Mia’s Story

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Ours isn’t your typical love story.  I was a victim of human sex trafficking and he’s an FBI agent.  My name is Mia and I’m 28 years old.  I was 18 when I ran away from home.  I was having problems with my mother who always made me feel like I was no good and that she was sorry that she had me.  And my father who was hardly around and when he was, he fought with my mother and ignored me.

Life at home was hell and sometimes I just wished it was a nightmare and that I would wake up in a different house and with different parents–people who loved and cared about me.  It got to the point that I knew that if I didn’t leave, I would kill myself.  One night after my parents had gone to bed, I grabbed my knapsack and sneaked out of the house.  I had some money which I took from my mother’s purse and my father’s wallet.  I didn’t have time to count the amount but it looked like it would last me for a while.

It lasted for a couple of weeks and then I was broke.  I had no idea of what to do.  I had no where to go.  I refused to go back home.  I called other family members but they hung up when they knew that it was me.  I was too ashamed to call my friends.  So, I decided that may be I should find a job at McDonald’s or some other fast food place.  It was better than staying on the streets or going to a homeless shelter.

I stood there trying to figure out where the nearest MacDonald’s was when a really cute guy came up to me.  He had the most incredible blue eyes and an amazing smile.  “Hi,” he said.  “Are you lost?”

“I’m trying to find a McDonald’s,” I explained.  “I’m looking for a job.”

“I see.  It just so happens that I work at a restaurant just around the corner and the manager is looking to hire a cashier.  Are you interested?”

My expression brightened.  “Of course!  I’ve worked as a cashier before.”

“Good.  I’m heading there now so I can introduce you to the manager.”

“Okay.”

“What’s your name?”

“Mia.”

“I’m Joe.”  He held out his hand.

She smiled and shook it.  “Nice to meet you, Joe.”

We headed in the direction of the Space Needle.  I promised myself that one day I would visit it.  As we walked we talked.  He was so charming and easygoing.  I found myself hoping that he didn’t have a girlfriend.  About ten minutes later, we stopped in front of a restaurant.  It was packed.  He pushed the door open for me to enter.  The smell of fried food assailed me and reminded me that I was hungry.

As if he read my mind, he asked, “Are you hungry?”

I nodded.  “I haven’t eaten all day.”

He took me by the elbow and led me down a long corridor and into a room.  “Sit here while I go and get something for you to eat.”

I sat down, grateful for his kindness and to be able to sit down after being on my feet for so long.  Fading light streamed through the windows.  The sun would be setting soon.  I hoped that Joe was right about his manager and that he would hire me.  It would be so cool working there with Joe.  I was feeling a little hot so I removed my jacket.  I pulled my hair back into a ponytail.  I was about to get up and walk over to the window and look out when Joe came in carrying a tray with a burger, fries and a soft drink.  He set them down on the table.  My mouth was watering.  “Thanks, Joe.”

He smiled.  “No problem.  When you’re finished just come to the front where the cashier is and I’ll be there.”

“Thanks.”  I waited until he left before I wolfed down the burger and fries.  They were sooo good.  I drank the Ginger-ale.  It was nice and cold.  I was half-way through it when I started to feel dizzy.  The room started to spin and I squeezed my eyes shut.  When I opened them again, I was in another room and there was a strange man standing over me.  Was this the manager?  Had I passed out or something?  Did I eat too fast?  All sorts of questions whirled around in my mind.  My head was pounding but at least the room wasn’t spinning and the dizziness was gone.  I tried to sit up but the man pushed me down.  Panicking, I cried out but he put something over my nose and mouth and everything went black.res

When I regained consciousness I was alone and I realized that I was lying on a bed.  I managed to sit up and I screamed when I saw that I was wearing red lingerie.  How did I end up here?  Who removed my clothes?  Where are my clothes?  I looked wildly about the room for my clothes.  I tried to get out of the bed but the door opened and Joe came in.  He grabbed me and tried to force me to lie back down.  I struggled wildly and he struck me.  I was so shocked that I fell back against the pillows.  Joe looked like a different person.  His eyes were cold and his expression impassive.  “You’re not going anywhere,” he muttered.  “You’re going to be here for a long time.”

