationship a secret until one day, someone from the university spotted them in the underground garage in a passionate embrace before they hurried to the elevator.

I felt sick.  I kept wishing that this was a nightmare and that I would wake up soon.  It was some time later when I somehow managed to ask the question which had been burning in my mind, “So, what are we going to do now?”

He was pacing about the room, hair tousled from constantly dragging his fingers through it and his features pale and drawn.  He stopped abruptly and faced me.  “Dawn, I don’t quite know how to tell you this.”

“Just go ahead and tell me.”  My voice sounded very shrill.

“I want a divorce.”

I gawked at him.  “You want a divorce?”

“Yes.”

I should be the one asking for a divorce.  You’re the unfaithful one in this marriage.”

“I have been faithful to you all of these years.  Never once did I look at another woman or cheat on you.”

“Well, there’s a first time for everything,” I retorted.  The tears were falling afresh.  My fingers tightened into tight fists.  “Are you anxious for a divorce so that you could be with her?  What’s the matter, John?  Did you get tired of being with me, a woman who is pushing 50 and hasn’t been able to give you children?”

“Dawn, please believe me when I say that the last thing I wanted to do was to hurt you…”

That did it.  I jumped to my feet, my face red with fury and I slapped him hard across the face.  “Hurt me?” I yelled.  “Is that what you call what you’re doing to me right now?”

He looked contrite and tried to reach out to me but I shrank back.  I didn’t want him to touch me.  “I think it would be better if I were to move out.  I’ll go and pack a bag.”  He turned and walked out of the room.  The silence was deafening.

I collapsed on to the sofa again and dissolved into tears.  I heard him come down the stairs and the front door open and close.  Minutes later, I heard his car drive away.  He was gone.   Where would he go?  Probably to the flat where he indulged in his sordid affair.  I don’t know how long I sat there.  The living-room was dark.  The clock told me that it was six o’ clock.  I tried to make sense of what was happening but I couldn’t.  My marriage was over.  My husband wanted a divorce.  He was going to have a baby with someone else.  I wanted to be the mother of his children.  When we found out that I couldn’t have children, we were devastated but years later, we had talked about adopting.  Now, that was out of the question.  He wanted to be with someone else.  I was left out in the cold.

Divorce was something I never once contemplated.  For me, marriage was for keeps.  Besides, I loved John and I wanted to grow old with him.  And I know that he loved me too.  Then, a year and a half ago, I noticed little things.  He wasn’t as attentive or amorous as he used to be.  He went out a lot.  We hardly went anywhere together and most evenings, I had dinner alone.  His excuse when he came in was that he was tired.  He had had a long day.  He taught at the university and he also did ESL evening classes at a community college.  I didn’t know that he had stopped teaching those classes and spent his evenings at the flat with his student.  I had no clue.  All I knew was that my husband’s behavior toward me had changed somewhat but I never once suspected that he was having an affair.

Like God, I hated divorce but I decided that I was going to give John what he wanted.  It was no use holding on to a marriage that was over and to a man who didn’t want to be married to me anymore.  Weeks passed before I spoke to him again and it was over the phone.  I couldn’t bear to see him.  The hurt was still too fresh, too raw.

“I’m sorry I hit you,” I said.

“Don’t be sorry, Dawn.  I had it coming.”

After I told him that I would give him the divorce, I asked him, “Do you love this girl?”

“Yes.  I do.  That’s why I’m leaving you, Dawn.”

I felt as if someone had kicked me in the stomach.  “Does she love you?”

“Yes.  Dawn, once the divorce is finalized, I’m going to ask her to marry me.”

It took a few minutes for me to reply.  Tears welled in my eyes and I gripped the receiver tightly.  “You know that the Bible says that a man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery?”

“Yes, I’m aware that in God’s eyes and the church’s I’m an adulterer but sometimes, it’s hard to live according to the Bible when one’s heart is involved.  I love this girl and I can’t give her up.”

“Even if it costs you your salvation?  You know the Bible says that people who commit adultery will not have any share in God’s kingdom.”

There was a long pause and then he said, “Don’t worry about me, Dawn.  Just know that I’m sorry for how things turned out for us.  If I hadn’t met and fallen in love with this girl, you and I would still be happily married.  Thank you for the wonderful years we’ve had together.  I hope that one day you will find it in your heart to forgive me for what I have done to you.  Take care of yourself.”

After I hung up, I burst into tears.  My heart was breaking for the loss of my marriage and for the loss of his salvation.   I kept hearing Jesus’ words, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”  John had been following Jesus all of his life but unfortunately, he had allowed his love for the girl to draw him away.  If John had continued to listen to Jesus’ voice, obeyed His teachings of Jesus and resisted temptation, no matter how strong it was, nothing or no one could have removed him from God’s care and protection.

Weeks passed and I still hadn’t been served the divorce papers.  I wondered what the delay was.   I thought of calling John to find out but I didn’t bother.  I figured that I would receive the papers soon enough.  I later found out that he was going to serve me the papers on the day after I got the terrible news that he and his girlfriend were killed in a fatal collision while on they were their way to the hospital.  Their baby daughter was delivered alive at the scene.   The driver of the livery cab which was taking them to the hospital also survived and was in stable condition.

