Her New God

wishing-tree

Photo by Sue Vincent

She looked at the tree with the scarves, ties and other colorful things draped on the branches and grimaced.  Waste of time.  She saw the items she had put on the tree months ago, believing that the gods would hear her prayers and answer but it was as if they had turned their backs on her.  Her son was still sick.  Nothing worked.  The hospital was too far away and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him.  And he was growing worse.

“You haven’t tried Me”.  She looked around, wondering who had said that.  She was alone.  She continued walking, chalking it up to imagination when she heard it again.  “You haven’t tried Me”.

Frightened, she asked, “Who are You?”

“I am the God who created the heavens and the earth.”

The Christian God, she thought.  She had heard about Him.  “I have heard stories about You how You parted the Red Sea and sent bread from Heaven.”

“Yes, and I can also heal the sick.”

She paused and looked up.  “Can You heal my son?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“How?”

“All you have to do is to pray and believe that I can do it and I will.”

She thought about it for a moment.  What did she have to lose?  Her son was sick and her gods weren’t answering her desperate cries for help.  At least this God was talking to her and He wanted to heal her son.  She got down on her knees and prostrated herself on the ground, hands clasped above her head, eyes squeezed shut.  She began to pray and as she did, the words just poured from her lips, accompanied by gut wrenching tears as she pleaded for her son’s life.

When she was finished, a peace she had never experienced before in her life came over her.  She got up and wiping her face, she trudged the rest of the way to the village.  When she arrived, her sister ran out to greet her, her face bright with joy.  “Saanvi!  It’s Jayesh,” she cried, unable to speak because she was so excited.

Saanvi frowned,  “What about Jayesh?” she asked.

“He’s recovered,” her sister said, grabbing her hand and pulling her towards thehut.   “The fever left him and he’s awake.  He’s asking for you.”

Overjoyed, Saanvi burst into the hut and when she saw Saanvi sitting up in the bed, she fell to the ground and began to thank the Christian God.  “You are now my God,” she said.  “When the other gods ignored my cries for help, You heard and You spoke to me.  You healed my son.  You’re my God now.”

By the end of the week, all traces of the other gods were gone.  In their place was a Bible which she had gotten from a missionary visiting her village.  And as for the Wishing Tree, she had no more use for it.  She removed the items she had placed on the branches and burned them.

This was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Wishes for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Click on the link to read other stories inspired by the image.

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Freedom

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She stood on top of the mountain, her eyes riveted to the American flag as it flapped gently in the breeze.  It was more spectacular than the surrounding landscape.  It was a symbol of freedom from a life of religious persecution in a country where being a Christian led to her husband’s arrest and imprisonment.  After learning of his death resulting from vicious beatings and torture, she fled their home.  She was two months pregnant.

For days she traveled on foot with nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat except sunflower seeds but still, she continued to cling to her faith.  She found a safe house in Bangkok but shortly after, Thai police showed up, seized her possessions and sent her to detention.  The judge ordered her deportation.  Back in the jail cell, she prayed, “God, please help me.”

And He did, through the U.S. Embassy officials who helped her to escape from the Chinese and to America.  Now she and their daughter were free. One day she would tell her about her brave father.

175 words.

It was inspired by a true event and was written for the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge.  For more information, please visit Here.

To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  Christian Post; The Voice of the Martyrs CanadaCBN News

Shades of Love

For the first time in his life, Maxwell was in love. The problem was–his family wouldn’t approve.  Why?  The object of his affection was a very dark skinned Nigerian woman.  He was a light skinned black man with blue eyes whose parents were light skinned blacks from Barbados.  He always had a weakness for dark women although to please his parents, he dated the light skinned ones.  This woman was absolutely stunning but he knew that his family wouldn’t see past her color.  Even his friends when they saw him checking her out at the party where they met, they told him, “Man, she’s way too dark.  There are so many gorgeous black women here to choose from and you had to pick out the darkest one.”

Of course, he ignored them and walked up to her, his heart racing with nervousness and excitement.  She turned and it seemed like his heart stopped.  This close she was even more breathtaking.  Her beautiful eyes mesmerized him and her skin looked smooth and flawless.  The black cocktail dress hugged her perfect body and the strappy black sandals she wore accentuated her long and shapely legs.  She wore a jeweled choker around her slender neck.

