Makena’s Story

D0g88WZXgAMP4QjI’m an only child.  I was 12 years old when my mother died.  My father was devastated.  A Catholic priest told him that I would be better off living in an Italian orphanage where I would have a good Christian education.  The father believed him because he was a priest.  He was a missionary sent to Kenya for a year and he visited our home when my mother was sick.  He prayed over her and when she died, he officiated at the funeral service.  He told my father that he didn’t have to worry about me.  He promised that I would be well taken care of by the nuns who ran the orphanage.

So, after we buried my mother and saying a tearful goodbye to my father, I went with Father Bernardo to a strange country whose language I didn’t know.  I was scared but Father Bernardo assured me that everything was going to be all right.  All I had to do was trust him. and if I had any problems or concerns, I could always talk to him about them.  It wasn’t until we got to the orphanage that I found out that he lived in one of the units on the grounds.

When we got to the orphanage, I was put to work as a domestic hand as well as carer for the younger children in the orphanage even though I didn’t understand a word of Italian.  I was also chosen to clean Father Bernardo’s unit.  He offered to teach me Italian after I finished my cleaning but things changed.  After I finished cleaning his unit,  had to sit on his lap, and while he taught me Italian, he played with my breasts.

I knew what was happening was wrong and I felt guilty because of my religious Priestupbringing.  Father Bernardo knew it was wrong too but he didn’t stop.  Instead, he made me go to confession and pray to God for forgiveness for my sins because I was making him do what he did.  And he threatened me that if I ever resisted his abuse, he would refuse to give me communion the next time I went to Mass.

As I got older, the abuse got worse.  He started to have sex with me.  While I was cleaning, he would get undressed and climb into the bed and wait for me to join him.  I couldn’t refuse because I knew that he would make good on his threat not to give me Communion.  So, I would let him do what he wanted to me, praying that one day it would end.  It was no use telling anyone about it.  Once when I told one of the nuns that I was bleeding down there, she thought I meant that I had my period and she gave me pads.  And Father Bernardo told me that no one would believe me if I told them about us.  They would accuse me of lying and beat me.

I got pregnant three times and all three times I was forced to have an abortion because he refused to use condoms or contraceptives.  I hated him because he was forcing me to commit murder.  As far as I was concerned abortion was murder.  Each time I had one, I cried bitterly in my room and begged God to forgive me.

I wanted to write my father and tell him what was happening to me but Father Bernardo wouldn’t let me to write or call without his permission.  He made sure that somehow he got a hold of my mail and if there was something in it that he didn’t approve of it was confiscated and discarded.  And I wasn’t permitted to leave the grounds of the orphanage or talk to any of the local boys or the even the gardener.  He got jealous and spiteful when I did.  I not only feared him but I began to hate him.  I wanted to run away from him and this horrible place.

One night I opened my Bible to the Psalms and found Psalm 37.  I read it.  These words jumped out at me were, “Be still in the presence of the LORD and wait patiently for Him to act.”  I decided to do just that.  I had prayed to Him to rescue me from this private Hell and I know He heard my prayer.  Now, I will wait for Him to do something.

I didn’t have long to wait.  While Father Bernardo was in Rome, I left the orphanage and went to live in a house where I worked as a servant.  I was 18.  The couple with whom I lived were paid an allowance for having me and they had me accompany them on trips as nanny to their children.  Fortunately for me they spoke English, although by then, I knew some Italian.  I was happy living with them.  They treated me very well and I was very fond of their children.

Several times, Father Bernardo stopped by to persuade me to return to the orphanage but I refused.  He was taken aback and after his threats failed, he begged me to go back with him and promised that he would use condoms so that I wouldn’t have to have any more abortions but I told him to leave me alone.  He eventually went away and I never saw him again but he made the mistake of writing me a long letter in which he went off on a tirade.

In it he wrote that no man would want to marry me when he found out that I had been an older man’s lover and had three abortions.  He said that he wasn’t an evil man and that it was my fault that he did the things he did.  He said I bewitched him.  He ended the letter, promising that if I resumed our relationship, he would consider leaving the priesthood and marrying me.  I felt sick to my stomach.