Shocked, I raced down to the hospital and met John’s sister, Abby and her husband, Tim there.  Abby’s eyes were swollen.  We hugged for a long time, crying.  Then, she told me what happened and that the baby was in a serious condition and that everyone was praying for her.   I went into the chapel and prayed too.  We spent all night and until the next morning at the hospital, anxious but hopeful.  Then, at around 5 in the morning, the doctor informed us that the baby was out of danger.  We all breathed a collective sigh of relief and hugged each other.

I went home to shower and change and then I returned to the hospital.   I stayed there for most of the day, talking to the nurses who answered my questions because I told them that I was family.  Technically, I was because I was still married to John.  The divorce hadn’t gone through.  I never got the papers.  I visited the hospital every day and when I got to see the baby who was now in stable condition, my heart melted when I looked down into that tiny face.  The nurse asked me if I wanted to give her the bottle.  I hesitated at first but then something urged me to do it.  I nodded and sat down in the chair.

The nurse placed her in my arms and I held her like she was porcelain and I was afraid to break her.  “She’s tougher than she looks,” the nurse assured me.  She gave me the bottle and then she left us alone.

I stared down into a pair of beautiful eyes as I fed her the formula.  I kept thinking that it seemed strange that I was the one here with her instead of her mother.  Tears came to my eyes when it hit me that John was dead and that he wasn’t going to be a part of his daughter’s life.  He wasn’t going to see her grow and become a young woman.  What would become of this little angel?  Who would take care of her?

That evening I spoke to Abby about it and she told me that she couldn’t take care of her.  She had her hands full with her own kids who needed her.  There wasn’t room for one more.  She was John’s only sibling.  And she had no clue about the baby’s mother or her family.  “I would hate to see my niece end up in an orphanage or a foster home.  I wish I knew a family who could adopt her.”

I could adopt her.”  The words simply flew out of my mouth, startling me.  “Did I just say that?”

“Yes, you did.”  Abby looked pleased.   “And I think it’s a great idea.”

“You don’t think it’s strange that I would want to adopt a child my husband had with another woman?”

“To some people it might be but not to me.  Besides, the baby isn’t responsible for the actions of her parents.  I still think that what John did to you was unforgivable.”

“I have forgiven him, Abby.   I was hurt and angry for a long time but I have moved on.  I had accepted that my marriage was over and that there wasn’t anything I could do about that.  But, now I feel that God has something great in store for me.  I had always wanted to be a mother and now I have a chance to be.”

“Well, what do you say about us going and buy a cradle, pull-ups and diapers so that when you bring her home, you’re all set?”

I smiled.  “I say, that’s a great idea.  Let’s go.”

We bought everything we needed.  Weeks later, I completed the step-parent adoption papers and now I’m officially a mother.  Abby went with me to bring the baby home from the hospital.  I was nervous and excited.  I wanted to do my best to make her happy.   Fast forward to seven years later and Mala (I named her after her mother) is a lovely, bubbly little girl.  She has John’s eyes and his personality.  I told her about him and her mother.  I explained to her that something bad happened to them and that’s why I’m her Mommy now.  I told her that they loved her very much.  I have shown her photos of them together which I took from John’s flat before it was let to someone else.

Mala told me that she was sad that her Daddy left me for her Mommy but she promised that she would never leave me.  That brought tears to my eyes and I hugged her.  I told her that she was the best thing that ever happened to me.  She is a precious child and truly a gift from God.

I’m raising Mala to be an obedient child of God and a god-fearing woman who will never let anything or anyone cost her her salvation.

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Sources:  Babygaga; Mirror; Reliable Adoption; Legal Zoom

Love a Second Time Around

480112I wasn’t married but I was pregnant.  It happened when my boyfriend and I got frisky and ended up in bed.  I felt guilty afterwards because I was supposed to be a Christian.  I was raised in a strict Baptist family and having sex or getting pregnant before marriage was a no no.  So, to say that I wasn’t thrilled when I found out that I was pregnant would be a gross understatement.  Desmond took it a lot more calmly than I expected.  He told me that we could get married before I started to show.  I agreed.  I didn’t want my child to be born out of wedlock.  And, besides, Desmond and I loved each other.  I know that he would have eventually asked me to marry him because we had talked about it several times.

After he bought me an engagement ring, we went to see my parents first.  I told about pregnancy and they were understandably upset.  “Getting married because you’re having a baby isn’t a good reason for getting married,” my father told us.

“Marriage is such a big step,” my mother added.  “You better make sure that this is the best thing for you two.”

Next, we went to see Desmond’s family.  I could just imagine how thrilled they would be, especially, his maternal grandmother.  Right from the beginning, I didn’t feel accepted by them.  I think they all would have preferred if he had married a white woman.  Some of them quoted the Bible where it says “Everything after its own kind.”  I didn’t bother to tell them that God was talking to the birds, fish and animals not to Adam.  He hadn’t even created Adam as yet.  And the same God who made white people made the other races and in His image too.

The only person who was friendly towards me and didn’t seem to have a problem with my color was my father-in-law.  He was such a nice man.  I really liked him and I felt comfortable talking to him.  He didn’t judge me and he didn’t lecture us.  I knew that we had his support.

