Much to Celebrate

“Happy anniversary, my Darling,” he said as he handed her the beautiful bouquet of flowers.  “Forty years ago, you turned my life upside down when you moved into my neighborhood.  And it took a few years before I plucked up the courage to ask you out on a date.  Thank you for not saying no and for the happiest years of my life.”  He pulled her to his side and kissed her on the temple.

Joanne smiled as she inhaled the sweet fragrance of the roses.  “These are lovely,” she said.  “Thank you for being such a wonderful husband.”

Tears came to her eyes as she thought of how amazing he had been when they found out that she couldn’t have children.  It had devastated her because she had longed to be a mother and she knew that he would have made a terrific father.  For years they had tried and then she had learned that they would never have children.  It was a very bitter pill to swallow and for months she was depressed but Martin was always there, loving her and trying to help her through those though times.

During the moments of despair, she lashed out at God, asking Him why He would deny her the joy of being a mother.  Friends encouraged her to looking into adopting a child but she didn’t want to consider it.  And Martin assured her that she was more than enough for him and tried to encourage her to go away on trips with him and get involved in activities to take her mind off of things.  He was so devoted to her that sometimes she felt ashamed of how she was so fixated on not being able to have children that she might be neglecting him.

One day she was turning the pages of her Bible, not sure what to read.  It had been a while since she had even opened it.  And her eyes fell on the chapter one of the first book of Samuel.  She began to read it.  She could identify with Hannah.  She remembered those times when she couldn’t eat and was always in tears.  And all Martin could do was try to comfort her as best as he could.  It must have been so hard for him.  The words, But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the LORD had closed her womb.  Martin loved her even though she couldn’t give him children.  Her barrenness hadn’t diminished his love at all, in fact it had grown stronger.  Her friends remarked on how he treated her like a queen.

And Elkanah’s words to Hannah cut Joanne to the quick.  “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”  Wasn’t Martin better to her than the children she wished she could have?  He was there and they were not.  God had blessed her with an incredible man whose happiness was wrapped up in her and the life they could have together.  She felt ashamed and she cried out to God, asking Him to forgive her for being so selfish and for her anger and bitterness toward Him.

That night when Martin came home, she asked him to forgive her and he, of course, assured her that there was nothing to forgive.  He took her in his arms and held her close for a long time.  That night was the turning point in her life.  She decided that she would focus on her marriage and nothing else.

Forty years later and they were still going strong.  There were still moments when she wondered what would have happened if her life had turned out like Hannah’s.  Hannah had prayed to God and He had opened her womb and blessed her with seven children.  Joanne had prayed for Him to do the same miraculous thing for her but it didn’t happen.  God had blessed her with a lasting, strong and healthy marriage and tonight she was going to celebrate.

“Are you ready?” Martin asked.

She nodded.  “Yes.  I’m ready to celebrate forty years of being married to an incredible man.” Yes.  There was much to celebrate.  And she had God to thank for that.

man giving wife flowers

The Declaration

Friends since they were children,

Eliza never once imagined that

their relationship would blossom

into a romantic one.  Franklin

was so handsome and he had

his pick of very beautiful and

accomplished young women.

 

Eliza had always dreaded the

day when he would marry.

Her feelings for him had

changed when she turned

sixteen.  It was hard being

around him and pretending

that he was like a brother to

her.  It was even harder seeing

him with other girls.

 

When she and Franklin went

for their walks, always accompanied by

a relative, she would ask him

questions about a particular girl

to gage his feelings but he always

changed the subject.  She thought

perhaps he had developed an

attachment to the girl but

didn’t want to say anything until

he was sure that his affection

was reciprocated.

 

Then the moment she always dreaded

came.  They were sitting in their favorite

spot under her aunt’s supervision.  It was

a beautiful, sunny day.  Eliza breathed in the air,

smiling as the sun hit her face.  She held a rose in

her hand which Franklin had picked for her.

That was very sweet of him, she thought.

