A New Life

“It’s so hard to believe that the child who used to disobey me at every opportunity is the same beautiful young woman standing before me now on her special day,” Mrs. Clark said to her daughter, Karen who looked radiant in her wedding dress.  Tears pricked the older woman’s eyes and she quickly blinked them back.

Karen hugged her tightly.  “Oh, Mom, I’m so sorry for all the trouble I gave you when I was growing up.  I know it wasn’t easy for you to be a single parent.  You struggled to make ends meet and to give me the best.  There were some nights when I heard you crying in your room.  I knew you were missing Dad and wishing he were there to help you to raise a wayward daughter.  I thought of running away so that you didn’t have to deal with me any longer but I knew that would only make things worse.  On the night of my fifteenth birthday, I got down on my knees and asked God to change me.  I didn’t want to be a burden to you anymore.   You were such a good mother to me, so patient and forgiving.  You deserved a better daughter.  So, with God’s help, I changed.  And this is what you see before you now. I’m only sorry that it took so long and so much heartache before I came to my senses.”

Mrs. Clark hugged her and looking heavenward, she mouthed a silent prayer of thanks to God for answering the unceasing prayers she had offered up every day for her daughter.  She had been encouraged by various scriptures and had clung to them when the temptation to give up was particularly strong.  Prayer was the strongest crutch a parent had when it came to protecting a child. For as long as she was alive, she would continue to pray for Karen.

They drew apart and Karen smiled.  “I am trying hard not to cry,” she said.  “Mom, I’m so happy, so blessed.  I am about to marry a terrific man and start a new life with him.  I wish Dad were here.”

“He is,” Mrs. Clark said.  “He’s here.” She pressed her hand against Karen’s heart.

“Yes, he is,” Karen agreed, blinking.

“Are you ready?”

“Yes, I am.”

“I will send your Uncle Jack in.”  Her father’s younger brother had the honor of walking her down the aisle.

“Mom, before you go, will you say a prayer?”

Mrs. Clark smiled.  “Of course, Honey.”  She took Karen’s hands and bowing her head, she prayed.  And the same peace she felt the night before Karen’s transformation filled her and she knew then that all was going to be well.

mother-hugging-bride-1000_0

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The Presentation

They met when she was invited by a student to give a presentation on why it was important for women and girls to be educated in countries where they are marginalized and have little or no access to education.  This was her first presentation as an advocate for the rights of women and girls to receive an education and she was nervous.

She stood in front of a auditorium filled with students from grades 8 to 12.  While the student who invited her gave an introduction, she said a little prayer, to calm her nerves and to give her the strength she needed.  She felt a peace envelope her and she smiled as the girl invited her to go to the podium amidst the applause.

She stood there, looking at the faces around her and she began her presentation with one of her favorite quotes, “The surest way to keep a people down is to educate the men and neglect the women. If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family.”  Then, she shared facts, stories and information about the programs and activities that provided to help eliminate the barriers that women and girls faced in their pursuit of a right to an education.  She encouraged the students to get involved.  She answered questions and at the end of the presentation, she handed out pamphlets and fact sheets.   Many students were eager to get involved and she told them to contact her.

As the students filed out of the auditorium, he went up on to the podium where she was gathering her papers together and putting them into her folder.  She glanced up and her breath caught in her throat.  For a moment, all she could do was stare at him.   He had to be the best-looking man she had ever seen.  None of her male teachers ever looked like this.

He smiled and held out his hand.  “Jordan Hampton.”

“Michelle Johnson,” she said, as she shook his hand.

“I enjoyed your presentation.  Thanks for coming.”

“It was my pleasure and I’m happy that you enjoyed it.”  She was feeling shy and a little nervous because he was still holding her hand and his eyes were fixed on her.

He released her hand then, almost apologetically.  “I am interested in learning more about the kind of work you do,” he said.  “May I get in touch with you?”

“Sure.”  She handed him a business card with her contact information.  She also gave him some handouts.

“Well, I must be getting back to my class,” he said.  “I’ll walk with you to the front entrance.”

“Thank you.”  She gathered her things and followed him out of the auditorium.  They went down the hallway to the front entrance.  At the doors, he turned to her.  They shook hands again and said goodbye.

A couple days later, she received a phone call from him.  “Hi, Michelle.  It’s Jordan.”