Fortunately, my father-in-law was with me when a policeman showed up at the apartment to inform me that Desmond had been run over and killed in a crosswalk when he was returning from lunch early that afternoon.  This happened in front of his office.  The policeman said that it was a good thing that I wasn’t alone because of the stress that such tragic news could on my pregnancy.  I knew that there wasn’t anything I could do.  Desmond was gone and I was going to experience the rest of my pregnancy without him.  It was one of the worst moments of my life.

I got support from my father-in-law and my family but it was hard having to explain why Desmond wasn’t with me.  At each appointment, it would be a different midwife, who would remark, “Is your husband not joining us today?” and then I would have to explain he was dead.  And it was hard going to prenatal classes with my brother or my father-in-law.   My pregnancy experience which should have been a really happy one was somber.  I kept thinking Desmond should be here.  When our daughter was born seven months later at 8lbs, it was her grand-father who held her in his arms.  As I watched them together, I tried to picture Desmond holding her in his arms.

Desmond and I had come up with boys’ and girls’ names which we really liked and I named our daughter, Nella after his mother whom he adored.  When I look at Nella, I see her father.  The same hazel eyes and nose.   Her hair was dark brown like his.  She was beautiful.  Desmond would have a very proud father and spoiled her rotten.

My parents fawned over her.  Desmond’s family, on the other hand, couldn’t be bothered to meet his daughter.  His father was the only one who was there throughout my pregnancy.  He came over to the apartment every other day to see Nella and me.  While I took a nap or relaxed in the sofa, he took care of her.  It was a real treat having him around.  I began to look forward to seeing him.  And I could tell he enjoyed being with us.

I don’t know when it happened.  It must have been gradual but, four years later, on a Sunday morning, I woke up and realized that I was in love with my father-in-law.  As I made breakfast, I wondered what he would do if he knew.  Would he stop coming over?  I couldn’t bear the thought of not having him around anymore.  I had to make sure that he never suspected how I felt about him.  I would act like I always did in the past.  I had to remember that he was Desmond’s father although he was a widower and currently not in any relationship.

It’s late afternoon now and Nella’s taking her nap.  My father-in-law is standing at the window, looking out.  He turned when I entered the living-room.  “Symone, I need to talk to you about something that has been on my mind for a long time now,” he said.

I could tell from his expression that it was something serious.  I sat down on the sofa and patting the cushion beside me, I said, “Tell me what’s on your mind.”

He came over and sat down beside me.  His eyes met mine.  I could tell that he was a bit nervous.  “I don’t know if I have any right to tell you this even now that Desmond’s no longer here.”

“Tell me what it is, Dad,” I urged him.  “I’m a big girl.  I can take it.”

“First, I would like you to call me Patrick instead of Dad.”

“All right, Patrick.”

“Symone, I know I’m more than twice your age but over the last few months my feelings for you have changed.”

My heart was pounding.  “What do you mean your feelings have changed?”

“I’ve fallen in love with you.”

“Oh, Patrick,” I cried and I threw my arms around him.  “You don’t know how happy I am to hear that.”

“You are?” he exclaimed when we parted.

Yes!  You see, I’ve fallen in love with you too.”

He held my hands in his, his eyes riveted on my face.  “I’m relieved to hear that,” he said.  “For the longest time, I have wanted to tell you how I feel but I was afraid of how it would affect our relationship.”

“I have wanted to talk to you about my feelings too but was afraid for the same reason.”

“My newly discovered love for you wasn’t the only thing I have been struggling with.”

I frowned.  “What else have you been struggling with?”  I asked.  “Are you worried about what the rest of the family would say?”

He shook his head at once.  “It doesn’t matter to me what they say.  What concerns me is what the Bible has to say about the relationship between a man and his daughter-in-law.”

“Yes, in the book of Leviticus it says that a man shall not uncover the nakedness of his daughter-in-law because she is his son’s wife—he, the father-in-law, shall not uncover her nakedness.  In fact, if a man had sexual relations with his daughter-in-law, both of them were put to death because they committed a perversion.  This doesn’t apply to you and me, though because nothing ever happened between us when Desmond was alive and even after he died.  Besides, I’m a widow now and according to the Bible, when a woman marries, the law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive. But if he dies, she is no longer bound to him; the laws of marriage no longer apply to her.  Then she can marry someone else if she wants to. That would be wrong while he was alive, but it is perfectly all right after he dies.”

Patrick released his breath.  “So, if I wanted to marry you, there’s no law to prevent us?”

I shook my head.  “No.  In-laws can now also marry provided they are both over 21 and any former spouses must be deceased.”

He pulled me into his arms then and hugged me tightly.  “I don’t think Rosalind and Desmond would begrudge us finding happiness with each other,” he murmured.

No, I thought, Desmond would want me to be happy.  He would want me to move on219_6910_cannes_apr16_281529 with my life.  And now, that was possible.  I had fallen in love with an incredible man.  Yes, I consider myself to be extremely blessed for having found love a second time around.  A year later, in spring, we got married in a small, intimate ceremony.  Nella was our flower girl.  She looked so adorable in her pale pink satin dress.  Now she has a new Daddy although she calls him, “Grandpa”.

My in-laws and family think it’s wrong for Patrick and me to be together and are concerned that our relationship would be very confusing for Nella.  He’s her grandfather but now he’s also her father because he is married to me.  We have told Nella about Desmond and shown her photos of him.  She knows that he was her Daddy and that he died.  We told her that one of these days she will see him.   And she’s fine with that.  She’s not confused about anything and she’s excited about the new baby brother who is arriving in three months.  That reminds me, I have to ask Mom to babysit Nella because Patrick and I have a prenatal class to attend this afternoon.

