Teenage Dating Violence

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My husband and I are watching Greenleaf, the Oprah Winfrey series on Netflix.  I think that if you were to look up the word, dysfunctional in the dictionary, you would see a photo of the Greenleaf family.  They give new meaning to the word.  There are so many issues and skeletons in that family that it makes you appreciate the family you have.

The issue I want to address is teenage dating violence.  One of the Greenleafs, Zora, is dating a pop singer named, Isaiah.  It turns out that Isaiah is abusive.  He flies off the handle and gets verbally and physically abusive.  He got angry with Zora when her mother found a condom in her drawer.  Her arms have bruises which she hides by wearing long sleeve tops.

Whenever he gets physical with her (grabbing, pushing, slapping), he apologizes and promises never to do it again until the next time.  It was the usual cycle in an abusive relationship.  You have the “I’m sorry.  I won’t do it again”, “You make me act like this” and “I love you so much.”  What is sad is that the victim keeps forgiving the abuser and things continue to get worse.  He continues to abuse her and she seems powerless to do anything about it.  He tells her he loves her, makes promises and she believes him and continues seeing him.

No one knew about the abuse until Zora’s cousin Sophia saw Isaiah hit her.  Sophia went and told Zora’s father, “I just saw Isaiah hit Zora.”  Immediately, Jacob went to find Isaiah and punched him.  Zora was angry with Sophia for telling her Dad.  What do you do when you see a friend or loved one being abused?  Do you keep quiet because speaking up could jeopardize your relationship or do you put the welfare of the person above your relationship?  Did Sophia do the right thing?  In my opinion, she did.

But the story doesn’t end there.  Zora runs off with Isaiah but is found, thankfully.  We don’t know what became of Isaiah.  I hope he gets help.  As for Zora, she needs counseling.  She needs to understand that love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, not selfish or rude or demand its own way (like pressuring her into having sex) (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5, TLB).  If Isaiah loved her, he would treat her with respect.  He wouldn’t bully or try to control her.  He would respect her family as well.  Every family has ground rules and Zora’s was no different.  There was one occasion when Zora’s father found Isaiah and her in her bedroom.  After the father dealt with him, he had to leave.  Sophia’s boyfriend and Isaiah are as different as night and day.  Sophia is enjoying a healthy relationship while Zora was dealing with an abusive one.  

How can you tell if your teenager is in an abusive relationship? Here are seven signs:

  • Your child’s intimate partner is extremely jealous or possessive to the point where your child stops spending time with other friends and family. If someone questions your child about this, the response might be something like, “She thinks my friends don’t like her, so she doesn’t like spending time around them,” or “She thinks they’re a bad influence on me and she’s just trying to help.”
  • You see unexplained marks or bruises on your child.
  • You notice your son or daughter is depressed or anxious.
  • Your child stops participating in extracurricular or other interests like gaming or even shopping.
  • Your child begins to dress differently. One example: he or she wears loose clothing because the partner doesn’t like him/her to “show off” his/her body or attract someone else’s attention.
  • Your child worries when he or she can’t text or call the partner back immediately, saying that the partner might get upset.
  • Your child expresses fear about the way his or her partner might react in a given situation.

What do you do if you suspect that your teen is in an unhealthy (abusive) relationship?  Here are 11 steps:

  1. Be observant and look for signs.
  2. Calmly start a conversation with your teen.
  3. Be supportive of their situation.
  4. Focus on the unhealthy behaviors.
  5. Keep the conversation friendly, not preachy.
  6. Don’t place the blame on them.
  7. Allow your child to make their own decision.
  8. Offer solutions to them.
  9. If there’s any risk of danger, call the police.
  10. Expect more conversations in the future.
  11. Don’t get discouraged if they refuse to talk to you.

I see that in season 3 of Greenleaf, Zora will get back together with Isaiah.  But, hope is on the horizon.  It looks like she will come to her senses and dump him for good.

If you have a teenage daughter, let her know that she is precious and of great value and that she deserves to be with a guy who can appreciate her.

Sources:  National Domestic Violence Hotline; Grown & Flown

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Colton’s Problem

Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them! – Isaiah 5:11

“What are you doing here?” His breath reeked of alcohol.  He was on the floor, his hair disheveled, the empty glass lying beside him.   “Go away,” he said, waving his hand.  He tried to sit up but his head was pounding.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she told him.  “I’m not going to leave you like this.”

“Don’t you have school or something?”

“It’s Saturday.”

“I don’t care what day it is.  I don’t want you here.”

“Why not?” she demanded.  “I’ve seen you drunk before.”

“You know why I don’t want you here.”

“Is it because of what happened the last time I was here?

“Yes!” the word was a hiss.  He raked his fingers through his hair in frustration.

“We kissed and…”

“And if I didn’t come to my senses, we would have ended up in bed.”

“I thought that was what you wanted.”

“It was—it still is but you’re too young for me.  You’re still going to school, for Pete’s sake.”

“I’m graduating next year June.”

“It doesn’t matter when you graduate.  You’re still too young.”

“I’m seventeen.”

“And I’m thirty-six.  Now, I really don’t want to continue this discussion.  I need to sober up.”

She tried to help him up but he pushed her hands irritably away.  “I’ll go and fix you something to eat while you take a shower.”

He got unsteadily to his feet.  For a moment he had to hold on to the back of the sofa to regain his composure.  “Which part of I don’t want you here that you don’t understand?”

“I hate when you’re like this,” she said. “It makes you rude and nasty. I’ve watched alcohol change my father into a moody, miserable person before it killed him. I don’t want to see the same thing happen to you. I love you, Colton.”