He was always doing thoughtful things.

How she adored him.  Sighing, she turned

to her friend who was watching her.

 

There was curious expression on his face

and she grew concerned.  “Is something the

matter?” she asked.

 

“Over the years I have developed feelings

for someone close to me and I haven’t had

the courage to tell her.  I am not sure of how

she feels about me.  What do you think I should

do?”

 

Eliza blinked, trying hard not to show the pain

that had gripped her heart.  She quickly turned

her head away from him so that he could not

see the tears in her eyes.  She blinked them back.

The last thing she wanted was to break down in

front of him.  He must never know how she felt

about him.  Never.  “I-I think you should tell her,”

she said quietly.  “You won’t know her feelings

unless you declare yours.”

 

There was a moment’s silence and then she

felt Franklin reach for her hand and his

fingers closed round hers.  His hand felt so

warm and strong.  She wanted to pull her hand

away, get up and run from there.  She wanted to

go to her room and lock herself in and cry until

she couldn’t cry anymore.

 

“Eliza, you and I have been friends since child-

hood.  The happiest moments of my life have

been with you.  I can’t imagine being with

anyone else.  Eliza, I love you.”

 

Her head spun round, her eyes wide with

shock.  “What?” she exclaimed.

 

“You’re crying,” he said, brushing the tears

from her cheeks.

 

“You love me?” She couldn’t believe it.

 

“Yes.  I have loved you for a long time

now but dared not declare my feelings

because I didn’t want to run the risk of

ruining our friendship.  You never showed

particular favour to any of the young men

so I hoped that perhaps you might be

more inclined to develop a romantic interest

in a man whom you consider to be your friend.”

 

Eliza beamed through her tears, her heart

bursting with joy.  “Oh Franklin,” she cried.  “I

love you.  I loved you since I was sixteen.  I wanted

so much to tell you but was afraid that you won’t

be pleased.”

 

His eyes were tender as they searched her face.  “Oh

my dear Eliza,” he murmured.  ” We would have

spared each other undue anguish if we had

declared our love before.  Well, the matter has been

resolved.  We love each other and it means now that

I can ask you to marry me without fear of rejection.”

He got down on his knee, his eyes held hers and both

of his hands held hers.  “Eliza, will you do me the honor

of becoming my wife?”

 

Eliza nodded, the tears falling.  “Yes,” she sobbed.

“Oh, Franklin.”

 

He smiled and stood up.  He pulled her to her feet.

“Now, I will go and ask your father for his permission.”

 

“I don’t suspect that you will meet with any resistance,”

Eliza told him.  “My father is rather fond of you.”

 

They walked back to Eliza’s house where Franklin was

warmly received.  Her aunt followed them, dabbing

at her eyes and smiling broadly.

 

the-lovers-by-william-powell-frith-18551

Sources:  Angelpig.net; Victorian Era

Rescued

She came from Niger, a place notorious for child marriage.

Her name is Abayomi which means “she brings me joy”.

She was only 14 when her parents insisted that she got married

Abayomi was filled with horror.  She had heard stories of  girls

as young as seven years  old being sold into marriage.

She didn’t want to get married–yet.  And when she did she

wanted it to be her decision.  She wanted to go to school and

study to be a doctor.   Her pleas fell on deaf ears.

 

A year passed and she was set to marry a man twice her age.

She had a wedding dress and the dreaded day was approaching.

There seemed to be no hope.  She thought of running away but where

could she go?  She couldn’t stay here.   She  thought of the horrible stories

she heard of young girls losing their lives when their parents married  them

of because they were having children when they were too young.  She didn’t

want to end up like them.  She didn’t want to die in childbirth.

 

No.  I’m going to fight this, she resolved.  She continued to refuse the

arranged marriage until her father cancelled it.  And to her surprise,

he encouraged her to join UNFPA’s Action for Adolescent Girls programme.