Sources:  Metro; Officer.com; Live About; Genetic Genealogy

Meg’s Story

The scars you can’t see are the hardest to heal – Gecko & Fly

thumb_233241_420_630_0_0_portraitI felt guilty.  Guilty because I’m not sorry that he’s gone.  He passed away a month ago from a second stroke.  It happened while I was at the grocery store.  When I got home, there was an ambulance and police cars in front.  Our grand-daughter had called 911.

I feel guilty because I’m not sorry that he’s dead.  Does that make me a heartless person?  It isn’t that I didn’t love him.  The sad thing is that I did.  Even though he didn’t love me, I loved him.  As a teenager, I used to read about unrequited love.  I never thought it would happen to me.  We met in college.  I developed a huge crush on him but he had eyes for my older sister, Elaine but she ended up marrying another boy.  On a rebound, Albert dated me and then married me soon after we discovered that I was pregnant.  We didn’t go on a honeymoon and I had to quit my job as a nurse.

I didn’t know that it was abuse because he didn’t hit me.  If he hit me, I would have left.  No, I didn’t get slapped or punched or shoved or anything like that.  Instead, I got talked down to at home when we were alone or in front of company.  I was embarrassed in public.  I could feel people staring at us and caught the pitying glances of both men and women.  I didn’t want their pity.  I didn’t want them to notice me.  I wanted to be invisible.  I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me.  I wanted to be somewhere else.  More often than not, I wanted to be someone else.  I resented my sister Elaine because she had the marriage I wanted.  Her husband, Larry treated her like a queen.  I resented her because I knew that my husband would have preferred to marry her instead of me.  More than once, he said to me, “I married the wrong sister.”

He treated me with contempt.  I could see the disgust and dislike on his face when he looked at me.  And I often wondered why.  Why did he have such an aversion towards me?  I wasn’t ugly.  I was a good person.  I was a good wife to him and a good mother to our kids yet nothing I did seem to please him.  He disrespected me in front of our kids, embarrassed me in front of friends and family and in public and he became very controlling.  He controlled whom I talked to, where I went, my money and allowance.  He made decisions without consulting me, telling me that he was the breadwinner and the man of the house so he was the one was going to make all of the decisions.  I was Anglican but he wanted our kids to be Catholic.  He chose their schools.  I had no say in the matter.

Whenever he got upset, he called me names or criticized my cooking or the way I kept the house or did the laundry or ironing.  After a while nothing I did was good enough.  As the years went by, our marriage relationship was in a dismal state and I was glad when our kids moved out.  I didn’t want them to be subjected to my abuse anymore.  I should have left Albert after the kids moved out but I didn’t.  You see, he suffered a stroke and after spending a week in intensive care, he was moved to a care home to aid his recuperation.  Afterwards, he moved back home and I took care of him.  In spite of everything, I was still his wife.  I did it out more out of obligation than love.

Things didn’t improve as I had foolishly hoped.  He became even more controlling and demanding.  He demanded that I handed over all bank statements, receipts.  He timed my trips and forbade me from non-essential ones.  He belittled me.  He continued to criticize my cooking, housekeeping and appearance.  He accused me of lying about my whereabouts and of cheating on him.  No matter how much I denied it, he refused to believe me.  And he called me a good for nothing liar and cheat.  He even accused me of getting pregnant on purpose so that he had to marry me.  No, he didn’t hit me but his words were more painful and lasting than physical bruises.

If it weren’t for my faith, I would have given up a long time ago.  I kept telling myself that there had to be a light at the end of the tunnel and that God never gave us more than we could handle.  Things couldn’t continue the way they were going.  There had to be an end to this nightmare.  There had to be.  This wasn’t God’s idea of a marriage.  Marriage was a loving partnership between a man and a woman.  Woman was made from a rib from the man’s side which meant that she was his equal not someone he could treat like a doormat.  She too was created in God’s image.  They were supposed to be one–complimenting each other.  One wasn’t more superior than the other.

There were times when I wished I had never met Albert but then I think about our sons.  They are terrific, godly men and wonderful husbands and fathers.  I thank God for them everyday.  They had urged me to leave their father before he had the stroke and I wish I had.

Anyway, my marriage came to an abrupt end when Albert suffered another stroke and died a day later.  When I got home from the grocery store, I saw the ambulance and police cars out front.  I was numb as I watched the paramedics put him into the back of the ambulance.  There were tears on my face but I don’t know if they were tears of grief and sorrow.  My grand-daughter and I followed in my car.  We went to the hospital.  She stayed with me until the evening when her father picked her up.  I spent the night in the hospital.  Early the next morning, they came and told me that Albert was dead.  I called Andrew, our elder son and asked him to tell the rest of the family.  I went home, showered and changed and returned to the hospital.  I asked my daughter-in-law, Sandy to contact the same funeral home where my father’s service was held.

The weeks following were busy with funeral arrangements and other matters.  I was thankful when it the funeral service was behind me.  I wanted to return to some normalcy in my life.  I decided to sell the house because it was too big for one person and it was filled with a lot of painful memories for me.  I moved into a low-rise condo building in a nice neighborhood with a park nearby.  Weeks after moving there, I decided to join the Foster Grandparent Program so that I could help children who have been abused or neglected.  It feels good to bring love and comfort to someone else.