He closed his eyes.  “Please don’t say that.”

“It’s the truth.”

“Aniyah, you’re not making this easy for me.”

“I’m not trying to make anything easy for you.  You need help, Colton.  My church is offering an Addiction Treatment Program.  If my father had gone to it, he would probably still be alive today.”

“I don’t have an addiction.”

“What would you call your drinking?”

“A problem, not an addiction.”

“All right, this program will help you with your drinking problem.  I printed off information from their website.  I put it on the desk in your study.  Read it over as soon as you can.”

“Fine, I’ll read it.  Now, will you please go?”

“I’ll go after I’ve fixed something for you to eat,” she insisted.  “In the meantime, have these.”  She handed him a glass of water and an Advil.

He took them and watched as she disappeared into the kitchen.  He hoped she wouldn’t make a racket in there.  The slightest sound jarred his nerves.  It felt like someone was drilling a hole into his temples.  He sipped the water, swallowed the Advil and drained the glass.  He left the glass on the mantelpiece and headed for the bathroom.  He filled the tub with hot water and poured a few drops of eucalyptus oil.  After stripping, he stepped into the water and settled down.  He stretched out and rested his head against the back of the tub.  He was feeling better already.

The door opened and Aniyah walked in.  “I made you some Chicken Noodle Soup.  Make sure you drink it while it’s still hot.”

He stared at her in consternation.  His face was beet red and his heart was racing.  Underneath the suds, he could feel his reaction to her.  “You should know better than to walk into a man’s bathroom, especially when he’s in there having a bath,” he muttered tightly.

Aniyah couldn’t prevent her eyes from traveling over his wide shoulders and broad chest.  She felt her body react and she swallowed hard.  She wondered what he would do if she decided to join him.  No, she decided.  He wouldn’t be pleased.  I promised him that I would leave after I fixed him something to eat.  I have to keep my promise.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to barge in.  I’m leaving now and just wanted to say goodbye.”

“Goodbye and thanks for the soup.”

“I hope you enjoy it.  I’ll call you later.”  She turned and left the bathroom, pulling the door quietly in behind her.  She leaned against and closed her eyes.  Her chest was heaving.  Loving and wanting him were taking a toll on her.  She didn’t know how much more of this she could deal with.

Colton stared at the closed door.  The hangover was now the least of his problems.  His body was on fire and it had nothing to do with the water which was becoming tepid now.  He wanted her so much he could almost taste it.  It took supreme effort not to come out of the tub and walk over to her just now.  How was it possible that he could be in love with and attracted to a high school senior?  This was madness.

He spent a few more minutes soaking in the tub and then he drained it before taking a very cold shower.  After he had the Chicken Noodle soup which was very delicious, he went into the study to get the information she had printed for him.  He went into the living-room where he pored over it.

There was no point denying it any longer.  He had a drinking problem and desperately needed help.   He was tired of turning to alcohol when he couldn’t deal with his problems.  Instead of getting down on his knees and asking God for help, he reached for a drink.  Well, he was going to change that.  He went into the study, picked up the phone and dialed the number.

It had been several weeks since he started to program and had been making steady progress.  He had gotten rid of all the alcohol in his place and hadn’t had a drop since the day Aniyah found him.  And they were now dating.  He was convinced that she was the right one for him, regardless of the age difference.  He planned that as soon as she graduated from high school, he would propose.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope – Jeremiah 29:11

Sources:  Faith in Recovery; GOOD; Food Network;

 

Making Plans

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into this city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit,” whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? It is just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you are rejoicing in your boastings. All such rejoicing is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, it is sin – James 4:13-16

How many of us make plans way ahead in the future? And how many of those plans end up going nowhere? Why does the Bible liken making plans to boasting? It could be because we are doing so without consulting God. We act as if we are in control of our destiny when He is the One who is. As Christians, we should make our plans based on what God wants or think is best not what we want. He may have much better plans for us. Take the prophet Jeremiah. What would have happened if he had made plans for a career, travel or marriage? Those plans would have come to nothing because God already had plans for his life.

Remember the Tower of Babel? The people had the bright idea of building a tower so high that it would reach heaven. What were their reasons for building the tower? “…let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). They wanted to stay put instead of going abroad and populating the earth. In other words, they were making their own plans which were outside of God’s will. They were boastful in thinking that they could do things their way instead of God’s way.

Nothing is wrong with having plans but they must never be contrary to God’s will. To them, it seemed reasonable to stay where they were and build up a city instead of going out into the world to start new lives. There are times when we want to stay put but God wants us to step out in faith as He did with Abraham. And there are times when we want to go places but He wants us to stay put like Jeremiah. We have to be attuned to what God wants for us so that our plans will line up nicely with His perfect will for us.

It is always best to say, “if the Lord wills…” when it comes to making plans. Wouldn’t you feel better knowing that God approves of your plans and will bless them?

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Chantrea’s Crusade

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“Thanks for doing this interview, Chantrea. It can’t be easy for you.” They were sitting by the lake just steps from the organization where the Cambodian woman worked as a social worker.

Chantrea smiled slightly. She had sad eyes and although she was in her late thirties, she looked much older which wasn’t surprising, considering the kind of life she once had. “I don’t want to do what’s easy for me,” she said. “I will do whatever is necessary to help the children.”

“What’s your story?”

“I was eleven when my father put me in an orphanage because they promised him that I would receive a good education and opportunities for the future. Instead, I was beaten, raped, starved and forced to work on the orphanage director’s rice paddies and farms without pay.

“And now you’ve dedicated your life to fighting such institutions.”