“Where am I?” I asked, tears streaming down my face.  “Who are you and why are you doing this to me?”

“I don’t have time to answer your questions.”

“What is this place?  Why have you brought me here?”

“You wanted a job, remember?  Well, here you are.”

I struggled to get up.  “You told me that it was a cashier’s job at your restaurant.”

“You’re far too pretty to be a cashier.  You will make more money on your back.”

Then, it hit me.  He was forcing me into prostitution.  I felt sick.  I clawed at him until he clamped his hand over my nose and mouth.  Everything went black again.  I don’t know how long I was out but when I came to, I heard Joe say to someone, “She’s all yours.  I broke her in for you and she’s nicely cleaned up.  Remember to wear a rubber.  We practice safe sex here.  She’s no use to me if she gets pregnant and I’m not to spend my hard earned money on an abortion.”

I heard the door open and close.  Then silence.  I opened my eyes and I saw a man leaning over me.  I felt his hot breath on my face.  I struggled to get up but I couldn’t move.  Then, I realize that he was on top of me.  I pushed at him but it was no use.  I lay there helpless while he raped me.

When it was over, he got off me and I heard him moving about the room as he got dressed.  Then, I heard the door open and close.  I lay there for a long time, too terrified to move or make a sound.  Then, I pushed myself up and got up from the bed.  I put on the lingerie bottom which was lying on the floor and stumbled towards the closed door.  It was a washroom.  I felt for the switch and flicked it on.  I went over to the mirror and stared at my reflection.  I didn’t recognize myself.  My eyes were puffy, my jaw was bruised from where Joe struck me and my left shoulder had a bruise as well.  I turned on the tap and splashed water on my face.  I had to get out of there.  I went to the window and opened it.  I pushed my head out.  Outside was a fire escape.  I raised the window higher and climbed onto the ledge.  I reached out and pulled myself onto the fire escape.  I made my way down to the street below and ran as fast as I could.

When I was as far away from that place as possible, I flagged a cab down and when it stopped, I begged the driver to take me to the nearest hospital.  When I got there I went straight to Emergency and told the triage person what happened to me.  I was ushered into a room where I was told to wait.  Minutes later a nurse came in and asked me “Did anyone you worked for or lived with trick or force you into doing anything you did not want to do?” and other questions.  Then, she left and returned.  She asked me to get undressed so that I could be examined and left.  After the examination, I was given a gown.  I sat at the edge of the bed and waited.

The nurse who examined me came in and told me that I was a victim of sex trafficking.  There was evidence of forced penetration and bruising on my wrists as if I were restrained.  She asked if there was anyone I needed to call or somewhere to stay.  I shook my head.  I was in a daze.  I still couldn’t believe what had happened to me.  I had fallen for a pair of blue eyes and a charming smile.  The nurse told me that the hospital would help me with housing, transportation and any necessities I may need.  That was a real load off my shoulders.  I spent the night in the hospital.  I had trouble falling asleep because every time I closed my eyes I saw either Joe’s or that strange man’s face.  And I was afraid that I would wake up and find myself back in that room.

The next day, I was visited by two FBI agents who wanted to question me.  One was an older man with sandy colored hair, sharp eyes and a portly gait.  The other was tall, dark and very handsome.  The older one asked most of the questions and was very quick and direct.  Then, the other one said, “You were lucky to get out of there alive.  You did the right thing coming here.”

“I hope you catch Joe,” I said.  “I wish I knew the other man’s name.”

“It would be very helpful if you can give their descriptions to our artist,” he replied.

“I can,” I assured them tightly.  “I will never forget their faces.”

“Thank you, Miss Bautista,” the older one said.  “We will be in touch.  Good-day.”  He left the room.

The other one lingered for a moment.  “Good-day, Miss Bautista.”

“Good-day, Agent Fowler.”  I watched him leave.

I left the hospital that afternoon and was placed in Catalyst at Straley House where I can stay for 18 months while I work with my case manager to get connected to school and employment, and transition into permanent housing.   It turned out to be a really nice place.  I met a lot of great people.  My case manager, Rita was a tremendous help and support for me.  Before leaving home, I had graduated from high-school with honors but I hadn’t applied to any university.  After my ordeal in Seattle, I decided that I would move to another city in Washington.  I googled the best cities there and chose Spokane.  I applied to Gonzaga University and was accepted.