Her heart started to beat fast.  “Hi Jordan,” she leaned back in her chair and swung round so that she was facing the window.  It was so good hearing from him.  After meeting him that first time at the school, she hadn’t been able to think of anything else.  She had been looking forward to hearing from him.  “How are you?”

“I’m fine, thank you.  How about you?  Have you been giving any more presentations?”

“I’m doing well, thanks.  I have another one next week.”

“Are you nervous?”

“Not yet,” she laughed.

There was a brief pause, then, “I’d like to learn more about what you do—over dinner.”

She sat up.  “Dinner?”

“Yes.  I would like you to have dinner with me tonight, unless… you have other plans?”

She shook her head at once but then realized that he couldn’t see that.  “No, I don’t have any plans.”  And even if she did, she would cancel them, for sure.

“Good.  I’ll pick you up at seven. ”

“I hope you don’t get bored hearing me talk about my work,” she said.

“I won’t,” he promised.  They spoke for a couple more minutes and then the call ended.

He showed up promptly at seven, looking amazing in a white shirt and a navy blue suit.  She was wearing a salmon colored, spaghetti strapped dress which complimented her complexion and her hair was pulled back in a French twist updo.  She smiled when she saw the way he looked at her.  Clearly he liked what he saw.

Dinner was a fun affair.  He started out asking her questions about her work and then questions about herself.  It seemed like he would have been content just talking about her but she wanted to learn about him.  He was a Political Science teacher and had been teaching for fifteen years.  His father was British and his mother, Irish.  He had two brothers and a sister.  He was the second oldest.  When he wasn’t in a classroom, he was on the tennis court or in the gym or reading or spending time with his family and friends.  His favorite movie was The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, his favorite book To Kill A Mockingbird was and his favorite song was Hotel California.

They laughed and talked about all sorts of things.  Then, when they were having their dessert, he said, “I have a confession to make.  I heard most of your presentation but I was distracted.”

She frowned.  “Distracted?”

“Yes.  I was distracted by you.  I couldn’t get over how amazing you looked and how much I was looking forward to meeting you.  I waited until the coast was clear and then I came over and introduced myself.  You were even more stunning up close.  I’m surprised I was able to speak.”

She laughed.  “I was a bit tongue-tied, myself,” she admitted.  “I remember thinking that none of my male teachers looked like you.”

He reached over and covered her hand as it lay on the table.  His eyes were serious as they met hers.  “I’d like to see you again,” he said.  “Are you busy on Sunday?”

She usually went to church in the morning and then spent the rest of the day, getting ready for work the next day. “No, I’m not busy then.”

“How about going with me on a lunch jazz cruise on the Thames?”

“That sounds wonderful.”  She had never been on a cruise or on the Thames before.  What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  She couldn’t wait.

He picked up his glass, his eyes holding hers in a steady gaze.  “Here’s to an amazing evening and to many more like it.”

She smiled as she raised her glass.  “Cheers.”

Black and white photo of mixed couple

Source:  Get Your GuideQuotesWomenOne

The Funeral

It was a gloomy day with intermittent spurts of rain.  It was as if nature itself was mourning the loss of a great woman.  Tracy was not surprised at the large turnout. The church was packed as many came to pay their respects and pay homage to Mrs. Gladys Townsend, the dear lady whom she had nursed for over five years.   She was a remarkable lady with a magnetic personality.   Although her body had succumbed to the Parkinson’s, her mind was still alert.  In the end, she had died in her sleep.

Tracy remembered how Mrs. Townsend had loved it when she read to her before she went to bed.  She loved Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.  Tracy enjoyed reading to her and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next in the story.  She had Aiden to thank for the position which had been a tremendous blessing for her.  Aiden was Mrs. Townsend’s son.  It was his idea to have his mother remain in the comforts of her home but be attended by a live-in nurse.  He contacted the live-in care agency a friend had recommended.

Tracy was selected for the position because of her experience and qualifications.  It also helped that she and Mrs. Townsend hit it off right away.  Whatever misgivings Aiden might have had, they were squashed when he saw how his mother received her warmly, remarking, “What kind eyes you have.”

Aiden.  Her gaze moved exactly where she knew he was standing.  Tall and regal in the black coat, his expression somber as he watched the coffin being lowered into the ground.  He seemed oblivious to the rain that was falling.  His dark hair glistened in the pale light.  She wanted to go over to him and shelter them both with the umbrella but she remained where she was, off to the side like an onlooker.