“Yes. I’m fighting to prevent the separation of vulnerable children from their families and orphanages that attract funding, volunteers and donations from well-meaning tourists.”

“What’s your biggest goal?”

“Shutting down these orphanages.”

 

175 Words

This story is inspired by true stories of children who are taken from their families and homes and placed in orphanages “where they may be exploited, even abused, malnourished, forced to work, and sometimes trafficked to other orphanages and forms of exploitation in order to repeat the cycle and elicit further funding.”

Written as part of Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers hosted by Priceless Joy. For more information visit Here.  If you would like to read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Sources:  Freedom United; Cambodian Children’s Trust

God, the Restorer

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He remembered the day he proposed to her as if it happened just yesterday.  She was waiting for him on the train tracks where they met one fine summer day.  As he approached, holding the wild flowers behind his back, she turned and smiled that smile that melted his heart.  She looked beautiful in the sundress and her hair fell in thick, dark tresses down her back.

Slowly, his heart racing, he walked over to her.  Still holding the flowers behind his back, he leaned down and kissed her.  Then, he held out the flowers. “Happy birthday, Emily Rose.”

Her eyes lit up and she took them.  “Thank you,” she exclaimed, reaching up to kiss him in delight.  She breathed in the sweet, fresh fragrance of the flowers.  “They are beautiful.”

“I have something else for you,” he said.  He reached into his back pants pocket and kneeling down on the dry leaves in between the tracks, he produced a red, velvet box and opened it.  He saw her eyes widen.  “Emily Rose, I have loved you since we were children but that love changed to what it is now.  You are the love of my life–my soulmate.  You are my heaven on earth.  When I look at you, I am amazed not only because you are the most beautiful girl I know but because everything I have ever wanted or dreamed is right in front of me.  When I look at you, I believe that God really loves me because He blessed me with you.  I want to spend the rest of my life loving and taking care of you.  Emily Rose Carter, will you make me the happiest man on the planet by saying that you will marry me?”

Emily was crying now.  In between sobs, she managed to gasp, “Yes, I will marry you.”

After he slipped the ring on her finger, he stood up and picking her up, he swung her around, making her laugh before setting her back down on her feet.  He cupped her face and kissed her for several minutes.  “Let’s celebrate over dinner,” he murmured after raising his head to gaze down into her radiant, tear streaked face.  She nodded and they walked, arms wrapped around each other to their favorite eatery.  It was a balmy afternoon.

Over dinner, they planned the wedding which they wanted to take place as soon as possible.  They didn’t want a long engagement.  They decided to have a fall wedding which was about three months away.  Arrangements were made for a vintage country wedding in a church hall.  The weeks went by quickly and the day which seemed a long way off was nigh.  Then, the unthinkable happened…

Emily and her roommate, Rita were driving home from Emily’s bridal shower when a car ran a red light and slammed into the passenger-side of the car.  Emily died at the scene but Rose was taken to the hospital in critical condition.  When he heard the news, he was devastated, inconsolable and he lashed out at God.  Emily was only twenty-five–in the prime of her life and looking forward to their future together.  How could God have allowed this tragedy to happen?

It was the first day of Fall, just a couple of days before what would have been their wedding ceremony, was Emily’s funeral instead.  He sat there, stone faced still bitter but no longer angry with God.  He had reached the place where he could seek God in prayer and ask him to help him with his anger.

After the funeral, he went home where he remained until the next day when he forced himself to get up and go to work.  He went through the day like an automaton, trying to keep it together but a couple of times, he had to go to the washroom and pull himself together as waves of emotions swept over him.  He missed her so much.  How was he going to function without her?  Her beautiful, expressive face filled his thoughts and her winsome smile tugged at his heart strings, making him ache for her.

It was during one of these meltdown moments that he decided that he had to leave New York and move to another state where he wouldn’t be reminded everyday of his loss.  It took months for him to get everything sorted out and before he left for Seattle, he visited Emily’s grave where he left fresh wild flowers.

Moving to Seattle was the best decision he made, although, it still took five years for him to recover from his grief.  Teaching at the university, going to church and making new friends helped tremendously.  His friends invited him out to different venues and he went.  It was better than being cooped up in his apartment.  However, he made it clear to them that he didn’t want to get fixed up with anyone.  The idea of dating didn’t appeal to him.  He was quite content to be single.

They say love finds you when you’re not looking.  And it did one afternoon when he was walking in the park.   It was a pleasant day.  The sun was high in the cloudless sky and there was a slight breeze.  He went to the lawn flanked by trees and sat on the bench.  There was a group of young people playing Frisbee and he watched them.  They seemed to be having a great time.

The Frisbee landed close to where he was sitting and one of the young women ran over to get it.  She looked to be about twenty or twenty-one–attractive with long chestnut hair which streamed behind her as she ran towards him.  She was dressed in a white tee shirt and denim shorts, exposing long defined legs.  It was obvious that she worked out.

She stooped down and picked up the Frisbee.  When she straightened up, she paused.  For several minutes she just stood there, staring at him, making him uncomfortable and then, she approached him, an inquiring look on her face.  When she stood in front of him, she asked, “Daniel Miller?”

He nodded.  “Yes.  Have we met before?” This close, she looked vaguely familiar now.

She nodded.  “Yes.  We met at my brother’s barbecue.”

“What’s your brother’s name?”

“Mark Brown.  I’m his sister, Cheryl.”  Just then her friends started yelling and waving.

“Oh, yes.  I remember now.  You were in charge of the bean darts.”

She laughed.  “Yes, I was.  And you got the highest score.”

“I got lots of practice from throwing darts.  Um, I think your friends are trying to get your attention.”  They were yelling and waving.