My life is finally what I always wanted it to be.  I’m a widow.  I don’t plan on ever getting married again.  I tried it once and it didn’t work out.  Now, I will just enjoy being a mother and grandmother and being a mentor.  I believe that I’m where God wants me to be right now.  I have recently written a book with the help of Greta, my daughter-in-law who happens to be a best selling author, called, Abuse By Any Other Name, about my experience as an older woman of domestic abuse and the idea that it isn’t really abuse if there isn’t any physical violence.  I want women to know that abuse happens to older women too and that it isn’t okay to stay in a marriage because he isn’t hitting you.  There are other types of abuse.

One of my favorite quotes is:  Don’t let your loyalty become slavery. If they don’t appreciate what you bring to the table, then let them eat alone.  I let my loyalty to my husband blind me to my reality.  Don’t make the same mistake I did.  Don’t wait until one of you dies.

Meg’s story is fiction but there are older women like her who are victims of domestic abuse.  According to The Guardian, more than 10% of women killed by a partner or ex-partner are aged 66 or over but they are the group least likely to leave their abuser and seek help.   For older women, domestic abuse often isn’t physical.  There is emotional, verbal and financial abuse.

Jess Stonefield, a contributing writer outlines the following ways in which older women can take back their power and begin to recognize — and fight — signs of domestic abuse in their lives:

Get real. Familiarize yourself with modern definitions of abuse and be honest with yourself about whether there is abuse in your marriage or partnership. Note the ways it has impacted your life. Name it. Acknowledge it. Allow yourself to grieve the parts of your life you have lost to it.

Speak up. Find a counselor or support group where you can share your story and find empowerment from others who have experienced and overcomesimilar challenges.

Define your options. It’s possible that you don’t feel comfortable choosing divorce or living on your own in this season of your life due to physical or financial limitations. You still have options. For instance, an assisted living community could provide the safety and shelter you need to recover your physical or emotional health. Women’s shelters, Adult Protective Services (APS) or friends and family may also offer short-term solutions. Make a list of possibilities and talk to a trusted friend about which might be best for you.

Get your finances in order. One of the main reasons older women choose to stay in abusive relationships is financial dependence. Many spent a large part of their lives in the role of homemaker and may have no financial savings of their own. Check out these tips for preparing financially before leaving your partner.

Be your own advocate. Repeat this sentence: “I deserve better.” Know that your voice matters. If a health care professional, member of law enforcement or even a son or daughter minimizes the abuse happening in your marriage, do not acquiesce. Be your own best advocate and refuse to take any less than you deserve: a safe, happy life and relationship.

Don’t be the forgotten victims of domestic violence.  Take action.  Protect yourself.

Sources:  The Guardian; Next Avenue; National Institute on Aging; Senior Corps; Gecko & Fly Quotes

Defending Joe

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“Mommy, Mommy,” Kevon cried, running to her.  Alarmed, Inez reached down and picked him up.

“What’s the matter, Baby?” she asked.

“Grandma said that Daddy’s in Hell because he killed a man.”

“Go and tell Auntie Hilda goodbye while I speak to Grandma.”  She put him down and he ran off.

Inez turned to face her mother.  “Mama, how could you tell him such a thing?” she demanded.

Her mother pursed her lips.  “Well, it’s true, isn’t it?  Your good for nothing husband was found guilty of homicide and sentenced to jail time, which in my opinion, wasn’t long enough.  And now he’s dead.  He died behind bars because he was a criminal and because he’s a criminal he’s in Hell where people like him belong.”

“Joe was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after he accidentally drew his pistol instead of his stun gun and fatally shot an unarmed man.  He got a two year prison sentence.  While he was in prison, he accepted Jesus as His Lord and Savior.  He died in prison from a heart attack before he could be baptized but I believe that like the thief on the cross, he’s saved.”

“You can believe what you want.  It still doesn’t change the fact that your husband killed somebody.”

“He served his time, Mama.”

“He was no good.  You could have married somebody better like Terrence.”

“Mama, I didn’t love Terrence.  I loved Joe.  Why didn’t you ever approve of Joe?  Was it because he was a cop?”

“It was a cop who killed your father.”

“Mama, it was a white cop who shot Dad and you know it.  Joe was a good cop.  It was just unfortunate that he accidentally shot someone.”

“Cops are all alike.  They are trigger happy.  We’re better off without them.”

“Mama, I’m going to take Kevon home now.  If you are going to upset him again I won’t bring him around anymore.”

“You’re going to deprive me of seeing my grandson?”

“Yes, if you’re going to tell him terrible things about his father.”

“That boy is the only good thing that came out of that marriage.”

“Mama, I mean it.  If you want to see Kevon again, you have to lay off Joe.”

“Fine.  I will hold my peace.  I won’t mention that man any more.”

“In spite of what you think about him, Joe was a good husband and father.  And Jesus died for him too.”

Her mother didn’t answer.  Instead, she turned her attention to the television set.

Inez sighed and went to get Kevon.  Soon they were on their way home.  It was a late Sunday afternoon.  Three weeks before the new school term started.  “Are you all right, Baby?” she asked.