I wanted to tear the letter to pieces and flush them down the toilet but I was impressed to show the letter to the couple whom I was working for.  Shocked and appalled, the man made several copies of the letter.   He mailed one copy to the orphanage, to the church where Father Bernardo did Mass, the Vatican and to the local bishop.  No response was forthcoming but the last I heard of Father Bernardo, he was no longer at the orphanage or at the church.  My employer said that they probably just reassigned him to another church instead of removing him from the priesthood.

I don’t hate him anymore but I trust in the Word of God which says, “For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.”

user_male_portraitI’m 28 years old now and happily married with two children–a boy and a girl.  My husband, Stefano was the younger brother of the woman whom I was working for.  We met when he drove from Florence to visit the family.  He was very charming and it didn’t take long for him to win my heart.  I wrote to my father about him and he was able to come to the wedding.

It was wonderful seeing my father again.  He looked much older than I remember.  My mother’s death really hit him hard but he has managed to pick up the pieces.  He stayed for a couple of weeks in Florence before flying back to Nairobi.  Next year summer, Stefano, the kids and I will visit him.

I still haven’t told my father about my abuse.  Stefano told me to wait until I feel like I’m ready to do it but I’m not sure I ever will.  Especially not after he said to me as we danced at my wedding, “I’m thankful that Father Bernardo convinced me to let you come to Italy or you wouldn’t have met your young man.”  I don’t want my father to blame himself for what Father Bernardo did to me.

I’m still haunted by the memories and after leaving the orphanage, I have never set foot in a Catholic church.  I have an aversion for priests.   I left the Catholic faith and am now a member of Stefano’s church which is non-denominational.  Stefano had left his faith years ago because of the sex scandals.

There are times when I feel ashamed of what happened and wished that I had done something–anything to prevent it but Stefano told me to stop blaming myself.  Who would have believed me anyway?  It was my word against a priest’s.  With God’s help, I am working through the lingering guilt and the self-recrimination one day at a time.  I still think about the abortions I had and will always regret having them.

This story is fiction but is inspired by true stories of women who were abused by priests as young girls.  One woman was abused for 13 years beginning when she was 15 years old.  There are so many stories of victims suffering at the hands of those who are in positions of trust and millions of people want to know, “what new steps will the bishops take to clean up — or clean out — the church after years of sex abuse scandals?”  The pastoral practice of transferring priest from parish to parish (priest shuffling) has to stop.

Priests suspected of abuse should be removed from their duties/their parishes until there is an investigation into the allegations and once it is proven that they are guilty, they need to be arrested and serve time for their crimes against the innocent.  The Church as a whole has to be held accountable and put policies in place to protect the victims.  Victims should not be treated as if they have done something wrong or be accused of lying.

Anne Barrett Doyle of the research group, Bishop Accountability said that what Pope Francis should do to protect children, is to order the Vatican to release the names of all priests who have been convicted under canon law of abusing minors.  Pennsylvania Attorney-General Josh Shapiro urged local church officials to “cease their denials and deflections” and accept the grand jury recommendations, which include allowing victims to sue the church for abuse that otherwise would fall outside the statute of limitations.  According to Pope Francis, church leaders need to be more concerned about the safety of the children than their own reputations.

No more talk.  No more cover-up.  It’s time for the church to take action and root out priestly sex abuse.

Sources:  The Irish TimesRoyal CommissionKnowing Jesus; USA Today; The Globe and MailWikipedia

In Sanaya’s Memory

Web1It was love at first sight for me when I saw her walking towards me.  It was a blind date.  I don’t usually go on blind dates, mind you, but for some inexplicable reason, I went on this one and man, was I glad I did.

She had to be the most beautiful girl on the entire planet.  Those eyes did things to my heart and those Angelina Jolie lips–my, my, my.  Up to that point, I’ve only dated African American women but this girl was Pakistani.  I could tell from the way she was looking at me that she liked what she saw.

Needless to say, we really hit it off and that first date turned into other dates and before I knew it, I was telling Raj, the friend who set us up, that I wanted to marry this girl.  Raj was blown away and quite pleased with himself.  “I told you that you were going to love her.  If I weren’t already married, and happily married, I would have dated her myself.  I’m thrilled for you, Man.  So, have you popped the question as yet?”