“Maxwell,” he said, holding out his hand.

She put her hand in his.  “Adaolisa.”  They shook hands.

“That’s a pretty name.  What does it mean?”

“God’s daughter.”

“Adaolisa, you’re a very beautiful woman.”  I think you’re the most beautiful woman here.

She smiled.  “Thank you.  And you’re a very handsome man with the most amazing eyes I’ve ever seen.”

He blushed.  “Thank you.  I detect an accent.  Where are you from?”

“Nigeria. I moved from Lagos to London when I was seventeen to attend university.  I stayed with my aunt until I graduated and found a job.”

“You speak English very well.”

“Actually, English is my first language and the official language of Nigeria.”

“Have you been back since you left?”

“Yes.  I visit my family every Christmas.”

“Are you here alone?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  You came with your friends.”

So, she had noticed him long before he approached her.  That pleased him.  “Why don’t we get something to eat and then find somewhere to sit?” he suggested.

“All right.” They went over to the elaborate buffet table and helped themselves to the spread.  They went out on the terrace, found a corner where there were a couple of chairs and sat down.

“Which university did you go to?”

“Cambridge.”

“Now I wish that I went there instead of Oxford and then we would have met sooner. Why did you study at Cambridge?”

“Education.”

“How you like living in England?”

“I don’t mind it because I love my job and I have a lot of friends.  What really bothers me, though, is the prejudice that exists among blacks.  The lighter skinned women, especially, turn up their noses at me and they get upset when their men look at me.  I think too, that they don’t like me because I’m African.”

Maxwell shook his head.  “It’s a shameful thing when prejudice exists within the black community,” he said.  “Growing up in Barbados, I was exposed to bigotry.  My sister was bullied because she wasn’t dark enough and I watched light skinned children ridicule the dark skinned ones.  Many times I got into fights standing up for myself, my sister and my friends.  There was a girl who lived next door to my grandparents whom I liked and I used to hang around her.  My grandfather who was much lighter than me didn’t approve and used to say to me, ‘She’s too dark.’  He told me that all the men in our family married light skinned women so that the next generation would be lighter.  I loved my grandfather but I was ashamed of his ways.  Unfortunately, my parents are the same way.  When I was a teenager I used to date light skinned girls to please them but that changed when I went to university.”

“So, your parents wouldn’t be pleased to see you talking to me,” she commented.

“No, they wouldn’t be.  But it doesn’t matter.  I’m a grown man.  I like you Adaolisa and I want to get to know you better.”

“It’s sad to see blacks discriminate against each other.  It only polarizes the communities.”

“It does.  And it polarizes families too.  My younger brother married a German woman whom our parents welcomed with open arms and they dote on their Caucasian looking grandchildren.   My sister, however, is somewhat of a disappointment to them because she fell in love with and got engaged to Omar, a Senegalese man.  It doesn’t matter that he’s a great guy, loves her and treats her like a queen, all my parents see are his color and his nationality.”

“There are many shades of love.  Your brother chose one shade and your sister another.  All that matters is that they’re happy with their choices.”

He stared at her, admiration glinting in his eyes.  Not only was she beautiful but she was wise.  He knew he had found a treasure tonight.

They changed the topic and talked about other things until it was time to leave.  “May I give you a lift home?” he asked, hopefully.

She nodded.  “Yes, thank you.  I’ll be right back.”

After she left, he rejoined his friends.  “Where have you been, Man,” Trevor asked.

“He’s been with the Nubian,” Colin chimed in.

“So, are we still heading over to the Road House to catch the game?” Nigel asked.

“I’ll pass,” Maxwell told them.  “I’ll see you guys at the game on Friday.”

“He’s brushing us off because of black beauty.”

“Her name is Adaolisa.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I don’t like to keep a lady waiting.”  He turned and walked away, his heart and steps quickening when he saw her standing there, waiting for him.

That was two years ago and now, here they were on their way to see his parents before they went to their favorite restaurant where he was going to propose to her.  It didn’t matter to him what his parents thought.  He was madly in love with this woman and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.  She looked exquisite in the dark red dress with the spaghetti straps.  Unable to resist, he reached over and caressed her shoulder with his knuckles.  “Are you nervous?” he asked when she looked at him.

“A little,” she admitted.

“Don’t worry, I will be there.   As soon as I see that things are getting uncomfortable for you, we will leave, okay?”