Before I left to go to live on campus, I received a visit from Agent Fowler who informed me that thanks to my descriptions Joe Cartwright and his cohorts were arrested.   The man who raped me was a prominent businessman who was a regular client.  Joe was a pimp and his victims included under-aged girls.  It turned out that Mr. Murphy had no clue about Joe’s nefarious business dealings.  Joe had used Mr. Murphy’s job posting to gain my trust.  I was very grateful to Agents Fowler and Benson for investigating and catching those monsters.  I hope that they will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.  I told Agent Fowler that I was moving to Spokane.  He smiled and shook my hand.  “I wish you all the best, Miss Bautista.”

As I watched him leave, I found myself hoping that I would see him again.  Years later, I did.  I had graduated from Gonzaga University and was working as a Youth Program Assistant which I loved.  I was on my way to lunch when I saw someone walking in front of me.  From the back he looked very familiar and then I realized who it was.  I quickened my pace until I was right behind him and I called out, “Agent Fowler.”

He stopped and turned to face me.  I could see that he recognized me.  Smiling, he held out his hand.  “Miss Bautista.  It’s good to see you.”

“I didn’t think I would run into you.  What are you doing in Spokane?”

“I’m here for my nephew’s wedding which is tomorrow.”

“Did you fly or drive?”

“I flew.  I didn’t feel like spending over four hours behind the wheel. Are you heading somewhere?”

“I was on my way to lunch.”

“Do you mind if I tag along?”

“I could do with the company.  There’s a bistro right up the road.  They serve the best comfort food.”

“Sounds good.”

We walked to the bistro.  Over local beef and regional fresh fish, we talked.  When it was time for me to head back to the office, he came with me.  As we stood outside the building, he asked me to have dinner with him.  I gladly accepted.  After that first dinner, we made arrangements to see each other again.  He spent the week in Spokane before he flew back.  We had a long distance relationship and saw each other in the summer, at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.  Then, one day when we were Riverfront Park, he told me that he was moving to the FBI office in Spokane.

I stared up at him.  “Why?” I asked.  I was thrilled, of course but taken aback.

He reached for my hands, his expression serious as his eyes met mine.  “I want to be where you are, Mia,” he said quietly.

I swallowed hard, my heart was racing now.  “Why?”

“Simple, I love you.”

“I love you too, Nathan.  And I’m happy that you’re moving to Spokane.”

He leaned over and kissed me.  I felt my head explode.  We drew apart several minutes later and holding hands, we continued our walk.  The following spring, he moved to Spokane and following a very short engagement, we got married in September.  The attendees were Rita, my case manager, my friends from Catalyst, my co-workers and his FBI friends and family.  My parents weren’t there because I didn’t invite them.  They are a painful part of my past which I want to forget.

Ten years have passed since my ordeal and what thing that I have learned from it is that “Our pain can be turned into purpose”  This March, I started a support group for former sex and human trafficking victims.

While Mia’s story is fiction, it is real for many.  Trafficking of any kind is an evil that must be wiped out and those responsible for it must be brought to justice.  Check out this video for a grim glimpse into the world of child sex trafficking and what is being done to save victims.

Here is a list of non-profit organizations fighting against Human Trafficking:

Let’s work together to stop trafficking and exploitation.  Let’s fight for freedom.

Sources:  FBI Video; Nurse.com; Nurse.org; FBI; YouthCare; Yelp

Do it

Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home… it’s your responsibility to love it, or change it – Chuck Palahniuk

Change is a good thing–sometimes.  It takes courage to step outside of your comfort zone and follow your dreams wherever they take you.  You will have the naysayers and doubters on the side lines giving you all sorts of reasons why change isn’t good but it’s up to you if you will let them discourage you.  Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and not because you feel pressured or want to prove something.  If you believe that it’s time for a change, do it.  Don’t allow fear, doubt or what other people say to stop you.