“No, but I’m going to tonight when we’re having dinner at my place.”  And I did.  She was so moved by tears that for several minutes she couldn’t say anything.  After I slipped the ring on her finger, we stood and hugged.  She ended up spending the night.

We got married in an elegant but intimate ceremony.  Raj, of course, was my best man.  My family were all there but none of hers was–only friends and co-workers.  I knew that they didn’t approve of me because I wasn’t Pakistani.  I later found out that they wanted her to marry a friend of the family who was rich but old enough to be her father and she refused.  She moved out of her parents’ house and moved in with a friend.  b2052d4a374f85a4821cc75859f32472--full-lips-beautiful-eyes

When her family found out about me, they were livid.  They tried to get her to end our relationship but she refused.  She told them that she loved me and planned to spend the rest of her life with me.  Her father was especially opposed to this and told her that she was a disgrace to her family. Even there in America, she had respect their family’s caste, religion and customs.  He warned her that if she didn’t stop dating me and agree to the marriage they had arranged for her, she would be very sorry.

I didn’t know that she was afraid that something dad would happen to her.  If I had, I would have packed up everything and taken her far away.  It never once occurred to me that my father-in-law, whom I never met, would take my wife’s life.  Even now, I still can’t believe that a father would kill his own daughter because she chose to marry a man she loved instead of the man they wanted her to marry.

It happened a couple of months after she gave birth to our beautiful daughter, Alaya.  She was on her way home from the supermarket when she was struck by a car driven by her father.  She was rushed to the hospital.  Her condition was very critical.  She suffered multiple vertebrae fractures, an ankle fracture, a severe closed head injury and multiple soft tissue injuries from head to toe.  To say that I was devastated would be a gross understatement.  I was beside myself.  I cried and prayed for her to pull through but she slipped into a coma and never woke up.  My family and friends rallied around me, supporting me.  I had lost the love of my life and the mother of our child.  How on earth was I going to get through that?

Her father was charged with murder.  He’s still serving time.  I don’t hate him anymore.  I have channeled the negative feelings into something positive.  I have created a foundation in my wife’s honor.  It’s called Sanaya after her.  The organization is geared towards preventing honor killings in America.  This is America.  It’s supposed to be the land of the free.  What about the message at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty which says, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

Yet, honor killings are no longer happening in other parts of the world.  They are happening right here in our own backyard.  And it has to stop.  It is an issue that cannot be ignored.  Right now, I am working to expose the issue and help train front line responders, victim service providers, and counselors.  I have to do this for Sanaya, our daughter Ayala and other women.  There is no honor in killing and women are not objects or possessions.  They, like Sanaya, should have the right to marry the men of their choice and not be murdered for it.  It is my hope and prayer that honor killing will be a thing of the past.  Until that time, I will continue to honor Sanaya’s memory by fighting to “end the practice of Honor Killings and shift the mindset of Pakistani society to one of gender equality.” 

This story is fiction but it was written for National Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women which is today, November 25, 2019.  This story was inspired by the true tragic killing of Noor, a young Iraqi woman who was run over by her father in Arizona.  She was killed to preserve the family honor.  In her father’s eyes, she was engaging in behavior that could taint her family’s status.

Noor told a friend that her father disapproved of everything she did — from the way she dressed to her choice of friends. According to Noor’s friend, Pesta, “She had a foot in two worlds. She had one foot in suburban America and one foot in Middle Eastern tradition.  In public she tried to put on a brave face…and tried to live her life and enjoy the freedoms that American offered her. In private, she fought with her father all the time.”

Honor killing has been around for such a long time and was thought to happen only in certain countries but it is happening in North America.  According to Aruna Papp, an internationally recognized educator and a survivor, after being raised in an honour-based family structure in India, honor killings are happening here in Canada.  “It’s an epidemic. We have had 19 honour killings in Canada in the last decade. In all developed countries, the highest rate of suicide is among South Asians—why do they come to developed countries and kill themselves? Because we are trained from birth to be self sacrificing…it’s so much easier to kill yourself then to humiliate the family.” 

The issue of honour killing was thrust into the Canadian spotlight back in 2009, after four female members of the Shafia family were found dead in a canal in Ontario.

