Loving Lin

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I leaned against the wall, feeling numb.  I was still reeling from the shock of learning that Lin was engaged.  We broke up when he said that his parents were visiting from Beijing and that they wouldn’t approve of us living together.  I understood that because my parents were the same way, old-fashioned.  They always told me that it wasn’t proper for a man and woman to be living together, especially if one or both of them were Christians.  Lin wasn’t a Christian but I was.  But what got me really upset was the fact that he hadn’t told them that I was black until a week ago.  They strongly opposed our relationship and threatened to stop paying for his university fees.

So, to prevent that from happening and to make peace with his parents, Lin ended our relationship and agreed to marry a girl he had known since childhood.  Devastated, I moved out.  I don’t know what to do.  I still love him and had hoped that we would get back together but that wasn’t likely to happen now.  After investing four years in our relationship, it was over just like that.  I thought he loved me.  He said he did but now I’m not sure about that.  How could he love me and break up with me so that he could marry someone else?

A part of me wished I hadn’t met and fallen in love with him while another part wished he would walk up to me at right now and tell me that it was all a terrible mistake and that he wanted to get back together with me.  Stop kidding yourself, I chided myself.  It’s over.  You should forget about him and move on.  I closed my eyes in despair.  It was no use.  It would take a very, very long time for me to get over Lin.

“Are you all right?”

I opened my eyes to find Carter standing in front of me, staring down at me.  He was in my Black History class.  A nice guy whom I might have gone for if I had never met Lin. Lin…”I’m fine,” I lied.  “Just a little tired, that’s all.”

“So, how do you think you did on the mid-term?”

“I think I did well.  What about you?”

He shrugged.  “I’m not so sure.  Spring break is just around the corner.  Do you have any vacation plans?”

“No.”

“Neither do I.  So, are you just hanging out here until your next class?

“Yes.”

“Would you like to go for a walk?”

I shook my head. “No, thanks.”

“Are you all right?”

I moved away from the wall and picked up my knapsack.  “Yes.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

He studied me closely.  “You look like you’re upset about something.”

“I’m fine,” I insisted.  I wished he would leave me alone to wallow in my misery.  I really didn’t feel like talking to him or anyone for that matter.  I glanced at my watch.  Thankfully, I had one more class and then I could go home.  “Thanks for asking. I’ve got to go now.  I don’t want to be late for my class. See you tomorrow.” I walked away and headed towards to the building, my head down.  I didn’t notice that Lin was coming towards me until he called my name.

Heart racing, I looked up.  He was dressed in a tee shirt and jeans.  Why did I have to run into him now?  Why did he have to look so good?  Why do I want him so much that it hurts? I was going to walk past him when he caught me by the arm, forcing me to stop.  I glared up at him. “Let go of my arm, Lin.”

“Not until you tell me who that guy was.”

“What guy?”

“The one I just saw you talking to.”

“Why do you care?” I demanded as I tried in vain to ignore the feelings that raged inside me because of his nearness.  His fingers felt warm on my arm.  “I’m not your girlfriend anymore.”

His mouth tightened and I could see the jealousy flashing in his eyes.  “Is that why you were talking to him?”

“Leave me alone, Lin.”

“Answer my question, Melanie.”

“I have a class to go to.” I tried to pull my arm away but his grip was too strong.

“You’re driving me crazy,” he muttered tightly.

I’m driving you crazy.”

“Yes!  I can’t stand to see you with another guy.”

“Well, that’s too bad, Lin.  You lost your right to object to me talking to other guys when you ended our relationship.  Now, I have to go or I will be late for my class.”

He released my arm then.  “I need to talk to you.”

“I don’t want to hear anything else you have to say.  Go and be with your fiancée.”  I marched off with my head held high although my heart was breaking.  I blinked back the tears which threatened to fall.

Somehow I managed to get through the class but was out of the room like a shot as soon as it was over.  I almost ran to my car because I was afraid to run into Lin again.  I went straight home and into my bedroom where I lay down for a while with my eyes closed as the tears rolled down my cheeks.  “Lord, please help me to get over Lin.  Please.”