You will know if the change you are making is the right one.  There will be a sense of peace and purpose.  One of my co-workers decided to pack up, leave Toronto and move to Omaha to be with her boyfriend.  She had no reservations because she believed that she was doing what was best for her.

If it’s a career change you are thinking of making, figure out what you want to do before you quit your job.  You can enroll in night school courses.  Once you have found a job in your new career, you can quit your current one and pat yourself on the back for taking a leap of faith.

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This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompts for today’s word, Change.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Sources:  Brainy Quote; Ms. Career Girl; Toronto School District Board

The Sunshine Comes

Do not lose hope, please believe that there are thousands of beautiful things waiting for you. Sunshine comes to all who feel rain. -R.M. Drake

After staring at her painted toenails, she finally raised her head to look up at him.  They were standing by the lake on a cloudy Sunday afternoon.  They had just gone for a bite to eat at their favorite Greek restaurant.  All during the meal, she wrestled with herself.  Should I tell him today or wait a while longer?  They had been dating for a while now and things were becoming serious between them.  He had a right to know.  If there was to be any future together, there could be no secrets between them.

“Ishmael, I have something to tell you.”

He looked a bit concerned.  “What is it?” he asked gently.

She took a deep breath.  “I suffer from bi-polar disorder.”  There, she said it.  Her heart pounded as she waited for his response.  Would he act all strange or come up with some excuse and walk away and out of her life?  It had happened before with other guys.  She hoped that he would be different.

An expression of relief came over his face.  “Is that all?” he exclaimed.  “I thought you were going to tell me that it’s over between us.”

She stared at him.  “You mean you don’t mind…?”

He shook his head.  “No.  Mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed of.  And it doesn’t define you.  I look at you and still see the amazing woman I fell in love with a year ago.”

Tears welled in her eyes.  “I was afraid to tell you but you had a right to know.”

He reached out and drew her closer, his thumb caressed her cheek as he rested his forehead against hers.  “You have nothing to be afraid of where I’m concerned, okay?” he assured her.

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak just then.

“I have something I need to ask you,” he said, raising his head.

She looked at him, curious.  “What is it?” she asked.

He didn’t answer right away.  Instead, he got down on one knee, fished out a little black box from his jeans pocket and holding it out for her to see as he opened it to reveal an exquisite diamond and gold ring.  “Nadya, will you marry me?”

Nadya began to cry and in between the sobs, she managed to say, “Yes!”

Grinning broadly, Ishmael slipped it on her finger, kissed it and then got to his feet.  Cupping her face between his hands, he kissed her.

She put her arms around his waist and kissed him back, her heart almost bursting.  At that moment the sun began to shine.

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January 30th is Bell Let’s Talk Day when Canadians and people around the globe join the world’s largest conversation about mental health.  The impact has been great. Overall, 87% of Canadians say they are more aware of mental health issues than they were a few years ago. Additionally, 85% think attitudes about mental health have changed for the better and 75% believe the stigma around mental illness has been reduced. The numbers are even more impressive among young people aged 18-24: 88% think attitudes are better and 77% believe stigma has been reduced – BCE

Mental illness is something that affects everyone in some fashion and there always needs to be a conversation.  I have been personally affected by it.  My sister has bipolar disorder as did two deceased cousins.  I knew two co-workers who had it as well.  Those who have it need to know that they have support.

It isn’t something to be ashamed or embarrassed about.  There is awareness and an ongoing conversation.  And most importantly, there is help.

There isn’t anybody out there who doesn’t have a mental health issue, whether it’s depression, anxiety, or how to cope with relationships. Having OCD is not an embarrassment anymore – for me. Just know that there is help and your life could be better if you go out and seek the help.” – Howie Mandel

“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.” – Glenn Close

“It doesn’t have to take over your life, it doesn’t have to define you as a person, it’s just important that you ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness.” — Demi Lovato

Sources:  WikipediaEveryday Power

Stick With Your Own Water

Drink from your own well, my son—be faithful and true to your wife. Be happy, yes, rejoice in the wife of your youth.  Let her breasts and tender embrace satisfy you. Let her love alone fill you with delight. – Proverbs 5:15, 18, 19

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It was a Sunday afternoon.  Sunlight streamed through the window.  I could hear the muffled sounds of the traffic below.  We were lying on the couch.  The television was on.  Angie was sleeping.  I stared at the screen but my thoughts were elsewhere.  I was thinking about Nikki.  She’s the woman I’m having an affair with.