Honor killing and violence against women are real issues and we must continue to raise awareness and take action.  Girls and women deserve to live quality lives, free of violence, oppression and free.  It is believed that at least 5,000 honour killings are reported around the world each year, but most likely the actual number is far higher since many go unreported.

If you are interested in learning more about honor killing and/or how you can help in the fight to end it, here is a list of organizations you can check out:

 

Violence against women is not just a problem in countries like Afghanistan and Somalia. It’s happening in the U.S. too

Ayaan Hirsi Ali stated that most Americans refuse to accept that honor violence happens there and this is the biggest obstacle to providing effective assistance.  Her foundation receives requests for help from women and girls in crisis.  She mentioned in her editorial, “There is the young woman, an American citizen, who was taken to her family’s native country in the Middle East to marry a complete stranger against her will because her parents feared she was becoming too “Americanized.” There is the college student who fears for her life should her father discover that she is dating someone outside her family’s faith. There is the teenage girl who discovers she is pregnant and is threatened with murder by her family for bringing shame upon them.” 

Refusing to believe that this type of violence is in our country wouldn’t make it go away.  It exists and women and girls need our help.  We must do something.  No more burying our heads in the sand.  We MUST take action.

Honor killings are not honorable by God. They are driven by ignorance and ego and nothing more. The Creator favors the man who loves over the man who hates. If you think God will punish you or your child for allowing them to marry outside of your tribe or faith, then you do not know God. Love is his religion and the light of love sees no walls. Anybody who unconditionally loves another human being for the goodness of their heart and nothing more is already on the right side of God.
Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

Sources:  Amnesty International; CBS; The Guardian; Global News; Humanity Healing

The Pure Milk

…desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,  if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious – 1 Peter 2:2, 3, NKJV

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I remember when I was still breastfeeding, how on one occasion, my son was crying because he was hungry.  When I held him in my arms and he latched on, I saw his eyes close as he nursed.  Instinctively, he desired the milk and when he received it, he eagerly drank it until he was satisfied.

This is how we should crave God’s pure and unadulterated Word.   We don’t want any watered down version or truth mixed with error.   We need the pure milk of God’s Word for our spiritual growth.  Just as breast milk does wonders for a growing child, so does God’s Word do wonders for a growing Christian.

Milk is important for our bones and overall health.  The simple truths of God’s Word is important for our overall spiritual health.   And if you have indeed tasted/experienced the graciousness of the Lord, you ought to make it a habit to daily and earnestly receive His Word as a baby receives his/her milk.

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

Matt’s Story

large-1531167473-1c546e4b85f6c127d98bd3212423c485A couple of years ago, my world as I knew it was turned upside down.  I was 17 and at my cousin, Rose’s wedding.  At the reception, a relative who had way too much to drink, put his arm around me and said, “I don’t know about the rest of the family but I’m sure glad that your Mama didn’t abort you ’cause you turned out to be a fine lad.  Yes, a fine lad.  You’re not at all like your Daddy.”

I stared at him, shocked and shaken.  What was he talking about?  Why would my mother have considered aborting me and what about my father?  Did he know who my father was?  Was he for real or was it the liquor.

I politely removed his arm from around my shoulders and excused myself.  I went out on the terrace to get a breath of fresh air.  My mind was spinning and my heart was pounding.  A feeling of dread came over me.  My mother died a year ago from pneumonia.  She never told me who my father was and whenever I asked about him, she would say, “the only father you have is God Almighty.  He takes care of you better than any earthly father can.”  After a while, I stopped asking her.   On my birth certificate it said “unknown” where my father’s name should have been.  I hoped that one day I would find out who and where he was.

My mother never married.  She was a single, hardworking mother who raised me as best as she could.  I know she loved me and that she wanted me to have a good life.  At night after she read to me, she got down on her knees and prayed.  She was always praying for me.  I loved my mother very much and I was devastated when she died.  After she died, I moved in with my grandmother.

After what the relative told me I couldn’t enjoy the wedding.  I kept playing his words over and over in my mind.  I couldn’t wait for the morning to come when I would talk to my grandmother about it.  I know that if anyone could give me answers, it would be her.  So, when we were sitting around the table having breakfast, I asked her, “Grandma, did Mama want to abort me?”  I knew I should have broached this in a more delicate way but I was desperate for answers.