When I went to church on Sunday, I tried to lose myself in worship.   I felt better when I left.  The church wasn’t far from where I lived so I walked home.  It was a pleasant afternoon, very mild.  I had my head down as I walked so I didn’t notice him at first and when I looked up suddenly and saw him standing on the sidewalk outside of my building, I froze.  My heart began to pound.  What on earth was he doing there?  

I continued walking, my steps brisk.  When I reached him, I demanded, “What are you doing here?”  He looked so good in the white tee shirt and jeans with the jacket I bought him for his birthday draped about his broad shoulders.  I wanted to reach up and touch his face.  My hand tightened its grip on the strap of my handbag.

“I need to speak to you, Melanie,” he said urgently.  “It’s very important.”

“All right.  Come up with me but you have ten minutes to say what you have to say.”

“Ten minutes is all I need,” he said.  His gaze traveled over me, making my face feel hot and my body respond.

I preceded him inside the building and up to the flat my parents were paying for until I graduated and found a job.   A few minutes later, we were standing in the living-room, facing each other.  “Tell me why you’re here.”

He cleared his throat.  “Melanie, I know that the last thing you want is to see me and I don’t blame you.  I’ve hurt you and I’m really cut up about it–”

“You have no idea of how much you’ve hurt me, Lin.  You and I talked about marriage and now you’re engaged to someone else.  How do you think that makes me feel?”

“Melanie…”

“Are you marrying her because it’s what your parents want or is it because you love her?”

“No.  I don’t love her.  I love you.”

“If you really loved me, Lin, you would have told your parents about me and stood up to them.  You wouldn’t have let them talk you into marrying someone you don’t love.”

“You’re right.  I let them talk me into doing what they wanted.  They threatened to stop paying my fees and the rent for my apartment if I didn’t break up with you and marry Jun.”

I was beginning to tear up again and the last thing I wanted was to cry in front of him.  “Please, go.  I can’t deal with this–with you.”

He moved closer to me.  “I wanted to tell you that I broke off my engagement to Jun.  I told my parents and they followed through with their threat.  They are no longer paying my fees or my rent but I’m getting student financial support and I’m living on campus.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  He was telling me that his parents had basically disowned him and had left him to fend for himself.  He was no longer living in the beautiful flat we once shared but was living on the university campus.  The thing that really got me was that he had found the courage to stand up to his parents.  My heart melted and I was deeply moved and proud of him.  “Have you eaten?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“Stay and have lunch.”

He nodded and removed his jacket which I took from him.  I left him standing at the window, looking out while I went to get lunch ready.  We had lunch and then we went into the living-room where we talked for hours.  By the time, he left, we had agreed to start seeing each other again.

After we both graduated, we didn’t get married until we found jobs and were able to afford our own place.  My parents attended the wedding but, not surprisingly, his didn’t.  I should mention that after we got married, Lin started coming regularly to my church.

Sources:  Gov UK; Investopedia; University of Exeter

Adornment

Who are you to judge another? – James 4:12

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It was after the service and she had gone downstairs to use the washroom.  She was at the sink washing her hands when three women walked in.  As she looked at them through the mirror, the ready smile on her face faded when she saw the expressions on theirs.

“Sister Almeida, we need to talk to you,” one of them said.

After drying her hands, she turned to face them.  “Yes.”

“You shouldn’t be wearing braids to church.”

“Or jewelry.”

“Or makeup.”

Their words were like missiles striking her.  They were members of her husband’s church.  It was the Sabbath and it was the first time she had gone with him.  She hadn’t wanted to go because she wasn’t an Adventist.  She was a Baptist although she hadn’t gone since Joseph and she got married a year ago.  His family didn’t approve of their marriage.  They had expected him to marry an Adventist woman.  When she walked into the church this morning, she had clung to his hand, feeling nervous and apprehensive, not sure of the reception she would get.  For the most part, she felt welcomed but on a few occasions she was subjected to disapproving glances.