She looked over at them and then back at him.  “I’ll be right back,” she said before bounding off.

He watched as she gave the Frisbee to one of the guys, say something to the group before walking away.  It seemed that Cheryl would rather talk to him than continue playing Frisbee with her friends and for some reason which he couldn’t quite understand, that pleased him immensely.  When she sat down, he asked, “Are you attending university?”

“Yes, Seattle Pacific University.”

“How long have you been attending there?”

“This coming semester will be my second year.”

“What are you studying?”

“Applied Human Biology.  I’ve always wanted to find out how the human body works and why it works the way it does.  Plus, I’m thinking of doing a therapy doctoral degree program after I graduate.”

“It sounds like you have your future well planned.”

“Yes, as far as my academic future is concerned.  When it comes to my personal life, well, that’s a different story.   What about you?  What line of work are you in?”

“I’m a director of Communications and Marketing at Companier.”

“You’re from New York,” she remarked suddenly, startling him.  “Sorry, don’t mean to be nosy.  It’s just that I recognize the accent.”

“You’re right.  I’m from New York.  I moved here to Seattle almost six years ago.”

“How do you like it here?”

“I like its natural beauty, mild winters and the people.  I have more friends here than I know what to do with.”

She smiled.  “All very good reasons,” she said.  “And I heard that it’s cheaper living here than in New York and other cities.”

He smiled.  “That’s true.”

“Are you doing anything later?” she asked.

He shook his head.

“My friends and I are going to the Amusement Center to play their Ultimate Real Life Escape Games.   This is my first time.  It’s supposed to be a lot of fun.  You get to solve real puzzles.  Afterwards, we’ll grab a bite to eat.  Why don’t you come with us?”

The idea of hanging out with a group of university students, most of them probably ten years his junior, didn’t appeal to him but he wanted to see her again.  He enjoyed talking with her.  She was so easygoing and he felt completely relaxed with her.   “All right,” he said.

She looked pleased.  “Great.  We’ll be there for seven.  I’ll wait outside for you.”

“I’ll be there.”

They talked for a while longer and then she returned to her friends.  Shortly afterwards, they left the park.  As he watched them go, he felt a flutter of excitement in his stomach when he thought about seeing her again that evening.

True to her word she was waiting for him and he couldn’t prevent the smile from spreading across his face as he quickly closed the distance between them.  She looked great in a floral top and jeans complete with low heel sandals.  Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, making her look even younger.  Her face lit up when she saw him and grabbing his hand, she took him inside to meet her friends.  They turned out to be a rather nice bunch and he enjoyed interacting with them.

There were two games and they chose the Bourne Mission.  The object of the game was to recover the documents and get out of the abandoned bunker undetected. No one should know you were ever here and if you got caught, there was no rescue mission.  They had a blast even though they fell short of completing the mission.  They made plans to try the Bio-Hazard Room the next time.  They went to a family run Greek restaurant nearby where they enjoyed generous portions of delicious food.  Lively conversation and laughter flowed late into the night.

Daniel offered to take Cheryl home and she readily accepted.  On the way over to her apartment building, they talked animatedly about different things and by the time he walked her to her door, they had arranged to see each other the following day.  It was a beautiful sunny day so they decided to go to Woodland Park Zoo where they spent the entire day.  They bought food from the food truck and then went for a walk in the Rose Garden.  They lingered at the Reflecting Pool and Sculptural Fountain.  It was sunset by the time they left.

As they stood outside of her apartment, he knew that he was ready to be in a relationship again.  “Have dinner with me tomorrow,” he said and she nodded.  He gently brushed her cheek with his knuckles before he walked away.  They began dating.

One evening, they took the ferry to Whidbey Island where they planned to have dinner.  As they stood on the Deception Pass Bridge as it ran suspended over the swirling water, Daniel turned to Cheryl.  He cupped her face between his hands and gazed down into her face.  “Before meeting you, I never thought that I could ever fall in love again,” he said huskily.  “We may not be each other’s first love but I want to be your last and forever love.”

Tears sprang to her eyes.  “You are my first love,” she told him.  “And my last and forever.”

“I love you, Cheryl,” he whispered.

“I love you too, Daniel.”

He smiled slightly before he lowered his head and kissed her. When their lips touched, he felt a fire stir deep inside him.  He felt alive again.  He had heard about people feeling fireworks when they kissed that special someone but when he kissed Cheryl, her lips set his whole heart on fire.

That night over dinner, he asked her to marry him.  Five months later, they got married in the Woodland Rose Garden witnessed by family and friends.  As he gazed into her shining eyes as they danced their first dance, thinking how true the words, God wants to restore everything that’s been stolen from your life. He wants to heal every hurt and every pain.  It took five years but God had restored his life and now he was experiencing love and inexpressible joy once again.  Very few people could say that they were twice blessed but he was–first with Emily Rose and now with Cheryl.

 

Image by © Jamie Grill/Corbis

 

Sources:  Seattle Pacific University; The University of Western Australia; Lake Union Movers; City-Data; Livestrong; NameLix; Trip Advisor; Flee Escape; Woodland Rose Park; The Culture Trip; CBS Seattle; Feels Like Home

Lost and Found

Claudine and Duke were at a diner having lunch. The last time they saw each other was a couple of weeks ago at his younger brother, Alan’s funeral.  Duke had called her last night to ask her to have lunch with him today.  She was happy to see him.

“It’s good to see you, Duke,” she said.  “How have you been?”

“I’m doing all right, I guess.  I’m still trying to deal with Alan’s untimely death.”

She reached out and put her hand on his.  “I know how hard it is when we lose someone we love.  I went to see Doreen yesterday and she’s still having a really tough time coping.  The kids are staying with their grandparents for a while.”