Her face went pale and she dropped her fork.  “Where did you hear that?” she asked.

“Some distant relative, I don’t remember his name, said that he was glad that Mama didn’t abort me.”

“Eat your breakfast.”

“Is it true, Grandma?  Was Mama going to abort me?”

“No!  Your Mama was a godly woman.  She would never have agreed to an abortion even though her father and other people were trying to talk her into it.”

“Grandpa wanted her to have an abortion?”  I couldn’t believe it.  I adored my grandfather.  He was like a father to me.  His death five years ago really hit me hard.

“Yes.  He thought it would have been thing for her.”

“But why?”

“Matt, what does it matter?  You’re here, aren’t you?  Why don’t we forget about the past and move on?”

“Grandma, I need to know.  Please!”

My grandmother buried her face in her hands which were trembling slightly.  “Oh, Matt, I wish you didn’t have to know the truth.”

I was getting scared now.  Part of me was afraid to hear the truth and the other part had to.  “Please tell me, Grandma.  Was it to do with my father?”

She dropped her hands and I saw the anger and rage on her face.  “Your father was a monster!” she cried.

“Who was he?  Is he still alive?”

“Yes, he’s still alive and still rotting in prison.”

“Prison!  Why is he in prison?”

“Matt…”

“Grandma, I need to know.”

“He’s serving 30 years in prison for…rape and incest.”

“I–I don’t understand

“Matt, your mother got pregnant when she was raped by her brother.”

The color drained from my face.  I felt sick.  I got up from the table and dashed into the washroom where I threw up.  When I was done, I flushed the toilet, rinsed my mouth and washed my face with cold water.  My hands were shaking.  My grandmother was standing behind me.  I turned to face her and she put her arms around me and hugged me tightly.  We were both crying.

“This is why I didn’t want to tell you,” she said after a while.  “It’s a shameful thing that this family has had to deal with and that is why some of us, excluding me, wanted your mother to have an abortion.  They were thinking about her well-being but once your mother insisted that she was going to have you, we all tried to protect you from the truth.  It was your grandfather’s idea that she put “unknown” for the father’s name.”

“Why did she keep me? Wasn’t I a painful reminder of what happened to her?”

“She kept you because she loved you and she didn’t see a painful reminder of what your father did to her.  She saw a beautiful and precious gift from God.”

The rest of that day was a blur.  I was so overcome with pain and guilt that I became withdrawn and depressed.  My grandmother was very concerned about me and she tried to get me counseling.  It helped–somewhat.  And after I graduated from high-school, she sent me away to South Africa to study and live at the university there.  She would take care of my tuition and anything else I needed.  “It would do you good to get far away from here,” she said.  “You’ll be in a new country and meet new people.  Forget about the ugly past.  Live your life the best you know how for your mother’s sake.  Write me.  Don’t come back here.  When I can, I will come and visit you.”

So, at her insistence, I left Virginia and moved to South Africa.  I asked my grandmother why she choice South Africa of all countries to send me and she told me it was where she met my grandfather.   When I arrived in Cape Town, I knew that I was going to love living there.  Life on campus was a great experience for me.  I met diverse students and forged several life-long friendships.  I enjoyed my studies and had a relatively active social life.  There were lots of pretty girls but I wasn’t interested in dating at that time.  I wanted to focus on my studies.

Then, in my third year at the university, I met Joycelin, a girl from Namibia and a 765full-sydney-nelsonfreshman.   I remember the first time she smiled at me, I felt as if my heart had stopped.  A mutual friend introduced us when a group of us went on a Saturday morning to visit the Penguins at Boulders Beach.  Joycelin and I immediately hit it off and we spent most of the time together, getting to know each other.  By the time we were on our way back to campus, I knew that I wanted to date this girl.  And I did.  Our friends, especially the one who introduced us, were thrilled.

I wrote my grandmother about Joycelin and sent her photos of us.  She was happy for me.  I was relieved that she didn’t have a problem with me dating an African girl.  I know that other members of my family would, however, including the relative who made that careless remark about my mother at my cousin’s wedding.