She liked the Sabbath School program and the praise time and the sermon.  Joseph and she had decided that they would stay for the fellowship lunch and the afternoon program.  At that moment though, she wanted to leave the washroom but she had to stand her ground.  Heart pounding, she replied, “I’m not wearing any makeup and the only pieces of jewelry I have on me are a pair of earrings and my wedding ring.”

“Wedding bands shouldn’t be worn by Adventists.  Sister White said that we, and this includes married couples, are to dress plainly, and abstain from display of jewelry and ornaments of every kind is in keeping with our faith.”

“She also said that that ring encircling your finger may be very plain, but it is useless, and the wearing of it has a wrong influence upon others.”

Marlene replied, “Mrs. White also said that in the teaching of the gospel we must always be outspoken regarding the principles of simplicity in dress, but we need not enter into the specific work of saying that individuals [who] wear the wedding ring…are to be disciplined by the church….I have seen very devoted, earnest people wearing the wedding ring, wearing the gold watch, wearing the gold chain, and I felt no burden to say to them, You must lay it off.” She wrote that in response to letter asking if a man wearing a wedding ring should be selected for a church office.  With regard to the wedding ring, she left the matter up to the individual.  Unless God tells me to remove my ring, I will continue to wear it as a symbol of my love and faithfulness to Joseph.”

There was silence.  And then, one of them demanded, “What about the braids?”

“I don’t decorate my braids with jewels, gold adornments, and more to draw attention like the women in Peter’s time.  Peter wasn’t saying that women shouldn’t braid their hair but that it should be tastefully done.  It’s up to God to tell me not to braid my hair anymore.”

“Didn’t your husband tell you that you ought to dress modestly when you come to our church?”

“What’s wrong with the way I’m dressed?”

“The neckline is too low and the skirt is a bit too short.”

“And your legs are bare.  You should be wearing nylons.”

“Thank you so much for your advice.  As children of God we are encouraged to teach each other.  As it written, iron sharpens iron but at the same time, I would like to arrive at the Holy Spirit’s recommendation for my dressing.  Until then, I will continue to apply God’s Word to my life.”  Then, she politely and respectfully excused herself and walked out of the washroom.  For the rest of the afternoon she tried not to let what happened spoil the rest of the afternoon but she was very relieved when it was finally time to leave.

She waited until they got home before she told Joseph what happened and he was livid.  “They should be rejoicing that you’re in church.  Whatever happened to not judging others?  You just started coming to the church.  They can’t expect overnight changes.  Besides, as you rightly told them, it should be the Holy Spirit who convict you of any thing in your life that you need to change.”

“I’m not sure I want to go back there again.  I think I’m better off worshipping by myself.”

gettyimages-57226841-612x612“Honey, if you stop attending church because of what other people said to you, Satan will have you exactly where he wants you.  His plan is to divide and conquer.  If he can draw you away for the body of Christ, you will be vulnerable to his deceptions and attacks.  Don’t let him run you out of the church.  Don’t turn your back on what God wants.”

“What does God want?”

“He wants you to attend church regularly so that you can praise and worship Him.  Think of the Christians in other parts of the world who can’t worship openly.  In China, the government is closing churches, jailing pastors and even rewriting scriptures.  Church members are arrested, detained and placed under surveillance.  Think about the privileges and freedom you have as a Christian here in North America.  Don’t take them for granted.  Think about those who would love to be able to worship their God and Creator freely without the threat of having their churches closed down or being arrested.   Don’t forsake going to church because of the spirit of disunity.”

By the time they got home, Joseph had convinced her to return with him to church the following week.  She went regularly and was baptized on her thirtieth birthday.  Before her baptism, she stopped wearing her hair in braids because she felt convicted by the Holy Spirit that it was what God wanted her to do.  She stopped wearing all jewelry except her wedding band.  A year later, she became the Sabbath school teacher for the Juniors.  As for the three women who confronted her in the washroom, she invited them home one Sabbath to have lunch with Joseph and her.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God – 1 John 4:7, ESV

 

Sources:  Adventist Online; EGW Writings; Got Questions; Crosswalk; The Guardian; Guarding the Heart;

Salvation Comes With Trust

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“Salvation that comes from trusting Christ-which is the message we preach-is already within easy reach. In fact, the Scriptures say, “The message is close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.”