“Okay.”  She seemed to relax and a slight smile tugged at her mouth.  She turned to look out of the window.

Five minutes later, they were pulling up in front of a very charming cottage nestled among climbing rose bushes.  He held her hand as they walked up the driveway.  When they were standing on the step in front of the door, he turned to her and asked, “Ready?”

She nodded.  Her grip on his hand tightened imperceptibly.

He rang the doorbell and waited.  It opened and his father stood there.  “Hello, Son,” he said, shaking Maxwell’s hand.  Then, his eyes shifted to Adaolisa.  “Good evening,” he said, extending his hand.

Adaolisa shook his hand.  “Good evening.”

“Please come in,” he said, stepping aside.  His manner toward her was polite but there was no warmth.  “Your mother is in the living-room.”

After they removed their shoes, they went to the living-room.  His mother was sitting by the fireplace.  She stood and went over to hug him.  “It’s good to see you, Maxwell,” she said.  “It has been a while.” When they drew apart, she looked at Adaolisa.  “How do you do?” she sounded a bit stiff although she shook her hand.

“I’m fine, thank you,” Adaolisa replied.  “What a lovely home you have.”

“Thank you.  Won’t you sit down?”

“Mom, we could only stay for a little while,” Maxwell told her as he sat down on the sofa next to Adaolisa.  “We’re going out for dinner.”

“Maxwell mentioned that you’re from Nigeria.”

“Yes, I’m from Lagos.”

“Do you have any family here?”

“Yes, an aunt.  The rest of my family is in Lagos.”

So, far so good, Maxwell thought, beginning to relax when his mother said abruptly, “Maxwell, may I have a word with you?  Excuse us,” she said to Adaolisa before standing up and leaving the room.

Maxwell looked at Adaolisa.  “I’ll be right back,” he promised.  He got up and left.

His mother was standing in the hallway.  “Let’s go into the kitchen,” she suggested and led the way.

When they were alone in the kitchen, she asked, “Are you serious about this girl?”

“First of all, she’s a woman not a girl and yes, I’m very serious about her.  I’m head over heels in love with her.”

“But what do you really know about her?”

“I know enough about her to want to marry her—”

His mother looked aghast.  “Marry her?”

“Yes.  I’m going to propose to her tonight over dinner.”

“But, she’s African.”

“So?”

“Why couldn’t you find yourself a nice Bajan woman or even an English woman?”

“So you object to Adaolisa because she’s African?”

“Yes and she’s too dark.”

Maxwell tried to remain calm.  “Do you have any idea how damaging it is to a child when they are treated differently because they are dark?  I knew someone at university who told me that when she was a child, the teacher gave her a black crayon instead of a brown one to color a drawing of herself.  She transferred to a different school because of the bullying but she still had to deal with verbal abuse from other black students.  How could you stand there and look down at Adaolisa because she’s not your idea of what is beautiful?  It’s not the color of her skin that makes a woman beautiful, it’s her character.  I brought her here to meet you because I hoped that once you got to know her, you would set your prejudices aside but clearly I was wrong.  I’m going to marry her regardless of what you say or think.  You’re welcome to come to the wedding if you like.  Now, it’s time for us to go.  Goodbye, Mother.”  He turned and walked away from her.

He was quiet on the ride over to the restaurant.   Then, turning to her, he said regretfully, “I’m sorry about the way things turned out.  I foolishly hoped that my parents would come around and accept you.  I know my mother is set in her ways but I thought that my father would be more forthcoming but aside from greeting you at the door, he said nothing to you all the time we were there.  And when I came into the living-room after talking to my mother, he wasn’t there.  You were sitting there all by yourself.  I was so upset that I had to get out of there”

She reached out and placed her hand on his thigh.  “Let’s not dwell on what happened.  We have the rest of the evening ahead of us.  Let’s enjoy it.”

“All right,” he said.  “Let’s enjoy the rest of our evening together.”

They ended up enjoying dinner.  The conversation flowed and there was a lot of laughter.  Just before they ordered dessert, he reached out and covered her hand, his eyes intent on her face.  Swallowing hard, he began the speech he had rehearsed over and over since the moment he knew that he was going to marry her.   “Adaolisa, words alone can’t express how I feel about you.  From the moment I first saw you, I knew that you were the one for me.  You took my heart and my breath away.  When I look at you, I see the woman I love, the woman I need and the woman I’m meant to be with.”  He reached into his breast pocket and took out a box.  Releasing her hand, he opened it and removed the ring.  It was an exquisite Rose Gold Leaf diamond engagement ring.