At the church, they hadn’t spoken to each other.  He was flanked by family and friends and Caitlin Brown.  Caitlin made no secret of the fact that she wanted to be more than friends with Aiden.  Tracy saw her tuck her arm in his and rest her head against his shoulder.  She looked away, feeling ashamed of the jealousy that stirred in her when she was supposed to be mourning the lost of a dearly departed one.

It was no use denying that she was in love with Aiden.  It might have happened the first time she met him or during those visits to his mother’s home on the weekends. He lived in London close to his office and work kept him busy.  So, visiting during the week was not feasible.  She found herself looking forward to those weekends.  Over the years, feelings developed between them but Tracy had to keep things on a professional level because of her job.  She could get fired if she were to become romantically involved with a family member.

Mrs. Townsend was very fond of Tracy and knew that she and Aiden had feelings for each other but she understood Tracy’s reasons for not doing anything about it.  So, to be on the safe side, Tracy avoided being alone with him as much as was possible. She had watched him throughout the funeral service and when she saw him and Caitlin get into his car, it stung.  She got a ride with a friend.

Now, here she was watching him and Caitlin huddled together.  The coffin was being covered with dirt as the priest said the final words.  Then it was over.  She turned and was walking back to where the cars were parked when she heard Aiden call her name.  She stopped and turned.  Her fingers gripped the handle of the umbrella tightly as she tried to appear untroubled at the sight of him and the beautiful redhead at his side.  She noticed the look of disdain Caitlin gave her and how her long red nails curled into the sleeve of his coat.

Aiden was looking at Tracy who met his gaze, wondering if he could tell how much she wished that the two of them were alone.  Her fingers itched to reach out and run themselves through the thick tresses of his hair.  For his part, his expression was drawn.  “How are you holding up, Tracy?” he asked.

“As well as expected,” she said, touched that he was concerned about her when he must be going through hell.  He and his mother were close.  Mrs. Townsend adored him and was always singing his praises.  “How about you?”

“I’m coping,” he said.  He gently disengaged his arm from Caitlin’s, removed his coat and draped it over his arm as he stepped closer to Tracy.  “Will you let me take you back to the house?” he asked.

She nodded.  It had stopped raining.  She closed the umbrella.

He took her arm and was about to walk away when Caitlin, who looked rather put out, exclaimed, “What about me?”

“Jake will give you a ride home,” Aiden told her before he turned walked away, taking Tracy with him.

“I don’t think she likes me,” Tracy commented as they walked to his car.  She had to almost run to keep up with him.  It seemed like he wanted to get out of  there and fast!

Aiden didn’t answer.  In fact he said nothing all the way to the car or even when they were leaving the cemetery.  It wasn’t until they were a good way from there, that he spoke.  “Tracy, what Caitlin thinks is of no importance to me.”

She looked at him in surprise.  “But, I thought that you and she—”

“How could you think that there is anything between Caitlin and me when I have waited for five years for you?  I haven’t dated her or any woman since I met you.  I know that your job prevented you from getting involved with me but now you are not longer employed by me.  So, what is stopping us now from being together?  I love you, Tracy.  And I know that you love me.”

She nodded.  “I do.  You don’t know how hard it was for me to push my feelings aside all these years.”

“Let’s go away,” he said.  They were at a stop light.  He turned to look at her, his eyes intense as they met hers.  “I want to be alone with you somewhere far away from here.”

“Where would you like to go?” she asked.

“It doesn’t matter as long as we are together.  Perhaps somewhere tropical.  It would be good to get away from this dreary weather and the cold.”

“When would you like to go?”

“As soon as possible.  Perhaps as early as Friday.”  Friday was four days away.  “No one will object, and even if they did, I really don’t care.  It’s what Mother would have wanted.  She was rather fond of you, you know.  She knew how I felt about you and always encouraged me to hang on.  I would have waited for you, Tracy, no matter how long it took.  My only regret is that I couldn’t be with you while my mother was still alive.”

“I know.  I also know that we have her blessing.  Jamaica.”

“Jamaica?” he looked puzzled.

She smiled.  “You said somewhere tropical.”

He laughed.  “Jamaica, it is.”  He reached over and kissed her before the light turned green.