“For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.   As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They all have the same Lord, who generously gives his riches to all who ask for them.   For “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:8-15)

“But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “Lord, who has believed our message?” (Romans 10:16).

Reading what the apostle Paul wrote brings this scenario to mind.  A cure for cancer is found.  This is great news for the medical profession.   Right away the story is on the news and in the newspapers.  Press conferences are set up.  The message is, “We have found the cure for cancer.  All you have to do is take this medicine and you will be cured.”  Some people believe and they take the medicine and they are cured while others refuse to believe that it is true.  They don’t want to get their hopes up.  So, they continue to live with the disease rather than take the cure.

So, it is with many people.  Many times they have been exposed to the Gospel but they refuse to believe it.  They question the authenticity of the Bible and they have trouble believing that God exists because they feel that if He did He wouldn’t allow such terrible things to be happening in the world.  Many don’t believe that the Messiah came.

In Jesus’ day, many did not believe that God sent him or that He was the Son of God.  They refused to listen.  Jesus said to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are really trusting God who sent me.  For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me.   I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the darkness.  If anyone hears me and doesn’t obey me, I am not his judge-for I have come to save the world and not to judge it.  But all who reject me and my message will be judged at the Day of Judgment by the truth I have spoken.  I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me gave me his own instructions as to what I should say.  And I know his instructions lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say!” (John 12:44-50).

When people reject the messenger, they are really rejecting the one who sent the message.  When we refuse to listen to someone talk to us about God, we are not hurting that person, we are hurting God.  We are not rejecting that person, we are rejecting God.  Jesus told the Pharisees, “Your approval or disapproval means nothing to me, because I know you don’t have God’s love within you.  For I have come to you representing my Father, and you refuse to welcome me, even though you readily accept others who represent only themselves.  No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from God alone” (John 5:41-44).

Salvation comes with trust. I thought of the story of the bronze serpent in the wilderness.  The people were bitten by poisonous serpents and they cried out to Moses, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.”  Moses prayed for them.  God told him to make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to the top of a pole.  “Those who are bitten will live if they simply look at it.”

So, Moses made the snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole.  Whenever those who were bitten looked at the bronze snake they recovered.  They trusted and they were saved.   They believed that looking at the snake would save them and it did.  How many of us would want to look at a replica of the thing that is attacking us? Jesus speaks of this same incident.   “And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so I, the Son of Man, must be lifted up on a pole, so that everyone who believes in me will have eternal life” (John 3:14, 15).  Jesus’ pole was the cross and all those who look to it will find salvation.

Just as He sent the apostles and Paul out to share the Good News with their communities and people around the world, Jesus is sending His people to do the same today.  Will we ask the same question as the prophet Isaiah, “Lord, who has believed our message?”

Salvation is the result of faith which comes from listening to this message of good news-the Good News about Christ.  When we have faith that if we confess that Jesus is Lord and that if we call upon Him we can be saved, then we will be saved.  And happy are those who received salvation and swift are their feet to share the good news with others so that they too can be saved.

One Afternoon Break

The first time he saw her, it was on Monday.  She was walking down the street.  In her hand was a red school satchel.  She looked at him as she walked past.  He was sitting on the rail outside of the building where he worked.  It was during his afternoon break which he usually took a half hour earlier.  He was looking in the opposite direction but he could feel that someone was staring at him and he turned his head.  Their eyes met and held.

She couldn’t have been more than eighteen although she looked younger. She was wearing a yellow shirt tucked into a knee length denim skirt and a pair of black low heel sandals.  Her thick hair framed her face.  She was a very pretty girl.  He couldn’t help staring at her.  He knew that there was a high school a couple of blocks away.  Perhaps she was on her way home because it was last three thirty.