She stared at it in wonder and when her eyes lifted to his face, they were moist.  “It’s beautiful,” she murmured.

“It will look even more beautiful on your hand,” he replied huskily.  “Will you marry me, Adaolisa?”

She nodded.  “Yes, Maxwell.” The tears were rolling down her cheeks now as she watched him slide it onto her finger before he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.

“I love you, Adaolisa.”

“I love you too, Maxwell.”

They raised their glasses in a toast and over dessert, they made wedding plans.  In May of the following year, they got married in an elegant but simple ceremony.  Her family was there.  His brother and his family were in attendance as well as his sister and her husband, Omar.  Noticeably absent were his parents.  Fortunately, that didn’t put a damper on the nuptials.

After a two week honeymoon in the Maldives, they moved into their new home, a half-hour drive outside of London.  Nine months later, they welcomed their first child—a girl with beautiful olive skin and her father’s eyes.  As Maxwell held her in his arms, he remarked, “She’s beautiful like her mother.”

“She’s another shade of love—our love for each other.”

 

Source:  Dazed Digital; Felix Online; Nation News; Barbados Free Press; Fluid London; University of Cambridge; Global News; Pinterest; Ben Garelick; Harper’s Bazaar

Walking Away

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? – 2 Corinthians 6:14

There signs were there but either she was blind to them or she didn’t want to see them.  They spoke at odd hours.  She never met his family or any of his friends and he didn’t seem keen on meeting hers.  She had no idea where he lived. He never invited her to his place and always ended up at hers. They never spent the holidays together or attended special events.  Once when she got tickets to a play she had always wanted to see, he told her that something had come up and he couldn’t go. She had to ask a friend to go with her.

He never used his credit card.  He paid everything in cash.  He took her to lonely and secluded places.  And whenever they were in public, he was different, not showing any display of affection.  To the casual observer, they were just friends, nothing more but behind closed doors, it was a different story.  He couldn’t seem to get enough of her. And then there was the wedding band line although he hadn’t mentioned anything about being married.  And on more than one occasion she had invited him to go to church with her but he always had an excuse why he couldn’t go.

Her gut told her that something was not right.  It kept nagging her driving her to pray about it.  God led her to two passages:  The first was: 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 which said, For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;  that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,  not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.”

And the second was Hebrews 13:4:  Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

God was telling her plainly that her boyfriend was a married man and that she needed to end their relationship.  After she closed the Bible, she collapsed on the carpet and began to cry.  The pain was unbearable.  She loved him and he had been lying to her all this time.

Hours later when she was composed, she called him on his cell.  It rang a long time and just as she was about to end the call, he answered.  “Sorry,” he apologized.  “I was in the middle of something.”

“I need to see you,” she said simply.  “Can you meet me this afternoon?”

“I can’t this afternoon.  How about tomorrow afternoon around 4?”

“Fine.  I’ll meet you tomorrow afternoon at the entrance of Craigleigh Gardens Park.”  They had been to the park before because there was an air of secrecy about it and not many people were around.  Whenever they were there, they felt as if they had the place all to themselves.

“Why I see you at your place?”

“I prefer to meet you in the park.”

“All right.  I’ll see you then.  I love you.”

She didn’t say “I love you” as usual but, instead mumbled, “Bye” and ended the call.  She went out onto the terrace where she sat for a long time, dreading the inevitable.

As she stood at the entrance to the park waiting for him, she prayed and asked God to give her the strength to do what she must do.  And she had this assurance, fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Knowing that God was with her gave her comfort but it was going to be hard and very painful to say goodbye to the man she loved.  How she wished he weren’t married or lied to her about it.  What else did he lie about?

Five minutes to four, he showed up.  Her heart leapt in her throat and she had to fight the impulse to throw her arms around him.  He wouldn’t have minded there wasn’t anyone around.  He looked handsome in the expensive looking striped navy blue suit, snow white shirt and no tie.  His thick, silky bronze colored hair was neatly combed as usual.  He exuded sophistication and virility.  As he approached her, she felt her resolve weakening and she frantically said a silent prayer.