I know this may sound lame but I never intended to cheat on Angie.   And definitely not with one of her co-workers.  I was blindsided.  It all began last year when Angie and I went to her company’s Christmas party.  It was the first time she actually succeeded in getting me to go.  She had tried in the past but I always turned her down, preferring to either hang out with my friends or go on a Football binge while enjoying spicy chicken wings.  This time, I decided to go because she laid a guilt trip on me and apparently there was a new guy who seemed a little too interested in her.  I wanted to sort him out.

As soon as we got there, I said to her, “So, where’s the new guy?”

Angie looked at me.  She looked amazing in the red ankle length strapless dress which flattered her figure.  Her hair was swept back in a French knot.  “Promise me you wouldn’t embarrass him or me,” she said.

“I promise.”

“He’s over there talking to Nikki.”

“Nikki?” My eyes followed hers and spotted a man and woman having an animated conversation across the room.  Nikki had her back to us.

“Yes, I’ve told you about her.  Come let me introduce you.”  She held my hand as we navigated our way through the group, past the dance floor to where the guy and Nikki were.  The guy said something to Nikki and she turned around.

I never imagined that I would react to her the way I did.  I felt as if my heart had stopped for a second before it began to pound.  She was stunning.  The faux fur trim knee length black dress showed off her lovely figure and her hair was pulled back with a clasp with a few curls escaping.  Her shapely legs looked long in the black high heeled shoes.  The room suddenly felt very warm.  I needed a drink.

“Dex.” Angie’s gentle nudge on my arm jolted me and I turned to her.  “This is Nikki.”

Nikki smiled up at me and held out her hand.  “Dex, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” she said as we shook hands.  “I’ve heard so much about you.”

I didn’t know what to say except, “It’s a pleasure to meet you too.”

“Honey, this is Erik.”

It was funny that I wasn’t bothered by Erik anymore.  I think it had something to do with the fact that I was distracted by Nikki.  I could feel her eyes on me as Erik and I shook hands.  I don’t remember what I said to him but from Angie’s expression, it wasn’t anything bad or insulting.

“How about Dex and I go and get you ladies drinks?” Erik suggested.

Angie smiled.  “That sounds good.  Nikki and I will wait here.”

I excused myself and followed Erik to the bar.  I ordered drinks for Angie and me while he ordered for Nikki and himself.  While we waited for them, he turned to me and said, “You’re a very lucky man.”

“I am?”

“Yes!  You’re married to an incredible woman.”

“Yes, you’re right.  I’m very lucky.  Angie’s terrific.  So, you recently joined the company.”

“Yes, I started in May.”

“So, how do you like it so far?”

“It’s great.  The people I work with are amazing, especially Angie and Nikki.”

I had to ask.  “So, is Nikki married?”  I couldn’t remember if Angie had mentioned if she was or not.  Until tonight, I hadn’t paid much attention to what she told me about her co-workers.

Erik shook his head.  “No, she’s single.  It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?  A lot of guys at the office are always asking her out but she turns them down.”

The drinks came and we rejoined the women.  I tried not to look at Nikki more than I needed to but it was really hard.  The four of us hung out together for most of the night.  After we had something to eat from the buffet, the dance floor was opened and people headed for it.  Angie wanted to dance and I reluctantly obliged her.  Then, Erik showed up and I honestly didn’t mind him dancing with her.  I joined Nikki at the bar.

“You’re not much of a dancer, are you?” she asked.

I laughed.  “Was it that obvious?”

“Well, you can dance but you’re just not into it.”

“You’re right.  It’s not my thing.  That’s one of the reasons why I haven’t been coming to the Christmas parties.”

“Well, I think it was sweet of you to dance with Angie even though it’s not your thing.”

“Thank you.  What about you?  I haven’t seen you on the dance floor.”

