The Shortcut

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PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

 

She didn’t like walking through the woods but it was a shortcut.  The trees stood tall and eerily silent.  It was creepy here in the daytime.  She hated to imagine what it must be like at night.

As she went, the twigs cracking beneath her feet, she spotted a car on her right.  Its bonnet was open.  She looked around.  There was no sign of its driver.  Perhaps he went for help.  Curious, she went over to inspect it.  She peered through the window.  Behind her a twig snapped.  Before she could turn, a bag was shoved over her head.

 

100 Words

This was written for the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields For more details, visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

The Sunshine Comes

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

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

“Ishmael, I have something to tell you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak just then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:  WikipediaEveryday Power

Let It All Go

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She watched the kids playing. Not so long ago, Michael was playing with them. He would have turned 11 on Friday. She recognized the kid whose father ran Michael down on his way home from school. Apparently, he was reaching for his cell when it happened.

He was serving time in prison but she was still angry. He killed her baby. Michael was all she had after his Dad died two years ago. Friends, family and coworkers urged her to move past her anger before it destroyed her. But, she just couldn’t do that.  Fighting back the fears, she turned away.

“Mrs. Thompson?”

She turned around. It was the man’s son. “Yes?”

“I’m sorry about Michael. He was my best friend.”

She didn’t answer.

“I know you’re still angry with my Dad. I was too.”

“How did you cope?”

“I asked God to help me.”

“How did he do that?”

“He showed me that being angry with Dad won’t bring Michael back.”

“What should I do with my anger?”

“Let it all go.”

“I’ll try.”

 

175 Words

This was written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers hosted by Priceless Joy and Joe. For more information visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

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

Sing to the Lord

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises – Psalm 98:4

Praising God is something that should be as natural as breathing.  It’s hard to do so, however, when facing trials, problems or challenges, but that is the time when we really need to do it.  I have had an experience when I was feeling down about something and it came to me, no doubt it was the Holy Spirit’s prompting, that instead of focusing on what I was going through, to focus on God instead.  So, I began to praise Him.  I began to sing songs of praise to Him and after a while, I felt so light and upbeat.  The problem which had seemed like a mountain became minuscule until with God’s help, I was able to resolve it.

The apostle Paul is a good example of someone who praised God regardless of what the circumstances were.  Who could forget when Silas and he were in jail and instead of suffering in silence, they began to sing?  Acts 16:25 says But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  God used that moment as an opportunity to reveal Himself.

Suddenly, there was an earthquake, shaking the foundations of the prison and the doors to the jail cells were opened and the chains broken, the prisoners could have escaped but no one moved.  The jailer thought that they had broken out and was about to take his life out of fear of reprisal but Paul assured him that all of the prisoners were there.  And that led the jailer to ask the question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Verse 30).  God used Paul’s and Silas’ attitude toward their circumstances to bring about the salvation of the jailer and his family.  And who knows if any of the other prisoners didn’t change too as a result of what they heard and witnessed.

How we deal with adversity will not only affect us but those around us.  Instead of looking down or around, we look up and whatever song the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, puts in our hearts, we lift our voices and sing to our God, Who is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).  It will lift our burdens up to Him and bring His comfort down to us.

Being a Neighbor

Only Jesus could simplify spiritual matters in a way that anyone can understand.  He summed up the Ten Commandments into two–love God and love your neighbor (Mark 12:30, 31).  When a lawyer asked Jesus the question, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered by telling a parable about the man who was attacked on his way to Jericho by robbers and left for dead on the road.   Two men passed by, first a priest who passed by on the other side and then a Levite who looked and passed by the other side.   It’s interesting that both of these men who were associated with the priesthood did not minister to the injured man but left him there until a kind stranger stopped to help him.

Through this wonderful illustration of love and compassion, we learn that our neighbor is not only the person who lives next door or opposite but any person in need.  To be a neighbor is to care for others–show kindness and to help them in whatever way we can.  After Jesus finished telling the story, He asked the question, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”  The lawyer replied, “He who showed mercy on him.”  Jesus told him to go and do likewise (Luke 10:36, 37).