She saw his eyes travel over her in the yellow top and black skirt and the desire in his eyes.  She tried to ignore her body’s reaction.  Not seeming to notice that something was amiss, he said, “Hello, Erika” and was about to take her in his arms when she stepped back.   Frowning, he asked, “Is something wrong?”

“Let’s go inside and find a bench,” she suggested and turned away.  She went through the entrance and he followed her.  Nothing was said until they found a bench.  He waited until she was seated and then he sat down.  After taking a deep breath, she said, “It’s over between you and me.”

He looked startled and for a few minutes, he was at a loss for words and then he finally asked, “Why?”

“You’re married, Cyrus.”

“How did you find out?”

“The signs were there but I didn’t want to see them.  When I see you it’s usually at your convenience.  I have never met your family or your friends or been to your place and we only go to certain places.  Things haven’t been adding up and my gut kept telling me that something was wrong.  And your finger,” she said looking down at his left hand.  “has the mark of a ring.  When you’re with me you don’t wear it.  How long have you been married?”

He sighed.  “Ten years.”

“Do you have any children?”  She fought to keep the tears back.

“Yes.  Two.  A six year old boy and a four year old girl.”

She buried her face in her hands and groaned.  He was married with children.  All those times when they couldn’t spend Christmas or New Year’s together, it was because of his family.

He reached out to pull her towards him as he muttered, “Erika, I’m sorry.”

She pushed his hand away, the tears rolling down her face.  “You’re sorry,” she cried angrily.  “Sorry that you lied to me or sorry that I found out?  All this time you and I were seeing each other, you were really cheating on your wife.  If I had known that you were married I never would have gotten involved with you.”

“That’s why I didn’t tell you.  I didn’t want to lose you.”

“Am I your first affair or have you had others before me?”

“No.  I’ve never cheated on my wife before.  The thought never occurred to me but that changed when I met you.  I knew it was wrong to get involved with you but I couldn’t help myself.  I wanted you so much…”

“I fell in love with you, Cyrus, not knowing that you had a family.  When you were with me, did you think about them and how this would hurt them?”

He ran his fingers through his hair, his face pale.  “No, I wasn’t thinking,” he admitted tightly.  “All I could think about was you and how much I loved you–”

“Please, don’t tell me that you love me.”

“But, I do.  I love you more than I love my children.”

“What about your wife?  Do you love her?”

“No.  I stopped loving her after our daughter was born.”

“Why are you still married?”

“Two reasons are preventing me from getting a divorce–my religion and my children.  So, I’m stuck in a marriage to a woman I don’t love while I’m in love with a woman who doesn’t want me anymore.”

For a brief, maddening moment, she wanted to put her arms around him and tell him that she still wanted him, desperately.  But, as a Christian, she couldn’t stay in a relationship that wasn’t right for her.  She loved him so much that it hurt but she had to obey God’s Word.  Sometimes, you had to walk away from love.  She stood up, her heart breaking and the tears streaming down her face.  “Cyrus, I’m sorry that you are stuck in an unhappy marriage.  I hope and pray that things work out for you and that you find happiness but it won’t be with me.  I have to find my own happiness.”

He stood up, anguish marring his features.  “What are you saying, Erika?”

“I’m saying goodbye.  I’m saying that it’s over between us.”

“But, I love you.”

“And I love you but you’re a married man.”

“So, it’s really over?”

“Yes.” The word was choked sob.

“Could I at least kiss you goodbye?” he asked thickly.  “Please?”

Against her better judgment, she allowed him to take her in his arms and kiss her.  When she felt his lips on hers, she put her arms around his neck and eagerly kissed him back.  They exchanged passionate kisses for several minutes and then she pulled away from him.  She turned away, gulping for air.

“Erika…”

“Please go,” she begged, still with her back turned to him.

There was a brief pause and then he was walking away–out of her life for good.

To truly love is to have the courage to walk away and let the other person who wishes to be free go no matter how much it hurts – Taylor Swift

Photo by: blogTO

Source:  Belief Net; BlogTO; Bible Gateway; Culture Hook;

God, the Restorer

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

Praise

I will always praise the Lord.  With all my heart, I will praise the Lord – Psalm 34:1, 2

King David was always praising God.  Every opportunity he got, he praised Him for who He is and what He does in our lives.  Do we praise God?  Do we take the time to praise Him for who is He is?  Or do we spend most of our time asking Him for things?