It was on the Friday, their first evening in Montego Bay, as they stood on the beach, watching the setting sun as it hovered over the ocean when Aiden proposed to Tracy. As he got down on his knee, Tracy’s hand flew up to her face as the sound of a sob mingled with a gasp rose from her throat.  Aiden took out the box and opened it, displaying the exquisite ring he had bought the year after they met and which he had shown his mother the night before she passed away.  He had kept it hidden in a drawer just as he had kept hidden in his heart the hope of one day putting it on her finger.

And here they were, on a beautiful beach, bathed with the crimson glow of the sun and the sound of the waves as they rolled on to the sand.  It couldn’t have been more romantic.  As he looked at Tracy’s face which glistened with tears, he thought he had never seen her look more beautiful and his heart swelled with the love he felt for her.

He took the ring out of the box and reached for her hand.  He slowly slipped the ring on, savoring the moment.  It was a perfect fit.  He stood up, his eyes held hers for a moment before he took her in his arms and kissed her just as the sun disappeared into the sea.

Sources:  Christie’s CareHilary’s Agency

Going Back

She stood across the road

Making sure no one saw

Her.  They didn’t seem

To notice her.  They were

Greeting one another as

They climbed the stairs

And went through the

Open doors.

 

It was a beautiful day

Sunny and comfortable

She was wearing a new

outfit.  The one she bought

A week ago.  She got her hair

Done yesterday.

 

It had been

Five years since she set foot

Into the church she had been

A member of from childhood.

 

Her heart was pounding heavily

And her stomach was in knots.

To say that she was in a state

Of qualm was a gross understate-

Ment.  What on earth was she

Doing here?  She should turn around

And get away from there as fast as

She could.

 

What kind of reception

Would she get?  She had been a

Member with good standing until

She got pregnant…She had to give up

Her involvement in the ministries she

Was in charge of and rather than be

The topic of discussion at the business

Meeting so she chose to give up her

Membership.  She left the church and

Had her son.  Her heart melted as she

Thought of the little boy who had

Brought so much joy into her life.

 

She never planned to have a child

Before marriage but it just happened.

And unfortunately, things didn’t work

Out for Ryan’s Dad and her.  They split

Up a year after Ryan was born.

Now she was a single mother raising a

Rambunctious 4 year old and loving

Every moment of it.  He was with her

Mother who had encouraged her

To go church today.  “You walk in there

and remember that you are not alone.”

 

As she stood there now, debating whether

Or not to cross the road and step into

The sanctuary, these words came

To her mind, “But thou, O Lord, art a shield

For me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine

Head.”

 

She felt the uneasiness

Subside and God’s peace come over her.

She quickly ran her hands over her hair,

Smoothed her coat and crossed the road.

She hesitated for a brief moment at the

Doorway and then walked in.

 

Nervously, she approached the two greeters.

When they saw her, they looked

Surprised and delighted…

 

“Jennifer, it’s really good to see you.”

They both hugged her and as one

Of them handed her a bulletin, she

Said, “we are having a special lunch

For visitors today so you’re more than

Welcome to stay.”

 

She smiled.  “Thanks.”  She wasn’t ready

to socialize with them just yet.  She was

going to take this one step at a time.

 

young woman in coat

Source:  Psalm 3:3

Doubted

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Acts 12:13-16

Have you ever told someone something and he or she didn’t believe you?  No matter how much you try to convince that person he or she just isn’t buying what you are saying.  How did it make you feel?  Hurt?  Angry? Frustrated?

When the apostle Peter was arrested and thrown into prison, fellow Christians got together and held a prayer meeting.  While Peter was sleeping, an angel of the Lord went to the cell where he was shackled between two sleeping guards, woke the disciple and led him out of the prison.  After Peter realized that this was not a dream or a vision, he went to the house where the believers were gathered.

He knocked on the gate and a girl named Rhoda answered.  In her excitement at seeing Peter, she ran back to tell the others instead of opening the gate and letting him in.  However, her good news was met with doubt.  “You are beside yourself!”   And when she insisted, they told her that it was Peter’s angel.  Short of grabbing them and taking them outside to show them, there was nothing Rhoda could do to convince them.  Fortunately for her, Peter continued to knock and this time they heard him and opened the door.  They were astonished to see him.  

Why were they astonished to see him?  Why did they doubt Rhoda?  Weren’t they praying for Peter?  Didn’t they expect God to answer their prayers?  Have you ever prayed for something and when God answered the prayer, you couldn’t believe it?  This reminds me of when Jesus had appear to His disciples the first time after His resurrection and even though they saw Him and He spoke to them, they still didn’t believe.  They thought He was a Spirit and were terrified.  And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38).  And when the women went to tell the disciples that the tomb was empty and what the angels had told them, they didn’t believe them.  According to Luke, “their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11).