A neighbor is not necessarily someone of our race, culture, background or religion.  It was a Samaritan, not a Jew who stopped to help the man.  In those times, Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans (John 4:9).  To be a neighbor is not to allow our prejudices to prevent us from helping those who are different from us.

When it comes to loving your neighbor there partiality isn’t a factor.  The Samaritan didn’t see an enemy lying at the side of the road but a person who was badly in need of help.  He felt compassion for him and getting off his donkey, he went over to him and bandaged his wounds before taking him to an inn where he could recuperate.  Being a neighbor means setting aside our differences and demonstrating the love of God to others.

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right – James 2:8

From Abuse to Abundance

She sat on the porch, an open book

in her lap but she wasn’t reading it.

Her eyes were on the street.  She was

waiting for her daughter to come home

from school.  Somewhere in the back-

yard, she heard the piercing trill of a bird.

 

It was a beautiful spring afternoon.  Quite

peaceful as there was hardly any traffic or people

in the street.  This was the kind of life she

had always wanted and she thought she

would have had it with Joe…Joe.  She

hadn’t thought about him for years.

 

It seemed like a lifetime ago when she met

and fell in love with the handsome and

charming construction worker.  It was a

whirlwind romance.  Within a few weeks

of meeting they got married.  There were

no red flags–at least she didn’t see them.

Everything seemed to be going so well…

And then, the honeymoon was over.

 

First the insults came and they stung

but she put on a brave face and kept

on loving him, thinking things would

get better.  Then came the blows.

At first they were followed by tearful

apologies and gifts.  And she held him

in her bruised arms and rocked him

like a baby, believing his promises that

he would never hit her again.

 

The blows continued and more frequently.

No more tears.  No more “I’m sorry, Honey.”

Instead, she was blamed for what was

happening to her.  After a while she began to

believe that it was her fault.  Something about

her brought out the worst in him.  When they

first met and even after they got married, he

was so charming and loving.  She didn’t think

he could harm a fly.  But, underneath that boy

next door veneer, lurked an abusive and unstable

monster.

 

After years of being battered and verbally and

mentally abused, she got the courage to leave.

She went to a women’s shelter where she felt safe and

cared for.   She received the counseling and

support she so desperately needed.  No more

of looking out the window for Joe and wondering

what kind of mood he would be in.  Three months

after leaving the shelter, she learned that Joe had

died from a fall at a construction site.  The news

devastated her.  In spite of everything, she still

loved him.

 

She visited his grave and stood there, tears falling

down her cheeks, wishing with all her heart that

their life together had been different.  She never

knew why he became abusive toward her.  All

she had ever done was love him and try to be a

good wife to him.  And all she got for her trouble

were blows, bruises and belittling remarks.

 

Thirteen years have gone by since she left Joe and now

she was married again.  Bill was a terrific husband

and father to their ten year old daughter.  They

met when she started attending church.  It wasn’t a

whirlwind romance this time.  It took a while for her

to open herself and her heart to someone else.  The

physical scars had healed but the emotional scars were

still there.  She marveled at Bill’s patience.  Other men

would have given up.  When she broached this with

him, he said simply, “Love is patient.  I’m not going

anywhere.”

 

It was one rainy afternoon when she was walking home

from the subway and saw him coming toward her with

an umbrella that she realized that she was in love with

him.  She married him a week later in a simple ceremony.

And now, she sat in the shade on the porch of their home,

looking out for their daughter, Annie.

 

Being married to Bill made her face up to the glaring truth

that Joe didn’t really love her.  If he had, he wouldn’t have

hurt her.  Love doesn’t batter, belittle or blame.  She had

forgiven Joe and wanted to believe that if he were still alive,

he would have sought help.

 

She saw a familiar figure coming up the street and

she stood up, smiling.  God had brought her from

a dark and painful past to this moment.  During one

of those moments when she wondered if she ever feel

safe or happy again that He assured her, “There is hope

in your future.”  Yes, from where she stood, that hope

was the life she was now enjoying.  God had brought

her from abuse to abundance.

 

 

Sources: YMCA; Domestic Shelter

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