He nodded.  “I’m better now.  Auntie Hilda gave me some candy.”

“Make sure you save some for later and tomorrow.”

“I will,” he promised.

“I’m sorry about what Grandma said.”

“Is it true, Mommy?  Is Daddy in Hell because he killed a man?”

“No, Baby.  Daddy didn’t kill the man on purpose.  It was a terrible accident.  Daddy was very sorry about what happened.  He had to go to jail because that’s where people have to go when they do something wrong, even if it’s an accident.  Daddy’s not in Hell.”

“Where is he then?”

“He’s in the grave.  That’s where all dead people are.  They are sleeping in their graves until Jesus comes and raises the ones who believe in Him like He did with Lazarus.   Then, those who are raised from the dead along with the those who are still alive will go with Jesus to Heaven.”

“What about Hell?”

“Hell isn’t a place where bad people go.  It’s something that will happen here on earth.  The Bible teaches us that it is a fire which God will send down from Heaven.  The fire is called Hell fire and it burns for a long time before it goes out.  You don’t have to be afraid of it as long as you love and obey God.  The good news is that one day you, Daddy and I will be together again forever.”

“I can’t wait to see Daddy again.”

“I know, Baby.  Neither can I.”

For the rest of the drive home, they sang songs, thanking and praising God for His goodness and Jesus for His love.

We’re all sinners, every one of us. We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t –  Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Source:  Findlaw

The Unlikely Spy

There were other reasons, too. Seventy-five percent of Jews survived in France. And so many non-Jews risked their lives to save ours. Wasn’t that our duty to defend our country too? It was our duty, absolutely – Marthe Cohn

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Image from The Portland Press Herald

Born a French Jew in Metz, France on 13 April 1920, Marthe Hoffnung never once imagined that she would one day become a spy in Nazi Germany.  She was one of seven children of an Orthodox Jewish.  They lived near the German border in France when Hitler rose to power. As the Nazi occupation expanded, her sister was sent to Auschwitz while her family fled to the south of France.

In the year 1944 after France was liberated, Marthe  enlisted and became a member of the Intelligence Service of the French 1st Army.  Following 14 unsuccessful attempts to cross the front in Alsace, she crossed the border into Germany near Schaffhausen in Switzerland.  She assumed the identity of a German nurse because of her Aryan appearance (blond hair, blue eyes and fair skin) and her ability to speak and read German fluently and claimed that she was searching for her missing fiancée. She provided critical information for the Allied commanders.

For her bravery, Marthe was awarded the Croix de Guerre and Médaille Militaire.  At the age of 80, she received France’s highest military honor, the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honour).  Her children didn’t know that this woman faced death daily to defeat the Nazi Empire.  Under extraordinary circumstances, this ordinary woman became the heroine for her country.  She helped to defeat the enemies of freedom.

After the war Marthe returned to France and pursued a career as a nurse.  In1956, while studying in Geneva, she met an American medical student, Major L. Cohn, who was a friend’s roommate.  Within three years, they got married and settled down in the United States. They worked together for years, he as an anesthesiologist and she as a nurse before they retired.

In 2002, Marthe co-authored with Wendy Holden a book about her experiences entitled, Behind Enemy Lines: the True Story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany.  She is now 99 years old and is currently living with her husband husband in Palos Verdes, California.  She continues to tell her story because “human beings have very short memories and it’s extremely important to remind them of what happened.”  In particular, the extermination of 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.

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Today, on Remembrance Day, Notes to Women wishes to acknowledge and salute this brave woman who risked her life to help to put an end to an evil regime. She did her duty.

Let us remember all of the brave men and women who risked their lives for our freedom.

Sources: The Portland Press Herald; Wikipedia; TCU Place; Maine Public

A Powerful Force

Black woman praying in church

He watched her as she knelt in the pew.  Fortunately the church was empty.  If anyone else had been there, they would have disapproved of the way she was dressed.

Personally, he was happy to see her there.  After losing her fiance and son in a horrific boat accident, she had stopped coming to church.  For a long time, she was angry with God and the world.  He visited her but she wanted nothing to do with him or the church.  She reverted back to her old ways, going to bars, getting drunk.

On one occasion, he had to go to a bar and escort her out.  He took her home and made sure that she was all right before he left.  He was certain that his superiors would not have approved but as far as he was concerned, he was doing God’s work.

Despite her resistance and resentment, he didn’t give up on her but continued to visit her.  In the evenings, before retiring to his rooms, he went into the chapel and prayed for her.

He waited until she was finished praying before he went over to her.  She looked up as he approached.  Self-consciously, she pulled the sleeves up on her shoulders, her expression almost apologetic.  “Good evening, Father Martens,” she greeted him as she got off her knees and sat down.

“Good evening,” he replied.  “I’m very happy to see you.”  He tried not to stare but couldn’t help but notice that she was wearing false eyelashes.

“I know it has been a while since I came here.  You know why I haven’t been coming.  After losing and, I wanted nothing more to do with God or His church.  I was angry with Him for taking and away from me.  I thought He did it to punish me for my sins.”

“God doesn’t take away our loved ones to punish us.  He takes them when it’s their time to go.  We are all here for a time.  It just so happened that their time was before yours.  I know you miss them but they are in Heaven with God.  They don’t want you to be sad or angry anymore.”