She shrugged.  “I guess I’m not in the mood for dancing.  Besides, these shoes are killing my feet.  They’re new.”

I didn’t dare look down at her feet.  I kept my eyes trained on her face.  “Erik told me that you’re single.  I find that hard to believe.”

She smiled.  “Really?  Why?”

“You’re a stunning woman, Nikki.  Most of the men here haven’t been able to take their eyes off you.”

“And what about you?” she asked, her expression serious now.

I swallowed hard.  “I’ve tried not to stare at you,” I admitted.  “It’s not easy, though, especially now when we’re alone like this.”

“I know what you mean.  I’ve tried not to stare at you too.  I’ve seen photos of you but none of them do you any justice.  Angie’s a very lucky woman.”

I found myself wondering what would have happened if I had met Nikki first.  Would Angie and I be married?  I felt guilty having such thoughts.  I glanced away, my heart racing.  I should walk away now.  I should go and find Angie.  Yet, I couldn’t seem to move.  I turned to face her.  She was staring at me.  “Nikki, can I come and see you tomorrow night?” I heard myself ask.

“Yes,” she said simply.  She told me where she lived.  Then, she slid off the stool.  “Let’s go back to the party.”

I followed her.  For the rest of the night, I stayed with Angie but I was thinking about tomorrow night.

Tomorrow night came and after telling Angie that I was hanging out with the guys, I left.  My fingers gripped the steering wheel.  I shouldn’t be doing this.  I should be home with Angie or really hanging out with the guys.  Instead, I’m heading over to Nikki’s place.  Nikki.  Every time I thought about her, my stomach would flip flop and my heart would somersault.  No woman, not even Angie, has ever had such an effect on me.  This is crazy.  I should turn this car around and head back home.  I could tell Angie that I changed my mind and that I wanted to spend the night at home with her instead.  She would love that.  I’m sure Nikki would understand if I didn’t show up.

Twenty minutes later, I was standing in front of her door and ringing the bell.  The door opened and she stood there.  “Come in,” she said, stepping aside.

I went in and she closed the door behind me.  I turned and faced her.  My heart is pounding and my face felt hot even though I had just come in from the cold.  I removed my coat and scarf.  She took them and carried them to the closet.  When she returned, she didn’t say anything but reached out, grabbed hold of my sweater and dragged it over my head.  My bare chest was heaving now as I fought for air.  I pulled her roughly against me and my head swooped down.  My mouth closed eagerly and hungrily over hers, groaning when she put her arms around my waist and kissed me back.  We didn’t make it to her room.  We ended up making love right there in the foyer.  Afterwards, we showered, had dinner and made plans to see each other again.  Then, I left.

We’ve been seeing each other for months now.  So far, Angie doesn’t suspect anything, not even when Nikki decided to leave the company.  As I lay here now on a quiet Sunday afternoon, I know in my heart that I can’t continue doing this.  I can’t continue lying to Angie.  I know what the Lord wants me to do but I can’t do it.  I can’t let go of Nikki.  I can’t.  I won’t…

Adultery isn’t something that is unplanned or unintended or an accident.  It occurs in the mind and heart long before it becomes an action.  You have a choice to say no and walk away but oftentimes, you say yes and walk right into it, not thinking about the heartache and the consequences that will affect you and the person to whom you promised to be faithful until death parted you.  Adultery is a selfish act.

Praise the Lord

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Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! – Psalm 150:6

 

Thank You, Lord for putting a smile on my face this morning.  It was wonderful to see those seagulls and the squirrels eating the food You provided for them

Lord, I love You because You care not only for my loved ones, friends, co-workers, neighbors, people in general and me but You care for all creatures and nature.

Praise the Lord for His goodness and mercy which endures forever.  Let everything that has breath praise Him.

Lord, even the animals, birds, fish, insects, the trees, the flowers, the sun, moon, stars and everything that Your hands have made praise You.  You and You alone are worthy to be praised, O Lord, my God and my Creator.

The Christmas Present

It was Christmas Day and she was sitting by the tree, going through the presents.  There were several–from family, friends, co-workers and…Kevin.  Kevin.  He was her brother in-law’s youngest brother and eleven years younger than her yet she felt like a lovesick schoolgirl whenever she was around him.  Every year they exchanged Christmas presents.  His were always so creative and unique.  She loved them.  Last year he had given her a box of chocolate soaps which she truly enjoyed.  She couldn’t wait to see what he got for her this year.