He started going for his break at three thirty when he knew that he would see her.  And when she walked by, he smiled and said hello.  He found himself looking forward to seeing her.  Many times, he thought to himself, This is crazy.  I’m twenty-nine years old and here I am, attracted to a high school girl.  Yes, I must be losing my mind.  Yet the thought didn’t prevent him from wanting to see her and get to know her.  He made up his mind that before the week ended, he was going to talk to her.

That Friday, he got his chance.  Since it was the last Friday of the month, he was dressed casually.  As he waited for her, he thought about what he was going to say to her.  He was nervous and excited at the same time.  When, he saw her coming towards him, his heart began to beat fast.  He rubbed his hands nervously together and tried to look calm.

As she got closer, he stood up.  His eyes traveled eagerly over her small frame in the tee shirt and jeans.  “Hello.”

To his surprise, she stopped and said, “Hello.”  Then, she handed him a flyer which he readily took from her.

He looked at it.  It was an invitation to a benefit concert at a church two weeks away.  “Thank you,” he said as he folded it and put it in his pants pocket.  “What’s your name?”

“Staci.”

“Mine is Aaron.”  He held out my hand and she put hers in it.  It was so soft and tiny.

“Do you work here?” she asked, glancing over her shoulder.

He nodded.  “Yes.  I’ve been working here since I left university several years ago.   Are you on your way home from school?”

“Yes.  My school is a couple of blocks from here.”

“Do you live close by?”

She shook her head.  “No.  I have to take the bus to get home.  The bus stop is just around the next corner.”  She glanced at her watch.  “I should go.”

“Don’t go, Staci.  Stay and talk with me for a while.”

“All right.”  She set her satchel down on the pavement and leaned against the rail next to me.  He turned so that he was facing her.  She looked shyly up at him before she looked away.

“Are you a junior?”

“No, I’m a senior.  I’m graduating in June.”

“Do you have a major as yet?”

“Yes.  Computer Science.”

He was impressed.  “Good for you.  You’ll be the first person I know in a field which needs more women.”

“My father always encouraged me to work hard and to believe that I can do anything I set my mind to.  He believed in gender equality.”

“So do I.  Your father sounds like a remarkable man.”

“He was.  It has been eight years since he died.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  Do you have any brothers and sisters?”

She shook her head.  “No.  I’m an only child.”

“What about other family?”

“They’re in Grenada.”

“So, now it’s just your mother and you living here in London then?”

“Yes, but she isn’t well.  She has Multiple Sclerosis.”

He looked alarmed.  “How are you managing her illness while going to school?”

“We have a home care provider who takes care of her.  I take care of cleaning the apartment, the laundry, the grocery shopping and the cooking.”

“How old are you?”

“Eighteen.”

“You’re pretty young to have so much responsibility.”

“I don’t mind.  My mother can’t do those things anymore.”

“You don’t have much of a social life.  Don’t you miss hanging out with your friends?”

“Not really.”

“Do you know how to roller-blade?”

“Yes.”

“Great.  How about you and me rollerblading this Sunday?”

She looked hesitant.  “I’m not sure…”

“Come on.  It will be fun.  And I’m sure your mother wouldn’t mind.”

She smiled.  “All right.”

They talked for a while longer and then she had to go home and he had to return to his job.  They arranged to meet at a park.  “I’m looking forward to seeing you on Sunday,” he said as he gazed down into her upturned face.

“Me too,” she said shyly.  Then, she picked up her satchel, waved at him and hurried off.  He stood there watching her until she disappeared from his view before he went into the air conditioned office building.  He couldn’t wait to see her again.

Sunday came and they went rollerblading and then grabbed something to eat afterwards.  He gave her a lift home.  They saw each other every afternoon during the week and went different places on Sunday.   He didn’t see her sunset Friday to sunset Saturday because it was her Sabbath.  She was a Seventh-day Adventist.  He went to the concert she invited him to and he really enjoyed it.  The following Saturday, he went to church and sat next to her.