Things were going well for me and after I graduated from university, I moved into a waterfront apartment which wasn’t far from where I worked.  Joycelin was still living on campus but we phoned each other during the week and saw each other on the weekends.  I was getting pretty serious about her but always at the back of my mind I asked myself how she would feel about me if she were to find out about my father.  I found out one day.

Joycelin and I were in De Waal Park on a Saturday afternoon when the subject of abortion came up.  “How do you feel about abortion?” she asked me.

Her question startled me.  “I don’t know.”

“I’m against it,” she said.

“Even–even in cases of rape and incest?” I asked, my heart pounding.

She nodded.  “Yes.  The life of a child born of rape or incest is just as valuable as a child born under normal circumstances.  Ending the life of the child of a person who has committed rape or incest isn’t the solution. The law should punish the criminal, not kill his child.”

“You really believe that, don’t you?”

“Of course, I do.  And the Bible says that ‘a child won’t bear a parent’s guilt, and a parent won’t bear a child’s guilt.'”  She looked at me closely, frowning and there was concerned expression on her sweet face.  “Matt, are you okay?  You look pale.”

“Joycelin, I have something to tell you.”

She slipped her hand in mind.  “What is it?” she asked.  “You can tell me anything.”

I closed my eyes and told her the awful truth about my birth.  I didn’t realize that I was crying until I felt her fingers brush against my cheeks.  I opened my eyes and found myself staring into her tearful face.  “That’s why I said I didn’t know how I feel about abortion.  There were times when I felt it might have been better if my mother had aborted me because I was a reminder of what happened to her.”

“Matt, you’re not to blame for what happened.  Your mother chose to keep you because she loved you.  She saw you as a beautiful and precious gift not a horrible and painful reminder of what happened to her.  She chose to give you life and the best way to honor that choice, is to live your life to the fullest.”

I held her face between my hands and whispered brokenly, “I love you.”

She smiled.  “I love you too.”

“I wish my mother could have met you,”

“I wish I could have met her.  She sounds like a remarkable woman.  I believe you are the way you are because of her.  She was a godly woman.  God heard her prayers for you and He answered them.  She would be extremely proud of how you’ve turned out.”

“That’s what my grandmother said.  Her, you will get to meet when she visits me in December.  She’s coming for Christmas.”

“That’s great.  Speaking of Christmas, my family are flying over too.  I can’t wait for them to meet you.”

“Good.  It will give me a chance to ask your father permission to marry you.”

She stared at me, her eyes and mouth wide open.  “Are you serious?”

I nodded and replied,  “Yes, I’m very serious”  before I lowered my head and kissed her.

Ten years have passed since I learned the truth about my the circumstances of my birth.  The guilt and shame I felt all these years are gone now.  I have accepted that I have done nothing deserving of death and I will live the life I have been given to its fullest.    Joycelin and I are engaged.  The wedding is next year Spring.  She’s teaching me about God and like my mother, she prays for me regularly.   I’m thankful that God blessed me with three phenomenal women–my mother, Joycelin and my grandmother.  The life He has given me I will live worthily for Him and for them.

A child conceived in violence is himself innocent and created in the image of God. He has done nothing to deserve the death sentence, any more than a child conceived in a loving marriage – Human Life International

The solution to incest is not abortion, but prosecution of the criminal so he does not commit more crimes, and loving care for his victims so that they experience true physical and emotional healing – Human Life International

Matt is a fictional character, but there are real men and women out there who were conceived in rape.  Read their stories.

It takes courage for a woman who chooses to go through with an unplanned pregnancy but it takes far greater courage for the one whose child was conceived by rape or incest.

Sources:   University of Cape TownWikipediaStudent World Online;

Adopted

How do people feel when they find out that they have been adopted?  I once watched an episode of the soap opera, One Life to Live where a character named Destiny was devastated when she learned that her parents were actually her grandparents and that the brother she was so close to, whom she adored was actually her father.

When should adoptive parents tell their children that they are adopted?  Is there ever a right time to do so?  Wikhow offers the following tips:

Tell your child as early as possible. The earlier you talk to your child about their adoption, the easier it will be for them to come to terms with the idea. If possible, start talking to your child about their adoption while they are still preschool-aged.