She reached for the neatly wrapped present, read the card which said, “Having you in my life has given me a reason to celebrate every day.  Merry Christmas.”  What a lovely sentiment.  Setting the card aside, she eagerly unwrapped the present, anxious to see what was inside.  There was a little box inside and she opened it.  Her eyes widened when she saw the sterling silver heart necklace.  She examined the heart closely.  On it were written the words, “Be Mine”.

Her heart was pounding now.  There was no mistaking what this meant.  She had seen those words on dozens of Valentine’s cards.  It was something a person would say to the one they loved.   Was Kevin telling her that he loved her and wanted to be with her?  She sincerely hoped so because she felt the same way.  Yes, in spite of their age difference, she was in love with Kevin.  She held the heart in her hand and stared at it, thinking it was the most precious present she had ever received.  Putting it carefully back in the box, she got up and went over to the phone to call.  She picked up the receiver and was about to dial his number when the doorbell rang.

Hanging up the phone, she went to answer the door.  It was Kevin.  She opened the door, her heart racing as she met his gaze.  He looked a bit nervous as he stood there in the hallway.  “Good morning,” she greeted him and stood aside for him to go in.  After she closed the door behind him, she turned to face him.  “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” he answered quietly.

She showed him the box and opening it, she took out the necklace.  “Thank you for your beautiful present,” she said.  She handed it to him and turned around, lifting her hair so that her neck was exposed.  “Would you mind putting it on for me?”

She felt him put it around her neck, his knuckles brushing against her skin, making her shiver.  When he was done, she turned to face him.  He was staring at her, his expression no longer tense.  She returned his gaze.  “I’ve been yours since the first time we met,” she told him huskily, reaching up to brush his hair back from his forehead.

His eyes darkened and he caught her hand.  He pressed his lips into the palm, making her tremble.  “I’ve wanted to tell you for such a long time how I feel about you but never worked up the courage until now.  I decided that the necklace would say what I couldn’t say.  I couldn’t sleep last night because I was so nervous.  I wasn’t sure how you felt about me and worried that you might not accept this present. That’s why I came over as soon as I could to find out if you like the necklace.  Then, when you asked me to put it on, it gave me hope.”

“All those times when we were together, I wanted to tell you how I felt but I kept thinking that you should be with someone younger.”

“Do you still think that?” he asked thickly as he pulled her against him.

“No,” she groaned and reaching up she pulled his head down to hers.  They exchanged passionate kisses for a while then, she drew back to look up at him, her breath unsteady.  “There’s a communal service at my church today at eleven.  We can go to that first and then go and celebrate Christmas with the family.  What do you say?”

He nodded, his face flushed.  “I say it’s a good idea.”

“Have you had breakfast?”

He shook his head.  “As soon as I got up, I showered, dressed and came straight over here.  Breakfast was the last thing on my mind.”

She took his hand and led him over to the table.  “Let’s have breakfast and then head over to the church.”  While he sat at the table, she shared out the breakfast and he smiled as she set a plate in front of him.  It was the Egg Croissant Casserole, his favorite.  His mother used to make it at Christmas time too.  His mouth watered just at the sight of it and he was ready to dig into it.  But first, she said a prayer.  Afterwards, she raised her glass of orange juice.  “Here’s to a wonderful Christmas.”

He raised his.  “Here’s to joy, peace and…love.”  They touched their glasses.  “Thank you for making this Christmas the best one ever.”

She reached over and covered his hand with hers.  “And thank you for the Christmas present which has changed my life forever.”  He smiled and gently squeezed her hand before they began to enjoy their first Christmas breakfast together.

Source:  Uncommon Goods

The Christian Faith

Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” – Mark 1:17

The Christian faith has mushroomed into what it is today thanks to men and women who were willing to let the Holy Spirit work in and through them to share the Gospel with others.  It all started with two men–one was Andrew and the other was Philip.  After each man encountered Jesus, they went and told others about him.  When Andrew found his brother, Peter he said to him, “We have found the Messiah.” And Philip declared to his friend, Nathanael,“We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:41, 45).