She brushed away a tear.  “If it weren’t for you, Father Martens, I would still be bitter and angry.  Thank you for visiting and helping me.  I will be eternally grateful to you.”

He smiled.  “I was happy to do it,” he said.  “Does this mean that I will be seeing you on Sunday?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

He wanted to tell her that she had to dress modestly whenever she came into the church, especially on Sunday but he trusted that the Lord would impress this upon her heart.  “Good.”

She stood up.  “I’d better be going now.  I’m working nights now.”

He looked surprised.  “Really?  Where?”

“At the Cyclone Bar.”

He didn’t like the idea of her working at a bar.  It seemed indecent, somehow.  “Our parish needs a receptionist.  How would you like to do that instead of working at Cyclone?”

“Are you sure you want me to work at your parish?”

“Yes.  You will work at reasonable hours during the day.”

“How soon would you like me to start?”

“As soon as you can.”

“I can start in three weeks.  I have to give my manager two weeks’ notice.”

“We’ll manage until then.”

She smiled.  “Thank you, Father Martens and God bless you.”

“Thank you.  I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.”

She nodded and taking up her handbag, she turned and walked out of the church.

He stood there for several minutes.  Yes, he looked forward to seeing her on Sunday.

Sunday came and she showed up, dressed modestly in a white skirt suit and yellow blouse.  No false eyelashes and the braids were gone.  Her natural hair was chin length.  He greeted her along with the rest of the congregation as they came through the doors, his gaze resting on her a bit longer than was necessary.   Fortunately, no one seemed to notice.

After Mass he wanted to talk to her but it wasn’t possible. He was flanked by church members as they left the church.  So, all he was able to say to her was, “Thank you for coming.”

A couple days later, he stood watching the wide open field and the hills beyond.  It looked like it was going to rain.  Perhaps he should head back now.

“Father Martens.”

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He turned and was pleasantly surprised to see her but very perturbed as well.  He had been thinking about her all week and looking forward to Sunday when he would see her again.  He tried to appear calm now but his heart was racing.  “What brings you here today?” he asked.

“I called the office and the lady told me that you had gone for a walk.  I remembered that you once told me that this is where you usually come for your walk so I knew that I would find you here.  We didn’t get a chance to talk on Sunday.  I just wanted to tell you that I was blessed by the service and that I will be coming again on Sunday.”

“I’m pleased to hear that.”  He couldn’t seem to take his eyes off her.  They were fixed on her face which looked beautiful in the dull light.  Just then a raindrop fell on his head, startling him.  He glanced up at the darkening sky.  “It looks like a storm is brewing.  I don’t think we’ll be able to make back to the parish in time.  There’s an abandoned shack over there where we can find shelter until the storm passes.  Follow me.”  He led the way across the field.

They reached the shack just in time.  As soon as they went inside lightning flashed across the sky, followed by a loud clap of thunder and then came the rain.  Fortunately, the windows and the door were still intact.  He closed the door and turned to face her.  Over their heads the rain beat relentlessly against the rooftop.  Hopefully the storm wouldn’t last long.

“It’s really coming down out there,” she said, glancing up at him.

“Yes, it is,” he agreed quietly.  Being here alone with her was a really bad idea.  He wished he hadn’t brought her here.  It might have been a better idea to bring her here and then run back to the parish.  “Hopefully it will pass soon.”

“It’s my fault you’re stuck here.”

“It’s not your fault.  I knew it was going to rain.  I should have stayed at the parish and come for my walk another time.”

“I shouldn’t have come, Father Martens.  It was selfish of me.”

“What do you mean that it was selfish of you.”

“I wanted to see you but I couldn’t wait until Sunday.”

“Why is that being selfish?”

“It’s selfish because I wasn’t considering that you are a priest and that there can’t be anything between us.  All I could think about was how much I wanted to be with you.”

He swallowed hard.  “We shouldn’t be having this conversation.”

“You’re right.  I’m sorry.  I should go.”

“But the storm isn’t over.”

“It’s all right.  I’ll be fine.  It won’t be the first I’ve been caught in one of these.”  She started toward the door when he caught her by the shoulders.

“Please, don’t go.”

She stared up at him.  They were standing very close.  He was still holding her arm.  Her flesh felt soft against his fingers.  His eyes were restless on her face.  His chest rose and fell swiftly as all sorts of emotions ran rampantly through him.  He knew that he was treading on very thin ice but he couldn’t seem to resist what was about to happen.  Instead of releasing her, he drew her towards him.  His smoldering gaze dropped to her parted lips before his lowered his head and devoured them.  He moaned and trembled when he felt her eager response.  For several minutes they stood there, kissing wildly as the storm raged on outside.

This wild exchange of kisses lasted for several minutes and then he pulled away, breathing heavily, his face flushed.  “We can’t do this,” he muttered thickly.  “I’m sorry.”  He stumbled away from her and dropped to his knees.  With his back turned to her, he bowed his head and clasped his hands.  He remained like that for a long time.  When he turned around, she was gone.  He staggered to the door and leaned heavily against the frame for a few moments before he sprinted through the torrential rain back to the rectory.