It doesn’t feel good when you tell the truth and people don’t believe you.  If you were Rhoda what would you have done?  Would you have admonished the others for not believing you?  Or would you just let it go?  I think if I were Rhoda, I would have encouraged the others to join me in prayer and we thank and praise God for coming through for Peter.  This was a time to rejoice and give thanks, not contend with your brethren.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Earlier this month when I was reading about African American women who made a difference so that I could feature them in the special issue of Notes to Women newsletter, one name kept popping up–Eleanor Roosevelt.  I promised myself that I would do a little writeup on her.  And here we are.

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world” (http://www.udhr.org/history/biographies/bioer.htm).

She basically believed that charity begins at home.  And she reminds me of something a friend once said to me.  “The difficulty in following Jesus’ command is that we often pick and choose who we decide is our neighbour. We see our neighbour as the starving, AIDS infected person in the Third World or the orphan in a war torn country, needing our love and care but often perceive the homeless in our community as undeserving of our love.”

Eleanor’s childhood was a dreadfully unhappy one.  Her father was an alcoholic who was disowned by his family. Her mother, renowned for her beauty, was distant from her daughter whom she nicknamed “Granny” because she seemed to her old-fashioned. After Anna Roosevelt died of diphtheria in 1892, Eleanor, age eight, was raised by her maternal grandmother. She rarely saw her father thereafter, and he died of drink in 1894 when she was ten. These traumatic experiences affected Eleanor for life and she would harbor a constant yearning for unconditional love (http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/roos-elex.htm). 

Life didn’t improve much when when Eleanor married Franklin, a distant cousin and they had six children.  Eleanor had to deal with her overbearing mother-in-law who apparently told her grandchildren that their mother only bore them.  She tried to control Eleanor, making her daughter-in-law feel utterly dependent.  

Then Eleanor found out that Franklin was having an affair with Lucy Mercer, her secretary.  She offered him a divorce, but he declined for the sake of his political career and because his mother threatened to disinherit him if he did.  He and Eleanor never shared a bedroom after that, but their working relationship was respectful, for the time (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FranklinDRoosevelt).

Eleanor Roosevelt was the first First Lady to be more politically active, involving herself in causes like Civil Rights.  Perhaps it was because there was lack of charity in her own home that made Eleanor want to reach out to her community.   From early adulthood Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated herself to liberty, justice, and compassion for all.

Racial injustice came to her attention only after she reached the White House.   By that time, she was already active in promoting other groups’ causes. Before she married Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1905, she worked with the immigrants at the Rivington Street Settlement House. During World War I she helped improve conditions for US servicemen.When Franklin fell ill, leaving him crippled, she once again found herself standing up for someone whose value to society was doubted, this time her own husband. The 1921 experience deepened her concern for society’s unaccepted. Later the same decade she began her work promoting women’s causes. Women had just gained the right to vote, and Eleanor encouraged them to make the most of that right and run for office. 

After leaving the White House, Mrs. Roosevelt found herself more free than ever to promote equal rights for African Americans. During her final years she continued fighting as hard and fearlessly as ever. On at least one occassion, the Secret Service warned her not to keep a speaking engagement on civil disobedience. The Ku Klux Klan had put a price on her head and the Secret Service said they could not guarantee her safety. Undeterred, she traveled with another lady and her revolver. Such was her determination, independence, and courage right up to the year she died.

Mrs. Roosevelt was not always successful, even despairing at times of making any progress at all. And not every one of the causes she championed, such as the United Nations, turned out to be all that she hoped. But she used every ounce of her influence, charisma, and political capital for the causes in which she believed. Right or wrong, she fought zealously and courageously, and in most cases the world is a better place because of those fights. This zealous First Lady’s support moved African Americans’ cause ahead by decades
 (http://www.blackhistoryreview.com/biography/ERoosevelt.php).

Eleanor Roosevelt came a long way from being an unhappy child and dependent woman to becoming a champion for women’s and civil rights.  She was committed to what she believed in.  

Be inspired by this remarkable woman who endured so much but in the end gave so much because she cared about the rights of others. 

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one

Eleanor Roosevelt