Then, Peter and Nathanael were taken to meet Jesus.  How do we follow the example of what Andrew and Philip?  We tell our families, friends and co-workers about Jesus and share the Bible with them.  It is through reading the Bible that they meet Jesus.  We introduce them to Him but they have to get to know Him for themselves.

One of my favorite stories is the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  She went to the well to draw water at a time of the day when she wouldn’t run into other people.  Married five times and living with a man who wasn’t her husband, she wasn’t exactly the pillar of society.   She didn’t expect to see Jesus there.  She could tell that He was a Jew and was surprised when He asked her for a drink of water as Jews didn’t have any dealings with Samaritans.  And she was a woman.

Jesus spoke to her, telling her what true worship was and salvation.  When He told her things about herself that a stranger could not have possibly known, she thought He was Prophet.  Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah and excited, she left her water-pot and ran into the city to tell the people there, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”  Like Andrew and Philip, the woman met Jesus, went and told others about Him before bringing them to Him.  Many of the people believed in Jesus because of her testimony.   The woman discovered that despite the fact that Jesus knew everything about her, He loved her.

Does your neighbor know that there is a Savior who loves him or her and wants to reach out in love and forgiveness to him or her?  This encounter between Jesus and the woman was an example of how the Gospel should transcend racial and gender barriers.  The Gospel is for everyone.  Salvation is for everyone.  We must not allow our prejudices to get in the way of spreading the love of Christ to those who need it.

So, we see a progression here.  The mission field begins at home, with our relatives and then spreads to our friends and then our neighbors.  It follows what Jesus said to His disciples when He sent them out to preach and minister to others.  “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.  But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5, 6).  The Jews were to receive the Gospel first and then the Gentiles and Samaritans.  It makes sense that we witness to those closest to us first and then to others.

Once we are willing and open to His leading, God will find opportunities for us to share the Gospel.  He did so with Peter on the Day of Pentecost and Paul when he was in Athens.  After the Holy Spirit filled the disciples, they began to speak in tongues.  The crowd marveled when they heard them speak in their own language.  Some, however, mocked them, accusing them of being drunk.  Peter used their remarks as an opportunity to give a sermon.  He spoke of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.  The people were convicted and they asked Peter and the other disciples what they should do and Peter’s answer was, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Many were baptized and about three thousand people became Christians on that day.

We may encounter skeptics but, instead of becoming discouraged, we can do what Peter did and use their unbelief as an opportunity to share our faith.  As Paul said, we are to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).  When Paul was in Athens, he saw that the city was given over to idols.  Provoked, he reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue and the Gentiles in the marketplace.  He spoke to them about the resurrection of Jesus.  They took him to the Areopagus, curious to hear his doctrine.

Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and addressed the people, acknowledging that they were religious because of the objects of worship and the altar they had built to the Unknown God.  He revealed to them who the true God was.  He was the “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.  Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.  And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,  so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;  for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’  

Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.  Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

When some of them heard the word “resurrection”, they began to mock him while others wanted to hear him speak further on the matter.  And others believed in what he said and joined him, among them a woman named Damaris (Acts 17:23-34).

Paul was prepared to share the truth about the God he worshipped and he used what he saw around him to do so.  He wanted the people to turn from their idols and worship the true God who wanted them to seek Him while He could still be found.  We can use whatever is at our disposal to share the truth about God with others.  Many people still have a negative opinion of God but we can change that by reaching out to them in love, compassion and sharing our testimonies of His goodness.

As in Jesus’ day, the Christian faith is growing and will continue to grow.  Although it is under attack and many believers are facing persecution, imprisonment and even death, it will continue to spread and transform lives until Jesus returns.  We can do our part by reaching out to those around us.  Each one can reach one.  We can do it through handing out literature, through social media, blogging, websites or witnessing in person.  God will give us the means and the opportunities to further His ministry.  All we have to do is to be ready and willing like Andrew, Philip, the Samaritan woman and Paul.

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Sources:  Biblegateway; Blue Letter Bible