“Since the funeral I haven’t been to see Doreen and the kids.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t face them right now.”  A pause and then, he blurted out, “I can’t face them because I feel guilty.”

She stared at him, concerned now.  “You feel guilty?  Why?” she asked.

Instead of answering her question, he countered with, “God is love, right?”

“Yes.”

“Then, why did He let Alan die and me live?  Not once when we were kids, did I ever see him throw a tantrum.  And he was the most religious guy I knew.   He was always reading His Bible, active in church and involved in community service.  I, on the other hand, am not a practicing Christian.  I don’t go to church often and I hardly read the Bible.  As far as community service is concerned, I give donations when I can.  I don’t pray often.  And to top it all, I had an affair with a married woman.  Why did the God whom we say is love, let a godly man like Alan who served him all of his life and never did anything wrong, die, leaving a wife and two children behind and let me live? I should have been the one to die in that boating accident, not Alan.”

His words cut into her like a knife and she withdrew her hand from his, lowering her eyes so that he couldn’t see the anguish in them. The thought of losing him in that accident was unbearable.  She was overcome with compassion for Alan’s family but she was thankful that Duke had survived.  She was still thanking God for sparing his life. “Is this why you feel guilty?”

“Yes.  I keep asking myself over and over why God didn’t take me instead of Alan.  Why did He let me live?”

“It is because He loves you.”

“He loves me?” he exclaimed. “What about Alan?  Didn’t He love him too?”

“Yes, He did.”

“Then explain to me why He chose to let me live when He could have saved Alan instead?”

“God doesn’t always do what we expect,” she said. “He had His reasons for sparing your life.  Let me give you an illustration.  Let’s say that you have two children.  One is at home with you and the other is lost.  Which child would you be more concerned about–the one who is safe or the one who is lost?”

“The lost child, of course.”

“So, if you are more concerned about the lost child, does this mean that you love that child more than the other?”

He shook his head. “No.  I would do the same thing for the other child if he were lost too.”

“Exactly! It’s the same thing with Alan and you.  God didn’t spare your life because He loved you more than Alan.  Alan was already saved but God spared you in order to save you,”

“But, I’m a sinner.”

“We’re all sinners but the Bible teaches that God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

“How could God still love me after some of the things I’ve done and the way I’ve treated Him?”

“God is not like us. He loves us in spite of how we are.  His love is unconditional.  He doesn’t stop loving us when we do bad things or turn away from Him.  He keeps reaching out to us like the shepherd who went to find the lost sheep, the woman who searched the house until she found the lost coin or the father who ran to meet his lost son when he saw him coming home because he was so overjoyed to see him.  Jesus said that’s how God feels about the lost.  He rejoices when He finds them.”

“So, what should I do now?” he asked.

“First, you need to thank God for sparing your life so that you have the opportunity to get to know him. This act of mercy and grace demonstrate the loving nature towards us.  He doesn’t want you to die without making a conscious decision to know Him.  In realizing that God saved in your life, I hope that you will see now His love for you and that He wants you to spend time with in a Father and son relationship.”

“One of my favorite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11 which says, ‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ God promised that when you call on Him and pray to Him, He will listen to you.”

“Thank you, Claudine,” he said quietly. “I really appreciate you being here and helping me to understand things that don’t make any sense to me.”

She smiled.  “That’s what friends are for.”

They finished eating and after he paid the bill, he asked, “Are you seeing anyone?”

She shook her head.  “No.” I want to be with you.

It would kill me if you were seeing someone.  “Do you need a lift anywhere?”

“A ride to the subway would be great,” she said.  “I’m going to the nursing home to visit my father.”

“How is he doing?”

“He’s doing all right.  His mind is still very active and alert it’s just his body is worn out.  I still haven’t gotten used to seeing him in a wheelchair.”

“Why is he in a wheelchair?”

“He suffers from intense episodes of Asthma.”  She wrapped the scarf around her neck before pulling on her coat.  She got up from the table and followed him out of the diner as he dragged on his jacket.  She squinted as they stepped into the bright sunshine.  It was a lovely day. They walked to where his car was parked and after he held the door open for her to get in, he slid behind the wheel.  He turned on the radio and classical music played.

“I have a cousin who suffered from asthma since she was a child.  I read somewhere that, Once you have asthma, you have it for life. You might not always be symptomatic. You might have it as a kid and grow out of it. But it may revisit at some point, usually when you have a stress in your life.  Have you ever seen your father have one of his attacks?”

“Yes, more than once and each time it was very scary.  It made me realize how we can take something as such as breathing normally for granted.  But, my Dad is a trooper.  He doesn’t let his bout with asthma get him down.  He’s one of the most upbeat people I know and he always says that God is good to him, one breath at a time.”

“Your father is a very wise man.  I like him.”

“He likes you too,” she said.  “Whenever I visit him, he asks about you.”

“Please say hello to him for me.”

“I will.  Maybe the next time I visit him you can come with me.”

“I’d like that.”

They reached the subway and he pulled over to the side of the road.  He got out and walked around to open the door for her.  As she got out, she stumbled and he moved quickly to steady her.  His hands were on her waist and they were standing very close.  She raised her eyes to look at him and he looked down at her.  For several minutes they stood there looking at each other, their bodies inches apart.  She wondered if he could hear how fast her heart was beating and he wondered what she would say if she knew how badly he wanted to kiss her at that moment.  He released her and stepped aside for her to step on to the curb.

“Thanks for the ride,” she said quietly.  “I’ll call you during the week.”