When Abayomi went to the programme, she met other girls who had left

school to marry and some were even pregnant.  She was happy that she had

escaped the same fate.  She had her father to thank  for that.  What had made

him  change his mind after he had been so adamant?

 

She learned that he had met a Christian who told him about Jesus.   Curious, she

asked him what he knew about Jesus.  He explained that Jesus would not have

wanted him to force her into doing something against her will.  Then, he gave

the Gospel of John booklet the man had given him.  After everyone else had

gone to bed, she read stayed up to read the Gospel.

 

As Abayomi read how Jesus rescued the woman caught in adultery from

being stoned to death, she realized that she too had been rescued from a

terrible fate.  She felt the tears spill down her cheeks and sliding off the

bed , she knelt on the floor.  “Thank You, Jesus,” she prayed.  She decided right

there and then to give her heart to One who had seen her plight and had come

to her aid.

 

Abayomi continued with her education and is currently in medical school.  She

is also encouraging other girls to say no to child marriage.  And her parents have

changed their views of forced marriage.  They believe that she should have the

right to choose her own husband and to marry when she is ready.

 

Nigerian Girl

Sources:  UNFPA; The Telegraph; BBC

Asha’s Story

Imagine you are a child and your daily routine is to get up early every morning to go and pick through trash with your mother.  You and your family are “untouchables” in your society which means you are treated as outcasts, undesirables.   You don’t have many options when it comes to jobs so in order to survive, you have to pick through garbage to find plastic bottles to sell. This was Asha’s reality.

Her world was tough, bleak.  She spent her days trudging through streets and alleyways strewn with garbage, hungry because she left home without having any breakfast.  The stench of the heaps of trash and filth assailed her nostrils as she searched for plastic items that could be sold.  She sorted, graded and sold whatever she could find.

When it was time for Asha to go to school she dreaded it because she feared the rejection of her teachers and classmates.  None of the children wanted to sit next to her or play with her.  She alone with no friends.  Asha knew why the others didn’t want to be around her.  It was because she picked trash for a living.  She had no choice.  She was trapped in the cycle of poverty and the door to better future was barred to her.  Asha wanted to learn but she was afraid to go to school.

For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope – Jeremiah 29:11

When Asha’s father heard about a Gospel for Asia supported Bridge of Hope center, he encouraged her to go.  He knew that Bridge of Hope offered help to people in need, especially to those whom society considered to be the lowest of people and he knew that the Bridge of Hope Center would care for her and provide her with the things he couldn’t.

Asha showed up at the Bridge of Hope carrying a plastic bag full of school books, dressed in tattered and smelly clothes, her face dirty and unwashed.  Unlike the reception she normally received at school, Asha was welcomed by the staff.  They loved and cared for her.  They took the time to help her to keep neat and clean.  She was given a backpack to replace her makeshift book bag and then school supplies and other useful gifts.

Within a year, Asha’s life was completely transformed.  She was fast learner and developed strongly in her studies.  She no longer went hungry as every school day she enjoyed a meal at the center.   Thanks to the staff, Asha has learned how to keep herself clean and she participates in all the activities at the center.  Her Dad couldn’t be happier,  “My daughter is getting her daily needs met through the Bridge of Hope center.  Now she is having good food, and she is healthy now.  We are very happy to see her growth.  She feared to go to school, but now she is never absent from school.”

Asha no longer has to pick up trash or feel alone and rejected by teachers and other students.  Instead she thrives under the love and attention she receives at the Bridge of Hope center and is excelling at school.  The door that society had barred her from because of her background, God cleared through Bridge of Hope.   Hope for a better future was now in her grasp.   No more trading plastic bottles.  No more rummaging through garbage to maintain the family because her father was paralyzed and couldn’t provide for them.

Asha1

You can help other children like Asha to have a better life, a bright future by supporting the Bridge of Hope centre.  Bridge of Hope is reaching out to the hopeless and rejected “through education, daily meals,  character-building activities, lessons on good hygiene, and by setting positive examples of love and good morals.  There is a bridge for these children that gives them a chance to rise above the cycle of hopelessness they have always known.”