Instead of asking God to bless our children, we should say, “Lord God, we want praise You for the many blessings You have poured out on our children.  We want to praise You for Your faithfulness and goodness.”

When God answers our prayers, do we praise Him?  David did.  “I praise You, Lord, for answering my prayers.  You have helped me and I will celebrate and thank You in song” (Psalm 28:6, 7).

Even when we are hurting, we ought to praise God.  “Lord, even though I am feeling low today, I want to lift up Your name.  You are my Rock and my refuge.  I know that this sadness will not last because You will send joy my way.  You will lift me out of this valley and place me back on top of the mountain.  You will make my heart glad because of Your goodness and kindness.  Lord, even when I don’t feel like singing, Your put songs in my heart.  Even when I don’t feel like smiling, You put a smile on my face.  Today, Lord, I praise Your name because You deserve to be praised.  Honour and glory belong to You.  I praise Your name because You are good.  You have rescued me from all of my troubles.”

I find that when I am feeling down and I start to praise God and sing songs of praise, my spirits are lifted and the sadness vanishes.  When we focus on God instead of our troubles, it makes a world of different.  Let us get into the habit of petitioning God less and praising Him more.

Obey God

Then they reported to Saul, saying, “Look, the people are sinning against the Lord by eating the blood – 1 Samuel 14:33

Do we sometimes go to great lengths to obey those in authority but in the process we end up disobeying God?  It happened with Israel’s army when they came upon a forest where honey was flowing.  There was honey on the ground, ready for the men to eat but they didn’t eat it because of the king had placed them under a cursed when he swore, “Cursed is the man that eats any food before it is evening, and I have been avenged on my enemies.” 

The people feared the king’s rash oath so no one took of the honey except Jonathan who was not present when his father made the people swear to keep the oath.  He dipped the end of his rod into the honey and put his hand to his mouth, his eyes brightening at the taste.  One of the people told him that “Your father surely made the people swear, saying, ‘Cursed is the man that eats any food this day.’ ” This person and the rest of the people were greatly distressed.

Jonathan’s reply was, “My father has troubled the land. See how my eyes have brightened, because I tasted a little of this honey.  How much more, if the people had surely eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found? But now the defeat of the Philistines has not been great.”

So, the people struck the Philistines that day and faint and famished, they took the cattle and sheep and slew them.  They ate them with the blood in them which was a violation of God’s commandment which states:  Only be sure that you do not eat the blood. For the blood is the life, and you may not eat the life with the meat.  You must not eat it. You must pour it on the ground like water.  You must not eat it, so that it may go well with you and with your children after you, when you do that which is right in the sight of the Lord (Deuteronomy 12:23-25). 

Blinded by hunger, the people broke God’s commandment.  It is ironic that their obedience to King Saul’s foolish oath led to their disobedience to God.  Their act is seen as rebellious because they put their fear of Saul’s curse above their faithfulness to God’s commandment.  They were loyal to the king instead of to God.  And this led to their grievous sin.

When it was reported to Saul what they were doing, he turned on them and accused them of acting treacherously.  Then, he set up a stone to have the animals properly killed and he also built an altar to God to prevent further violation of the law.  The people had defiled themselves.  We must never allow anyone, no matter who it is to cause us to sin against God.  Perhaps it would have been better to incur the king’s curse by eating the honey rather than violating God’s law.

The people redeemed themselves when they stood up against Saul who would have killed his son, Jonathan when it was revealed that he had taken some of the honey, although it was done in ignorance.  Jonathan was willing to die but the people interceded.  They said to Saul, “Will Jonathan die, who has worked this great salvation in Israel? God forbid. As the Lord lives, there will not one hair of his head fall to the ground. For he has worked with God this day.”

They rescued Jonathan and he did not die.  They couldn’t stand by and allow the man who was brave enough to go over to the Philistine garrison to see what the Lord would do, trusting that He would work something out to deliver their enemies into their hands.  Through him, Lord brought them victory that day.  They people acted on their conscience.  It’s never too late to do what is right.

We should never let fear cause us to make bad choices.  When it comes to choosing whom we listen to or follow, it’s a no brainer.  “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).  We must obey God no matter what.

 

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Blue Letter Bible