“Thanks again for having lunch with me and your advice.  I really appreciate it.”

“You’re welcome, Duke.”  She hesitated for a split second and then she reached up and kissed him on the cheek.  He closed his eyes as he felt an intense longing surge through his body and it took all of his will power not to turn his head so that their lips touched.  When she drew back, his eyes were dark and smoldering.  She felt her body respond and turning, she quickly walked away.  He watched her go before he got back into the car and drove off.

All the way to the nursing home, Claudine thought about that unguarded moment between Duke and her.  For the first time since they have known each other, she saw clearly that he was attracted to her too.  She saw the desire she felt shining in his eyes.  Since they met, she had known that she loved him and had prayed that they would end up together.  Was God beginning to answer her prayers?

Her father was in his room when she got to the nursing home and he grinned when he saw her.  “Hello, sunshine.”

She smiled and went over to hug and kiss him.  “Hello, Dad.  How are you feeling?”

“I feel great.  What about you.  How are you doing?”

“I’m fine.  I had lunch with Duke.”

“How’s that young man doing?” She told him about their conversation.  “It sounds like he’s suffering from survivor’s guilt.”

“Yes.  I told him that he has nothing to feel guilty about.”

“Where’s he now?  Why didn’t you bring him with you?”

“He has stuff to do, I guess.  However, I invited him to come with me the next time I visit.”

“Good.  Take off your coat and sit down.”

She removed her coat and draped it over a chair and placed her scarf on top before settling down in a chair by the window.  The room looked bright and cheerful with lots of natural light.    “Have you gone for a walk as yet?” she asked.  “It’s beautiful outside.”

He shook his head.  “Not yet.  I’m watching Premier League football.  Manchester United and Arsenal are playing.”

Claudine shook her head, smiling.  Her father was a football fanatic.  He could sit there and watch it all day if it were possible.  “All right, finish watching your game and then, you and I will go for a walk and sit outside in the garden for a while.  A bit of fresh air will do you a lot of good.”

“Claudine, you’re worried about Duke, aren’t you?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“Don’t because God is going to sort him out and after He’s through sorting him out, you can tell him that you love him.”

She looked at him in astonishment.  “But, how did you–?”

“Guess that you’re in love with Duke?  It’s written all over your face every time you talk about him.  These eyes don’t miss anything.  I like Duke but he’s not the right man for you yet but he will be when God is through with him.”  Shouting on the television caught his attention and he watched as they showed a replay of Manchester United scoring its second goal.

Claudine sat there, trying to make sense of what her father just told her.  His words gave her hope.  Duke was the man for her and when the time was right, they would be together with God’s blessing.  Tears sprang to her eyes and she quickly blinked them back.  Thank You, God for answering my prayers.  And thank You for taking care of Duke.

For the rest of the afternoon, Duke couldn’t stop thinking about Claudine and what almost happened between them outside the subway station.  And that night before he went to bed, he got down on his knees and prayed.

Lord, today when Claudine kissed me on the cheek, I wanted so much to show her how much I love her.  I’ve loved her for eight years.  I knew from the moment we met that she was the right woman for me although I knew that I wasn’t the right man for her.  I’ve asked you to remove the love I have for her from my heart but it just keeps growing stronger.  I tried to get her out of my system by having an affair with Heather who was separated from John at the time.  I know what I did was wrong but I wasn’t thinking at the time.  I was hurting because I couldn’t be with the woman I loved.  It was sheer torture loving someone I couldn’t have because I was wrong for her. Even now it’s hard to be around her knowing that I could never be more than friends with her.  Lord, please help me.  Please help me to get over her.

He remained there beside the bed on his knees for a while longer, in the quietness of the room, waiting.  Before you could be the right man for Claudine, you need have a right relationship with Me. The words filled him with hope.  He could be with Claudine but first, he had to make things right with God.  He had to put his relationship with God first.

The following morning he got an email from Claudine.  It read, Hi, Duke,

I found two links that I thought may be very helpful to you. The first is about God’s Pursuit of Man and the second is about having a personal relationship with God.  God longs to have a loving relationship with you.  James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  God promised in Jeremiah 29:13 that when you seek Him you will find Him when you search for Him with all your heart.  I pray that when you come to know God, you will see how valued you are in His sight and the guilt you feel about surviving the boat accident will be resolved.  I’ll be in touch.  Blessings, Claudine.

He replied to her email and then clicked on the first link.  Eagerly, he read it and by the time he was finished, he was in tears.  After he opened and read the second link, he turned off the laptop and got ready for work.  As he showered and got dressed, he would follow the six simple steps Alan once shared with him on how to build a relationship with God:

  1. Take the time to touch bases with God
  2. Invite Him to come close
  3. Talk
  4. Listen
  5. Make contact throughout your day
  6. Take action when you hear God’s voice

The next several weeks, he spent time reading the Bible, praying and reflecting.  When Claudine invited him to go to church with her one Sunday, he readily accepted her invitation.  From the moment he walked through the doors, he knew that this was the church he wanted to be a part of.  The love and warmth of the parishioners filled his heart with such comfort and joy that it brought tears to his eyes.  It wasn’t long before he got baptized.  Doreen and the children were there.  After the service, she hugged Duke and said, tearfully, “Alan would have been so proud.”

That evening, Claudine and he went out for dinner at one of his favorite restaurants.

“So how does it feel to be part of a church family?” she asked, smiling across the table at him.

He beamed.  “It feels wonderful,” he said.  “Now I understand why Alan loved the church community so much.”

“It was good to see Doreen and the kids.”

“She told me that Alan would have been proud.”

“Yes, he would have been.  His brother was lost and now he’s found.”