Help to give hope.  Sponsor a child today.

Asha2

“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.”
– B.B. King

 

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; The Borgen Project

Florence

She sat at a small table outside of the local cafe set in the maze of

streets near Piazza Antinori.  One could get lost in Florence but won’t

mind at all.  It was a beautiful, bustling and exciting place.  There was

so much to see.

Around her mingled the sound of dishes cutlery, the clink of

glasses as people toasted each other and the voices and laughter

of tourists and locals alike.  She heard French, Spanish, English, Italian.

Whiffs of cappuccino, hot bread and pasta filled the air.  It was early

afternoon.  She had spent the morning visiting the Duomo and the

Antinori palace.  Now she was at this little cafe buzzing with locals,

and enjoying a glass of wine after having delicious Ravioli, drinking

in the friendly ambiance around her as she watched couples, friends,

students on summer break and the locals walk by.

This was her first time in Florence.  She loved it.  She loved the

cobbled streets, the history, the people and of course, the food.

She will definitely stop by this delightful cafe again and try their

Beef tagliata.  Hopefully, she would get a table inside.  Not that

she minded eating on the sidewalk.

This was her first trip alone.  Usually she traveled with her

Sister, June.  June got married a couple years ago and her life

was not wrapped up in her husband and their two children.

No plans for Travel any time soon.

She signed.  Being alone in a city like Florence wasn’t so bad.

She could get used to it.  She could just lose herself in the maze

of streets that now seemed to be beckoning her.

She finished her wine and grabbing her handbag, she

got up and headed to the nearest street.

 

This trip could be her own personal adventure.  Who knows….what

could happen in the city of love…

woman in Florence

Sources:  Tripadvisor; Antinori Palace

Parental Fighting

Is fighting in front of your children ever a good thing?  An ABC News article says, it depends. In the article, Dr. Gordon Harold, a researcher at Cardiff University in Cardiff, Wales, parents can argue in front of their children but should do so with caution.  “It would be unrealistic to say that , you know, parents should never argue or should never disagree in front of their children,” he says, “Arguments and disagreements are a natural part of all relationships.”

A three-year study showed that if even if the parents’ argument has nothing to do with the kids, if they fight the wrong way, it threatens their emotional stability.  Dr. Harold says that when children are threatened at an emotional level, they show increases in negative symptoms such as depression, anxiety, aggression and hostility.  A child may react to the parental fighting by becoming withdrawn or quiet, which is often overlooked or the child may become aggressive and difficult and act out while the parents are arguing in an effort to distract them. It depends on the child and how he or she process what is happening.

 

The number of fights is not what impact children but whether or not the fights get nasty and if the parents make up.  Verbally or aggressive fights, the silent treatment, intense quarrels and arguments concerned or involving the child are the worst for children.  Just the other day a couple had an argument in the car on the way to drop their son to school.  There were raised, angry voices.  Their son was quiet at the back, doing his work.  The couple has since made up but it took time because a lot of negative things were exchanged.  It is not clear how this fighting affected their son but it seems like he seeks each parent’s attention by talking about problems he is having at school, wanting them to spend more time with him and showing them scrapes he got from playing at recess.

 

“Arguments that are dealt with effectively that are conducted calmly that show clear messages of negotiation and resolution have positive implications for children.” Dr. Harold says.  He went on to say that couples that are happy and comfortable with each other in their relationship are more emotionally available and sensitive to the children and their needs than couples that are caught up or embroiled in conflict.”

 

Experts say that although fighting can be damaging to kids, there are good lessons they can learn from it.  Apparently, when conflicts are handled constructively, kids learn how to compromise, to use humor and warmth to solve disagreements.  They also learn that it’s not the end of the world when you have a conflict with someone you love.