Afterwards, she invited him home for lunch.  He met her mother and Maureen, the woman who was taking care of her.  Mrs. Brown’s was confined to a wheelchair.  Looking at her, he could tell that she was once a very beautiful woman.  Her speech was slurred and her voice was so low at times that he had trouble hearing her.  Seeing her hit home how hard it must be for Staci to see her like that.  It was after seven when he left.

He and Staci continued to see each other and he soon realized that he was falling in love with her which just blew his mind.  In two months he was going to be thirty years old.  If his family and friends knew about her, they would strongly object and not only because of the age difference.  He wanted to invite her over to his place but he knew that she probably wouldn’t think that it was a good idea.  They couldn’t be alone.  There would have to be a chaperone present.  So, when they were out on the road, they were at her home.  woman-in-red-shirt-2732990

Then, one day, he had just taken a shower after going to the gym and had barely gotten dressed when his doorbell rang.  He peered through the keyhole and was surprised to see Staci.  When he opened the door, he saw that she had been crying.  He quickly drew her into his flat and after locking the door, he turned to face her, alarmed.  “What’s the matter, Staci?” he asked.

Tears welled in her eyes. “My mother’s dead,” she managed to say before she broke down.

“Oh, Honey, I’m so sorry for your loss.”  He pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly as she buried her face in shirt, her body shaking with the sobs.

They stood there like that for several minutes.  When her sobs subsided, she raised her head.  He released her to cup her face between his hands.  He wiped away her tears with his thumbs.  He wanted so badly to kiss her but now wasn’t the right time.

She stared at him, feeling guilty because she was wondering what it would be like to kiss him.  “I’d better go.”

“Let me take you home.”

She didn’t answer but let him take her to his car.  In the car, he held her hand.  When they go to the apartment, she invited him in.  Maureen, her mother’s former caretaker informed her that the funeral home came and took the body away.  “Do you have someone you can stay with?” she asked.

Staci shook her head.

“You shouldn’t be here by yourself, at least not for a while.” Maureen said.

“I’ll manage.”

“Well, if you need anything, call me.”

“I will.”  They hugged and then, Maureen left.

When they were alone, Aaron said to her, “She’s right.  You shouldn’t be here on your own.  Why don’t you come and stay with me?”

Staci shook her head.  “I can’t.  It isn’t right for a single man and woman to be living under the same roof especially when…”

“Especially when they are attracted to each other.  I understand.  Still, I’m not comfortable with you being here by yourself.”

“I’ll be fine.  Besides, people from the church will be dropping by to make sure that I’m all right.”

“Okay, but I too will come by every single day to make sure that you’re all right.”

“All right.”

He stayed with her until late that night.  He and some members of the church helped her with the funeral arrangements.  Her aunt and cousins flew in Grenada the day before the funeral.  They stayed at a hotel because they didn’t want to sleep in the apartment because that was where her mother died.  They stayed for a week and then left.  Staci stayed in the apartment and continued to pay the rent until it was time for her to go to university in September.  She told Aaron that she had decided that she was going to live on campus or nearby where there was affordable student housing until she graduated.  They were sitting on a park bench facing the pond.

He reached for her hands.  “Marry me, Staci” he said urgently.

She gulped.  “Marry you?”

“Yes.”

“Why do you want to marry me?”

“I want to because I love you, Staci.”

“I–I love you too, Aaron.”  Her heart was pounding wildly.  “But, are you sure you want me, a high school senior to be your wife?”

“I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life.  Marry me.”

“All right.”

He leaned over and kissed her.  When he drew back, they were both breathing heavily.  “We’ll get married and then, you’ll move into my place.  It isn’t far from the university campus.”

“Sounds perfect.”

“I want you to know that while you concentrate on your studies I can take care of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping and ironing.”

She shook her head at once.  “No, Aaron.  As your wife, I want to take care of you and our home.  So, on the weekends, I will cook for the week, clean, do the laundry and ironing.  All you have to do is to pick up the groceries.”