He reached over and covered her hand.  “I owe this all to you too,” he said quietly.  “I’m who I am and where I am now because of you.  Thank you for pushing me gently toward God.”

“You’re welcome.  I’m so thankful that things have worked out the way they have.”

“There’s one more thing.”  His expression was tense now.  “I have something to tell you.  It’s something that has been on my mind for a very long time but now is the right time to tell you.”

Frowning, she asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”

Taking a deep breath, he said, “I love you, Claudine.  I’ve loved you since the first time we met but I never told you because I didn’t believe that I was the right man for you.”

Heart racing, Claudine looked him straight in the face and replied, “I love you too, Duke.  I’ve loved since the first time I saw you.  My Dad was right.  That day when I visited him after you and I met for lunch, he said that you weren’t the right man for me yet but that when God was through with you, you will be.”

“Wow, that’s profound.”

“That had to be God revealing His plan to him to encourage me because I’d been praying and it seemed like God wasn’t answering or taking a long time to.”

“So, now that we know that we’re right for each other, I don’t want to waste any more time.”  He reached into his pocket and produced a small black box.  Then, he got up from the table and walked around to where she was and got down on one knee.  He opened the box, took out the ring and asked, “Claudine Bradshaw, will you marry me?”

Laughing and conscious of eyes on them, she nodded.  “Yes, I will marry you, Duke Addington.”  Through tears, she saw him slip the exquisite ring with its single heart shaped diamond on her finger before he reached up and kissed her.

Amidst the applause, he rose to his feet and went back to his seat, grinning broadly.  He raised his mock-tail and said, “To us.”

After dabbing her eyes with the napkin, she raised her glass. “To us.  And to God be the glory.”

 

 

Sources:  Our Daily Bread; Karman Healthcare; Yearning Hearts; Wise Old Sayings; Heart Spoken;

A Love Meant to Be

Serena stood there on the Staten Island Ferry, watching the choppy, frigid waters, her emotions churning inside her.  She leaned against the rail and wrapped her arms about her.  I’m pregnant.  She found out that morning when she went to a walk-in clinic.  After leaving there, she decided to come on the ferry ride to get away for a bit so that she could process the news that she was five weeks pregnant.

Robin was the father.  Robin.  She closed her eyes as she thought about him and the night they spent together.  They hadn’t meant for it to happen.  He was still dating her friend, Connie at the time.  It was on a Saturday afternoon and she was on her way home from the movies when she bumped into him.  He was just coming out of the barbershop where he had gone and to get a haircut.

His face broke into a big smile.  He looked handsome as usual dressed in a blue jersey, jeans and a leather jacket with a fur trimmed collar.  The haircut suited him.  “Hello, Serena.”

She smiled up at him, thinking what beautiful eyes he had.  “It’s good to see you, Robin.”

“Do you live around here?” he asked.

“Yes, I live over there,” she said, pointing to a set of buildings behind him.  “So, what are you doing around these parts?”

“I was visiting my brother.  He lives around here too.  Then, I decided to get a haircut.  What about you?  Are you going somewhere?”

“Actually, I just came from the movies and am heading home.”

“Did you go to the movies alone?”

“Yes.”

“What did you go to see?”

“The Black Panther.”

He raised his eyebrows.  “The Black Panther?”

She laughed.  “I know.  I’m not into those kinds of movies but I heard such great reviews about this one that I finally decided that I would go and see it.”

“And what did you think?”

“I actually liked it.”

“Listen, are you in a hurry to get home?”

She shook her head.  “I’m just going home to a leftover dinner and Masterpiece Theater,” she replied.

“What do you say we grab a bite to eat at the bistro across the street?”

“Sure.”

They crossed over the street and went into the bistro which was filled with the sounds of laughter, glasses tinkling and mouthwatering aromas.  They sat at the back in the corner.  She had never been in there before.  The atmosphere was very cozy and relaxed.  He ordered the Fillet Mignon and she ordered the Wild Salmon.

Over dinner they did a lot of catching up because it had been a while since they last saw each other.  He was dating her friend, Connie.  They met at the gym but interestingly enough, Serena knew him much longer than Connie because they used to go to the same university.  Since then she had been attracted to him but nothing had come of it.  He was always in a relationship with someone she knew.  She couldn’t help wondering why he never asked her out and reluctantly came to the conclusion that he just wasn’t interested in being more than friends with her.

“Are things getting serious between Connie and you?”

“Not for me,” he replied quietly.  “Are you seeing anyone?”

She shook her head.  “No.”  It was hard sitting across from him and not stare at him.  Nothing had changed.  She was still madly in love with him.  “How come you never asked me out?” She had to ask.  Her heart began to beat faster as she waited for his answer.

He looked straight at her as he replied, “I was attracted to you the very first time I saw you on campus and I wanted to ask you out but I wasn’t sure you’d want to go out with me.”

She gaped at him.  “Why would you think that?”

“Well, I wasn’t sure you’d want to go out with me because—well, because I’m white.”

“And that’s why you dated other women instead.”

“Yes.”

The check came then and after paying it, he pulled on his jacket.  She put her coat on and they left the bistro.  It was dark outside now.  The temperature seemed to have dropped slightly.  He walked her home and when they were standing outside of her unit, she said, “Thanks for dinner.”

He smiled.  “It was my pleasure,” he said.

“Would you like to come in for a while?” she asked hopefully.

He nodded.  “I’d like that.”

She unlocked the door and they went inside.  After they removed their coats, she led him into the living-room.  “I’ll fix us some hot chocolate,” she said and went into the kitchen.

