Francis Finds Love and Faith

“Why haven’t you been by the house?  Are they working you too hard?  When is the last time you went to confession?  When are you going to settle down and get married?”  Mrs. De Vries demanded as her son, Francis walked out of the courthouse and into the late afternoon sunshine.  It had been a hectic day and all he wanted to do was to go home and crash.

“Mother, I’m perfectly happy with my life,” he told her wearily.  “I haven’t been by the house because I have been very busy on a case which was wrapped up a short while ago.  I haven’t been to confession for over a year and I’m not ready to get married as yet.”

He didn’t tell her that he hadn’t been to confession or the church because he was seriously considering leaving the faith.  And the allegations of sex abuse at the hands of the clergy didn’t help.  He knew of one girl he used to go to school with who was a victim but was afraid to say anything because she was afraid that her parents would kick her out of the house.  The last he heard of her, she had left the church and married a Protestant.

He grew up in a strict Catholic home where he was taught never to question the church because to do so was a grave sin.  So, he kept quiet, went to Mass every Sunday with his family, had his First Communion and Confirmation.  He still remembered what happened to his girlfriend, Sophia when she was 16 and preparing Confirmation.  She was in the Children’s Room and she had to write down the sins she had committed against God.  When she told the priest that he had made out with her boyfriend, the man looked at her and told her that she was going to hell.  Distraught and terrified at the thought of burning for eternity, she ran out of the room in tears. Francis never saw her again.  He just went to church to please his mother.  But he could feel himself becoming more and more disconnected to the faith.

“Francis?  Are you still there?”

“Yes, Mother.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing, Mother.”

“Marian is having her First Communion next week Sunday.  You are going to come for that, aren’t you?  Everyone will expect to see you.”  Marian was his 7 year old niece.

He didn’t really want to go but he knew he would never hear the end of it if he didn’t show up.  Besides, he didn’t want to disappoint Marian.  “All right, Mother.  I’ll be there.”

“Good.” She sounded very pleased.  “Afterwards, we’ll go over to the house and have a big meal to celebrate.”

“Sounds good.  I have to go now, Mother.”

“All right, Francis.  I will call you again during the week to remind you.”

“I will write it down in my calendar so that I won’t forget.”

“Just the same, I will call and remind you,” she insisted.

He sighed.  “All right, Mother.”

“Have a good weekend.”

“Thanks.  You too.”

“Make sure you go to church on Sunday.  I pray for you everyday, you know.”

“That’s sweet of you, Mother.  I really have to go now.  Goodbye.”

“All right.  Goodbye, Francis. Ik hou van je.”

Ik hou ook van jou.” He ended the call and got into his car.  The sun was setting as he pulled out of the parking lot.  He couldn’t wait to get home and take a long, hot shower before ordering Take Out Thai.  He didn’t have any plans for the weekend.  He was going to be a couch potato for once.

About forty minutes later, he was riding up the elevator.  The doors opened and he headed down the long hallway to his unit.  As he was about to insert the key in the lock, the door opposite his opened and his neighbor, Briana came out of her unit.  Her gaze traveled over his tall frame.   “Hi,” she said.  2451262bc76a34995bfa6c2e7db55843

“Hi.” She had her jacket draped over her arm and her knapsack was on her shoulder.  “Going on a date?” he asked.  He always wanted to find out if she had a boyfriend but never quite knew how to broach the subject without coming across nosy.

She shook her head.  “No.  I’m going to the Living With Hope Evangelistic meetings.  Tonight’s the first meeting.  It ends next week Sunday.”  She showed him the flyer.

He took it from her and studied it.  It looked very interesting.  It started at 7 which was a hour away.  “Do you mind if I come with you?” he asked.

She shook her head again.  “No, not at all.  Have you eaten?”

“No.”

“Neither have I.  I got in a short time ago and didn’t have time to eat anything.  We can grab something on the way.”  They took her car.

As they sped down the high-way, they talked about all sorts of things.  She asked him about his job and he told her about the case he won earlier that day.  His client was found not guilty because of reasonable doubt.  “Do you think he was innocent?” she asked.

“Yes.  And I established that the foreman at the firm as a very possible suspect.  He had motive and opportunity.”