The following Sunday, he looked for her but she didn’t show up.  Several Sundays passed and still no sign of her.  She didn’t show up for the job as the parish secretary either so he had to hire someone else in a hurry.  He tried to put her out of his mind and busy himself with his duties and community service but it was no use.  He had fallen helplessly in love with her and was desperate to see her again.  Finally, one night, he went to the Cyclone Bar.

As he walked in and made his way over to the bar, he attracted quite a lot of attention.  The bartender looked a bit taken aback to see him.  “Hello, Father,” he said.  “We don’t usually get priests in here.  What can I do for you?”

“Hello.  I’m here to see one of your waitresses who also happens to be one of my parishioners.”

“Oh, you mean Zahra.”  He glanced at his watch.  “It’s almost quitting time for her.  She’s over there.”  He pointed behind him.

Father Martens turned and when he saw her, his heart skipped a beat.  He turned back to the bartender.  “Do you mind if I wait here?” he asked.

“Not at all, Father.  Have a seat.  Can I get you anything?”

“No, thanks.”  It felt strange being inside a bar but he thought of Jesus who went to the homes of tax collectors and had dinner with sinners.  He looked around.  Jesus died for these people too.

“Father Martens?”

He swung around, his face flooding with color as he looked into her face.  “Hello, Zahra.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I came to see you.  The bartender told me that your shift will be ending soon.  I’ll wait until you’re done.  It’s rather urgent that I speak to you.”

“All right.  I will be finished in about ten minutes.”  She turned and walked away.

Twenty minutes later, they were leaving the bar and walking down the sidewalk.  “You haven’t been to church for several weeks now,” he said quietly.  His hands were shoved deep in the pockets of his cassock but they ached to hold her.

“I couldn’t come,” she replied.  “I thought it would be best if I stayed away.”

“I miss you, Zahra.”

“After what happened between us the last time we saw each other I didn’t think you’d ever want to see me again.”

He stopped and turned to face her.  “I tried to forget you and what happened but I couldn’t.  I can’t stop thinking about you and missing you.  That’s why I had to come to see you tonight.”

She sighed.  “So, where do we go from here?” she asked.  “You’re a priest.”

He ran his fingers through his hair.  “I won’t be for much longer.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think we should continue this conversation in a more private place.  We’re drawing attention.”

“All right.  We’re five minutes away from my apartment.  We can talk there.”

Five minutes later, she was letting them into her apartment.  “Do you live here alone?” he asked.

“Yes.  I moved in here a couple of months after I lost my fiance and our son.” She turned on one of the lamps.

“Do you still miss them?”  What he really wanted to know was if she still missed her fiance.

“I miss our son.  Would you like something to drink?”

“No, thank you.”

“You said that you won’t be a priest for much longer.  What did you mean?”

They were facing each other now.  His eyes were restless on her upturned face.  How he longed to reach out and touch her cheek.  “I’m thinking of leaving the priesthood because of you.”

Her eyes widened in shock.  “Me?  But in the shack you said…”

“I know.  It felt wrong.  I was a priest and I had no right to be feeling the way I did.”

“When I saw how broken up you were about what happened between us and you kneeling there, I realized that the best thing for me to do was to leave.”

“Perhaps it was the best thing at the time but when you stopped coming to church, I was distressed.  It’s true what they say you know about absence making the heart grow fonder.  Your absences from church made me realize that I loved you.”

Zahra swallowed hard, her heart racing.  “You love me?”

“Yes,” he admitted, moving closer.  “I think I have always known it but was afraid to admit it to myself.”

“I didn’t want to fall in love with you because you were a priest but I couldn’t help myself.”

He reached out and cupped her face between his hands.  “Love is a very powerful force,” he murmured huskily.  “It’s best not to fight it.” His eyes darkened as he gazed down into her upturned face.  Then, he lowered his head.  She closed her eyes when she felt his lips on hers.  They kissed passionately for several minutes and then, he released her.

“You have to go,” she said.

He nodded.  “Yes.  If I don’t leave right now…”

She smiled.  “I understand.”  She followed him to the door.  “When will I see you again?”

“Come to church on Sunday.  It will be my last service.”

“I’ll be there.”  She reached up and kissed him on the cheek.  When she drew back, she asked, “So, what do I call you when you’re no longer a priest?”

He smiled.  “Call me, Guus.”

“Good night, Guus.”

“Good night, Zahra.”

Guus Martens left the priesthood and returned to Amsterdam where Zahra and he got married.  Although he missed saying Mass, preaching and administering sacraments, he knew he had made the right decision.  He couldn’t continue to deny his love for Zahra nor hide his frustration over the sex scandals plaguing the Catholic Church and its social positions on issues such as divorce, remarriage and mandatory celibacy.  He got a job teaching in a parochial school while Zahra worked at a cafe where one of the regular customers was a member of  Amsterdam Black Women Meetup, a group she was more than happy to join.

She thanked God for blessing her with another good man and she had come to peace with the death of her son.  God took him for a reason but she knew that she would see him again and that gave her comfort.  She remembered her fiance with fondness.  She had loved him very much but she knew that if he had survived the accident, she wouldn’t have married him.  It wouldn’t have been fair to him if she had because she had fallen in love with the priest who had helped her through her grief.  God had blessed her with Guus and now they were happily married and expecting their first child.  Her favorite scripture verse became, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.  

Love is a very powerful force and even priests are not immune to it.  

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Amsterdam Black Women MeetupDutch ReviewNorthwest50Plus