 

When parents leave the room to fight behind closed doors, the children can tell something is up, especially when their parents return and are visibly upset.  I have had my son ask me if I’m ok because he can see from my face and body language that I am upset.  We can’t fool them.  According to Murphy, children may assume that they are to blame for their parents’ fight.  According to an expert, boys and girls react differently.  Boys tend to withdraw while girls try to get involved.

I remember once when my parents were arguing in the car, my sister sided with our mother.  Once, when a friend’s son sided with her, her husband told him to stay out of it because it was between the two of them.  It was her husband’s belief that children should never get involved when parents are having a fight.  They should never take sides or say anything.  They should just keep out of it and leave the adults alone to deal with their issues.  Unfortunately, children blame themselves if the fights get worse.

 

Bear in mind that seeing their parents fight can be a very scary thing for children.  It’s as bad as seeing a parent cry.  I will never forget the first time I saw my mother cry.  As children we always like to think that our parents are in control.  It helps us to feel secure and grounded.  When they fight it is as if our world is turned upside down and we feel helpless and afraid.  As parents, we ought to do whatever we can to make sure that what we do will not hurt our children and scare them emotionally for life.  Some children take with them into adulthood the images of their parents fighting and end up having problems with developing relationships of their own.

 

Murphy, an expert on these matters, offers parents the following tips:

  • Count to 10 or leave the room to keep from arguing when you are upset.
  • If you do get upset, reassure your children by telling them that fights happen but you do love each other and it’s not the children’s fault.
  • Make up but don’t fake it.  Children will know if you are faking.

The Bible offers tips as well, when it comes to dealing with conflict.

  • “A good man thinks before he speaks; the evil man pours out his evil words without a thought” (Proverbs 15:28, TLB).
  • “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words cause quarrels” (Proverbs 15:1, TLB)
  • “Pride leads to arguments; be humble, take advice, and become wise (Proverbs 13:10, TLB)
  • “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Ephesians 4:6, NKJV)
  • “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3, 4, NKJV)

 

Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) offers tips on how you can resolve an argument with your spouse every time here.   When these and other tips don’t offer you the resolution you need, it’s time to seek counseling.

sad child

 

Sources:  BibleinfoABC NewsFaithwriters

Compassion

Shortly after Jesus told the Pharisees that God desired mercy not sacrifice, He went into the synagogue.  There was a man with a withered hand.  Instead of being stirred with pity for him, the religious leaders asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” so that they could accuse Him.  Whenever they engaged in dialogue with Him, it was never to learn from His teachings.  It was always to challenge Him and find reasons to accuse Him of being a Sinner.

It must have grieved Jesus to see the lack of compassion among men who considered themselves to be holy and righteous and children of God.  When He looked at them, He saw hypocrites.  And He addressed it.  “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Then how much better is a man than a sheep? Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

He told the man to stretch out his hand and He restored it whole like the other.   The Pharisees were angry and they left, plotting how they would kill Him.  They failed to see that the Sabbath was not just a day of rest but it was an opportunity for helping people.  They had turned God’s holy day into a day of dos and don’ts.  Jesus showed them that there was a different type of work to be done on the Sabbath.  It was community work–reaching out to the needy and the sick.  He showed them that if it was lawful for one of them to pull a sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath, then it should be lawful for a man to be healed.  A human was of greater value in the eyes of God than an animal.

This man was in the synagogue and he had a need.  Jesus saw it and addressed it.  Are there people in our church like this man who has an obvious need but like the Pharisees we see it but will do nothing about it?  Do we resent those who reach out in love and compassion to this person in need?  Do we grumble and complain?  Would God be happy to accept our worship or our offerings when we are not generous toward that person in our midst?  Jesus brought joy to the man.  He brought healing and wholeness and showed him that the God he worshipped cared about him.

Just as Jesus valued this man, we should value those around us.  Sabbath-keeping does not mean that we should ignore the needs of those around us.  The Sabbath is for doing what is good and showing the love of God for His creation.  When we do what is lawful on the Sabbath, we are honoring God.