“Well, congratulations.”

“Thanks.  You’re a Physical Therapy Assistant, right?”

“Yes.”  He remembered.  “I love it.  I love helping people.  That’s something you and I have in common.”

He smiled.  “That’s true.”

“So….do you have a girlfriend?”  She knew he wasn’t married.

The question took him by surprise and it took him a moment to reply.  “No, I don’t have a girlfriend.  What about you?  Do you have a boyfriend?”

She shook her head.  “No.  I’ve gone out with a couple of guys but nothing panned out.  We’re approaching Carroll Ave where the church is,” she added. “There are several food places in the area.  What do you feel in the mood for?”

“Is there a Middle Eastern place?”

“Yes.  It’s right up here.”  She pulled into the parking lot and found a parking space in front of the restaurant.  They walked in and over to the Take Out area.  “I’m going to have the Chicken Shawarma.  What about you?”

“I think I will have the Lamb burger.”  His mouth watered as he thought having it with fries.

They ordered and then they went to the car and she drove to the church.  They sat in the car and ate.  He encouraged her to try the fries.  “Next time I think I will try the Lamb Burger.  It looks really good.”

“If you don’t have other plans, I was thinking that tomorrow night after we leave here, we could go a really nice family run Lebanese restaurant in Washington.”

She smiled.  “I would love to.”

They finished eating and then it was time to head inside.  They were hooked the first night and looked forward to going the following night.  Night after night they went to the series together and had dinner afterwards.  By the end of the series, they both decided to regularly attend the church hosting the series.  They each received the Discover Bible Guides from the pastor of the church which they eagerly went through. Then, in the Spring the following year, they were baptized.

At first, Francis’ mother was bitterly disappointed that he had left the Catholic faith but when she saw how happy he was, she relented.  And she was relieved to see that he had a girlfriend.  She became very fond of Briana and even taught her how to make some traditional Dutch dishes.

Two years later, Francis and Briana tied the knot in a simple but elegant ceremony.

 

Sources:  Huff Post; Corpus Christi; Tahoma Park Church

For Better or For Worse

Man looking through window bw

“How long are you going to continue looking out that window?  She’s not coming back.  Sooner or later you must accept that.”

He didn’t answer.  Her words cut to the core but he refused to believe that Brittany was gone forever.

“She got tired of waiting and decided that it’s time to move on.  Can’t say that I blame her.  I too would get tired of waiting for a man to make up his mind.”

“Marriage isn’t something you take lightly or rush into,” he replied, sounding a tad defensive and resentful.  “I wanted to be sure before I took that step.”

“And are you sure now?”

“Yes!  I’m ready to take that step with Brittany.”

“Well, as they say, too late, too late shall be the cry.”

His mouth tightened in annoyance.  If she had nothing good or helpful to say, he wish she would keep silent.  “Are you going to be much longer?” he asked.  He wanted to be alone to wallow in his pain and misery.

She looked at him.  “Trying to get rid of me, are you?  Well, I’ll be gone in ten minutes.”

Good.  He turned away to look out of the window again.  Any minute, he hoped to see her walking up the street and hear the key turn in the lock.  He had imagined and dreamed of it so many times.  She had to come back.  The night she walked out of the flat and out of his life was still raw and fresh in his mind.  The place felt empty, lonely and dark without her.  He missed her lying in the bed next to him and always fell asleep hugging her pillow.

They had been together for five years and they had been happy years until the subject of marriage came up.  She wanted to get married but he wasn’t ready.  He had seen too many marriages fall apart.  Love wasn’t a guarantee for a lasting marriage.  He had seen couples who loved each other split up.  Was it unreasonable for him to be cautious?  Was it foolish of him to want to wait until he was ready and willing to make that final commitment?

As much as he was in love with Brittany, he was going to let her pressure him into getting married before he was good and ready.  He didn’t regret that decision but he missed her so much that it hurt.  It had been weeks since she walked out but it felt like years.  Yet, hope continued to burn in his heart.  One of these days, she would return and he would be there, waiting for her.

“Well, I’m off now.  Your supper is in the oven, nice and hot.  Your laundry’s done.  I’ll see you in two weeks.  I’m going to visit my daughter in Manchester.”