When she joined him, he was standing at the window, looking out.  She put the two mugs on the coffee table and went over to him.  He turned to face her.  “You have a spectacular view,” he remarked.

“Yes, I do.”

He was staring at her and then the next thing she knew she was in his arms and he was kissing her.  She wound her arms around his neck and clung to him as she kissed him back.  They exchanged wild kisses for several minutes and then he picked her up and carried her over to the sofa.

After he put her down, he drew back to remove his sweater, his eyes stormy as they met hers and he was breathing heavily.  She pulled her top over her head and then reached for him, her fingernails digging into his flesh as they kissed feverishly.  They made love and hours later, he left.  She showered and went to bed where she lay staring up at the ceiling for a while, reliving her night with Robin before finally falling asleep.

In the days that followed, she couldn’t stop thinking about him and aching for him but she couldn’t help feeling guilty because of Connie.  When he called her and asked to see her again, she put him off, telling him that it wasn’t a good idea.  It wasn’t long before she started experiencing nausea and other strange symptoms.  She decided to go to a walk-in clinic.

She had to tell Robin.  Taking a deep breath, she dialed his number and when he answered, she said simply, “I need to see you.”  She arranged where they would meet and then she ended the call.

After she got off the ferry, she walked to Battery Park to the spot where she arranged to meet him.  As she waited, she couldn’t help feeling nervous.  How was he going to react to the news that she was pregnant?  Would he be thrilled or feel trapped?  Perhaps he would want to do the honorable thing and marry her or give her financial support to raise the child on her own.  She didn’t want him to feel obligated to her.  And what about his relationship with Connie?

She sighed when she thought about her friend.  She could kiss their friendship goodbye once Connie found out about the baby.  One night of passion had changed three lives forever.  She was determined, however, that no matter what happened, this baby was going to be showered with lots of love and know that he or she is a gift from God.  She placed her hand protectively on her stomach.  Still, it would be so wonderful if Robin and she could be together…She heard her name and turned to see Robin coming towards her.

Her eyes ran eagerly over his tall frame.  It was a little over a month since they last saw each other.  He stood in front of her now.

“I go here as soon as I could,” he said, studying her face.  “Are you all right?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I’m all right.  How are you?”

His eyes darkened.  “Much better now that I’m seeing you.  I haven’t been able to think about anything else but you.  I wanted to see you, Serena.  I wanted to be with you but you told me that it would be best if we didn’t.  So, when you called me today, I was thrilled.”

“I thought it would be best not to see you because of Connie.”

“I broke up with her,” he informed her.

Her eyes widened.  “You did?” she exclaimed.  “Why?”

“After what happened between you and me, I had to end our relationship.”

“Did you tell her about–?”

“No, I didn’t but I told her how I feel about you.”

She swallowed hard, her heart racing.  “How do you feel about me, Robin?” she asked.  She knew he wanted her.  That was obvious the night they made love.  He was like a made man, his hands and lips were all over her, driving her wild.  At one point, he had her hands pinned above her head while he buried his face in her neck, his breath hot and heavy on her skin.  She felt her body respond now to the memories and looking at him now she could tell that he was remembering too.

“I showed you how I feel about you that night,” he told her huskily.  “I’m madly in love with you, Serena.  I have been in love with you since university.”

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.  Robin loved her.

“I’ve loved you for sixteen years but it seems more like a few days.  It’s like Jacob who served seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage but to him it was like a few days because of his love for her.”

She felt the tears prick her eyes.  “Oh, Robin,” she cried huskily.  “I love you too.  I have loved you since the day you walked into my English class and sat down next to me.”

He smiled and taking her hands, he drew her toward him.  “One look at you and I knew I was in love.”

“I wish we had told each other how we felt back then.”

“Me too.  Serena…”

She glanced down at their hands.  “Robin, I have something to tell you.”

“What is it?”

Raising her head, to look at him, she announced quietly, “I’m going to have a baby–our baby.”

He stared at her for a long moment.  “You’re pregnant?”

“Yes.  Five weeks.  I found out this morning.”

“You’re going to have a baby.”

We’re going to have a baby.”

“How are you feeling?  Are you okay?  Do you want us to sit down on the bench over there?”

She smiled.  “I’m fine,” she assured him.  “I don’t need to sit down.  Are you okay with this?”

His face brightened.  “I’m ecstatic.  Oh, Serena.”  He bent his head and kissed her.

She responded, her heart almost bursting with joy and relief because his reaction to the news was way better than she could have ever hoped for.  “I’m so relieved that you’re happy about this,” she said a few minutes later when she drew back to gaze up at him.

“How could I be otherwise?  We love each other and we’re going to have a baby.  Do you know what that means?”

“No, what?”

“We’ll have to find a bigger place.  After we get married, we can go house hunting.”

“Married?”

“Yes, I want to marry you, Serena.  I’ve waited for over sixteen years for you.”

She put her arms around his neck.  “I can’t wait to marry you and to raise our child in our dream home,” she murmured.

“I told my mother about you.  Before she died, she said that a love meant to be will be, no matter how much time passes or how many obstacles it faces.  I wish—I wish she were here to see this—to see us together and you carrying her grandchild.”  Tears welled up in his eyes as he got choked up.

She reached up and put her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly, blinking back her own tears.  His arms went around her waist, holding her close.  They stood like that for several minutes before she drew back to look up at him.  She brushed the tears away from his cheeks.  “Let’s go to my place where it’s nice and warm.  We can snuggle under the covers as we make plans for our future.”

He nodded and with their arms around each other, they walked to where his car was parked.

Sometimes when it comes to love you may be in for the long haul but in the end, it’s worth the time and effort when it turns out to be the real thing.