Be positive when discussing your child’s adoption. If you speak positively about the adoption, your child will be less likely to feel upset or uncomfortable about it. Tell your child how happy you were to bring them into your family, and how much you love them.

  • For example, you might say something like, “Your mommy and I love you so much. We were so happy and excited when you became part of our family!”
  • Avoid saying anything negative about your child’s birth parents, since they are also an important part of your child’s story.
Keep your explanation simple and age appropriate. Eventually, your child will have plenty of questions about the details of their adoption and their birth family. When you first tell them, however, try not to overwhelm them with details. Instead, give them a very basic and straightforward explanation of where they came from.

  • For example, when talking to your preschooler, you might say, “When you were born, your mama couldn’t take care of you. So, your daddy and I decided to adopt you and become your parents. Now you’re part of our family forever.”
  • Don’t give your child details that might be confusing or upsetting. For example, if their birth parents were abusive or neglectful, now is not the time to bring it up.
Answer your child’s questions clearly and honestly. It’s natural for your child to be curious and anxious about their background. They may ask questions about what their birth parents are like, where they are now, and why they chose to put your child up for adoption. They might also ask questions about how they came to be with you. Answer these questions to the best of your ability, but keep your answers simple and appropriate to your child’s age or developmental level.

  • For example, your child might ask, “What happened to my other parents?” You could say something like, “They live in another town. Sometimes I write them letters to let them know how you’re doing!”
  • Be patient with your child even if they ask the same questions over and over again.
  • Try to anticipate questions your child might have so you can address them before your child even brings them up. This will help them feel more comfortable talking to you about the subject and bringing up questions of their own.

Once they find out the truth, do adoptees feel betrayed?  How do they cope with the truth?  I have read stories of people who found out later in life that they were adopted and were shocked, upset, angry, etc.  Finding out that they were adopted helped others understand why they always felt like they didn’t quite fit in.

Children may feel grief over the loss of a relationship with their birth parents and the loss of the cultural and family connections that would have existed with those parents.

There can also be significant concerns about feeling abandoned and “abandonable,” and “not good enough,”coupled with specific hurt feelings over the birth mother’s choice to “reject” the child” to “give me away” or “not wanting me enough.” Such hurtful and vulnerable feelings may be compounded should the child learn that the birth mother later had other children that she chose to raise herself – Mental Health Help

When it comes to sharing medical family history, it is difficult for an adopted child to do so.  It is a reminder that she is different from the others.  Many struggle with identity issues because they are no longer the person they thought they were.  Their parents are not their real parents and their siblings are not their real siblings.  They have questions such as “Who am I?” “Who are my real parents?”  “Am I ever going to meet them?”  “Why didn’t they want me?”  They feel guilty because they want to find out about their birth parents and feel that in doing so they are hurting their adoptive parents who loved and raised them as their own.

I have read stories where adopted children meet their biological parents and things don’t go well.  However, for some, making contact was better than looking at every stranger and wondering if that person was their mother or father.  Sometimes the hurt and pain that comes from knowing that they were given up for adoption put a damper on their reunion with their birth mother or father and many decide to severe any further contact.

Mother Worried About Unhappy Teenage Daughter

Adoption is a tricky thing but it could be a blessing.  I just read this story of a girl who knew that she was adopted.  It was never kept from her and she knew why her mother had given her up.  “I knew that my birth mother loved me so much that she wanted to give me a better life.”  Her adoptive parents were looking to adopt and they found her less than a week after she was born.  Growing up, her adoptive parents explained her adoption this way:  “We chose you.” To this girl, it was a “a wonderful way to put it to an adopted child.”

For some birth parents, giving their child up for adoption is a very difficult and emotional decision but they do it out of love.  They know that they can’t take care of the child and that it would be best for a couple who could to raise him or her.  For the adoptive couple, this is a gift, especially if they can’t have children of their own and want to be parents.

Not all adoptive children will see adoption as a blessing and will always question why their birth parents gave them away but hopefully, in time, they will accept that they were very fortunate to be placed in the care of people who have loved and raised them from birth.

Adoption is another word for loveAdoption.com

Sources: Medium; The Genealogist; American Adoptions ; The Guardian