“Have a safe trip, Hannah.”

“Thank you.  You take care of yourself.  And stop moping about the place.  There are plenty of women out there.”

“I know but there’s only one woman for me.”

“Aye.  Well, I hope for your sake that she’s worth the trouble.  Good afternoon.”

“Good afternoon.”  He got up and saw her to the door.  He reached over and kissed her on the cheek, smiling as she got red in the face.  He watched her walk down the hallway and turn the corner before he closed the door.  He returned to the window.

It was around half-past seven when he decided to get up and have his supper while it was still warm.  As he headed toward the kitchen, he heard the key turn in the lock.  He froze, his heart pounding.  He stood there and watched as the door slowly opened and Brittany step into the foyer.  She closed the door and locked it before turning to face him.  She stood there, watching him.  Beside her were two pieces of luggage.

For several minutes they just stared at each other.  The only sound was the ticking of the clock on the wall.  Then, he was standing in front of her, his eyes restless on her upturned face.  “You came back,” he muttered. 

“Yes.  It was a mistake for me to leave.  I’m sorry.”

“It hurt when you walked out on me.”

“I’m sorry…”

“I was hoping that you would come back.  I’ve missed you so much.”

“I’ve missed you too.  That’s why I came back.”

He moved closer.  “It’s-it’s good to have you back, Brittany.  My life and this place are so empty and miserable without you.  Please promise me that you won’t leave me again.”

“I promise.  And I’m willing to leave our relationship as it is.  If you don’t want to get married, that’s all right with me.”

He pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly.  “Oh, Brittany…”

She put her arms around his waist.  “I love you, Cedric.”

“And I love you, Brittany.”  He lowered his head and kissed her with passion and longing.  It had been so long since he had held her in his arms or told her that he loved her.  It was like the bright sunshine after a storm.

Several minutes later, he took her hand and led her to their bedroom where they made up for lost time.  Afterwards, they shared the supper Hannah had left for him and it was while they were relaxing on the sofa watching a movie, that he told her that he was ready for marriage.  “I meant it when I said that I was fine with our relationship the way it is.”

“I know you did and I love you for it but I’m ready to take the plunge with you.”

“For better or for worse.”

“Yes.  We’ve been through the worse.  It can only get better from here on.”

She smiled and gently squeezed his hand.  “I believe so too.”

Marriage does not guarantee you will be together forever, it’s only paper. It takes love, respect, trust, understanding, friendship and faith in your relationship to make it last Marriage.com

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

Dream Man

handsome-native-american-warrior

You’re a figment of my imagination and yet I can’t stop thinking about you.  You’re my dream man.  You with your long, flowing hair as black as a raven, your strong handsome features with the square jaw and incredible eyes that make my knees go weak everything you look at me.

I stare at the artist’s depiction of you on the cover of my latest novel.  The image came to me in a dream.  And it seemed so real.  You were alone, as usual, gazing up at the sky, your amazing dark brown eyes bright as the light hits your face.  Your expression is serene as if you’re communing with God.  Behind you are the clouds unfurling like thick mist above the mountains and blotting out the sky.  Everything pales in comparison with you.  Sometimes, I imagine you transforming into a hawk or eagle, stretch your wings and take to the sky because you don’t want to be confined to the pages of a book–correction, books.

Am I fool for falling in love with my own creation–a figment of my imagination?  You exist in my mind but how I wish you were real.  I find myself getting jealous of the women I have as your love interests.  I want to be them.  I want to be Josie, the wife you lost or Alicia, the one night stand or Lisa, the one you love to hate.  I envy them.  I wish I could trade places with them.  Maybe I will write myself into the next novel.  On paper, I will be free to articulate at length, the thoughts and fantasies I have been having about you.  No holds barred.

I’m being foolish, aren’t I?  I can’t help it.  You are my greatest creation.  Women adore you.  They want their boyfriends and husbands to be you.  I don’t have a man and if I did, I wouldn’t be faithful to him–at least not in my thoughts.  And I would unfairly compare him to you.  I’m single.  And it’s better that way.

“A penny for your thoughts,” my friend Jackie’s amused voice interrupts my musings and I look up.

My eyes widen and my heart begins to pound like crazy while my mouth turns dry.  Standing behind her is…you.  I try to rise to my feet.  Shock, excitement overwhelm me and I feel faint.  You move forward like lightning and steady me.  Your eyes meet mine and your warm breath brushes against my forehead.  I feel as if I’m drowning in your eyes.  You ask me something but I can’t make it out.  I could only sit there and stare at you.  If this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up.

“Are you all right?” Jackie asked.  I look up at her.  I’d forgotten she was even there.

I nodded.  A glass of water is handed to me and I sip it.  You’re still holding my shoulders.  The deep concern on your face warms my heart.  I manage a smile.  “I’m fine, now.”

“That’s a relief,” Jackie said.  “You look like you were ready to pass out.”

“I guess it’s because I haven’t eaten since this morning,” I lied.

“Before we order, I’d like you to meet Jolon.”

Jolon held out his large hand.  “Pleased to meet you, Thandi.”

I put my hand in his, thinking how tiny it looked.  “You look familiar.”

Of course, he looks familiar,” Jackie exclaimed.  “He’s the model I used for your sexy Cree character.  When you described him to me, it sounded exactly like Jolon so I got in touch with him and asked him if he would be willing to be the face that would grace the covers of your books.  He agreed.  He wanted to meet the writer who’s made him famous.  You wouldn’t believe how many women asked him for his autograph on our way over here.”

So, you are real.  I smile.  You’re no longer a figment of my imagination nor confined tot the pages of a book nor my mind.  I hope that this is the first of many meetings.  I don’t want you to be my dream man.  I just want you to be my man.  And the way you are looking at me now and how you’re holding my hand longer than is necessary, makes my heart dance with hope.

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for Monday’s prompt, fool, Tuesday’s prompt, stretch and today’s prompt, articulate. If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

A Promise Fulfilled

“Lord, now I can die in peace! As you promised me, I have seen the Savior you have given to all people.  He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” (Luke 2:29-32)

These are the words of a man named Simeon who was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue His people. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. He got his wish.

The Holy Spirit led Simeon to the temple the very same day that Jesus was dedicated to the Lord. How wonderful! God had fulfilled His promise to Simeon.

Simeon was overjoyed when he saw the Infant Savior. How his heart must have leapt with joy as he held Jesus in his arms and gazed down into that tiny face. He blessed Joseph and Mary. He said to Mary, “This Child will be rejected by many in Israel, and it will be their undoing. But he will be the greatest joy to many others.”

For many of us, Jesus is the greatest joy. He brought us hope, love, peace and the promise of eternal life.  Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, proclaimed, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited His people and redeemed them.  He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of His servant David, just as He promised through His holy prophets long ago” (Luke 1:68-70).

What a wonderful promise!  During the Christmas season, imagine what it must have been like for Simeon to see the Lord face to face and to realize that the Lord had kept him alive for just that moment.  Simeon had seen salvation.  He had seen the promise of eternal life before he died.  God had promised His people salvation and then He fulfilled that promise through His Son, Jesus.

christ-presented-to-simeon-at-the-temple-medium

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;

 

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;

Victory Through Jesus

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ – 1 Corinthians 15:57

This Easter, I find myself reflecting on the victory we have through Jesus which He made possible when He died on the cross, taking away our sins and reconciling us to the Father.  Through His death, He destroyed the devil who had power of death (Hebrews 2:14), our last enemy which will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26).  One day the righteous will be resurrected and come out of their graves to meet their Lord and those who are still alive when He comes will join them.  This is only possible because of Jesus who “died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4). 

He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken – Isaiah 25:8

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Imagine the day when God Himself will wipe our tears away.

“Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your sting?  O grave, where is your victory?” – 1 Corinthians 15:54, 55

We have reason to rejoice and this Easter Sunday, we cab celebrate the empty tomb which could not hold our Lord.  He rose on the third day as He promised.

‘God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. There shall be no more death.’ Neither shall there be any more sorrow nor crying nor pain, for the former things have passed away” – Revelation 21:4

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One day, we will meet Jesus face to face.  What a glorious day that will be.  Hold on to this blessed hope until He comes again.