“All right but if at anytime you need me to step in and take over, please let me know.”

“I will,” she promised.

“And it’s totally up to you when you want us to start a family.  We can wait until you have finished university and have settled into your career.  We can wait up to ten years if you like.”

She reached up and kissed him on the lips and then, slipping her hand in his, she said, “I prayed that one day I would meet, fall in love and marry a good man and here you are.  God answered my prayer.”

He gently squeezed her hand.  “I always believed that there was a special someone out there for me.  And then, one afternoon you walked into my life.  I believe that some people are meant to be together.”

“And I believe that God brought us together at the perfect time.  I had my mother all of my life and now I will have you for the rest of it.”

“Yes, you will,” he murmured huskily before he kissed her again.

They went for pre-marital counseling with her pastor who initially was concerned about the age difference but his concerns were allayed when he saw how much they were in love and how compatible.  Aaron began Bible Studies with him and was baptized shortly after.

After Staci graduated from high school, Aaron and she got married.  Her cousins, school friends and his co-workers as well as most of the church members were present.  Not surprisingly, his family wasn’t there.  It stung of course, but he didn’t allow it to spoil the wedding or their ten day honeymoon in breathtakingly beautiful Bali.

Source:  National MS Society; Wedding Wire

 

 

Grief

“The Lord’s loved ones are precious to him; it grieves him when they die” – Psalm 116:15

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When I read this, I thought about Jesus.  He was a close friend to a man named Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary.  One day Jesus received an urgent message from the two sisters telling Him that their brother was sick.  Jesus did not go to Bethany where Lazarus lived that day.  In fact He waited two whole days before He went.  When Jesus got to Bethany He learned that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days.

Since Bethany was close to Jerusalem, many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary to comfort them.  When Martha learned that Jesus was in town, she went to meet Him but Mary stayed at home.  The first thing Martha said to Jesus when she saw Him was, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).

Mary said the same thing when Martha went to fetch her.  She fell down at His feet and wept.  When Jesus saw her and the people with her weeping, He was deeply troubled.  When they showed Him the tomb where Lazarus lay, Jesus wept.  After the stone was rolled away from the place where Lazarus was, Jesus raised His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You heard Me.  And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by, I said this, that they believe that You sent Me” (John 11:41, 42).

Then, in a loud voice, Jesus told His friend to come forward.  Wrapped in grave clothes and his face wrapped in a cloth, the dead man came out for all to see.  Tears of sorrow became tears of joy.

It grieved Jesus when His friend died.  Today, He longs to spare us the pain of losing a loved one but He cannot.  He longs to say to us, “Do not weep” but He can’t.  What He does say is, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

We will all experience grief but we will not go through it alone.  Just as Jesus was there for Martha and Mary, He will be there for us.  Unlike the sisters, we will have to wait until Jesus comes again before we can be reunited with our loved ones but in the meantime, we can be comforted with that thought.  Remember when someone we love dies, God is grieving too.

I Married For Love

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I married for love.  My husband was the love of my life.  The only problem was he loved someone else.  When I was in my early twenties, I met two brothers–Jack, an outgoing, lovely man and his brother, Adam, who was very handsome and very charming.  Jack fell in love with me but I fell in love with Adam.  I went out with both of them but there came a time when I had end my relationship with one of them.  Both proposed to me.  I had to decide which one of them I should marry.  Should I marry Jack who loved me or Adam whom I loved?

I decided to marry Adam.  Jack was heartbroken.  He packed up and left Seattle.

In the beginning, Adam and I were happy.  We decided to wait for a year before having children.  That year we traveled and just spent time getting close.  The following year, we had our first child, a boy who was a splitting image of Adam.  I adored him.  The next year, we had twin girls.  We moved to Santa Barbara and bought a beach home.  Life there was very satisfying.  I was happy.  The kids were happy and I assumed that Adam was happy too.

One evening when I was on my way home when I decided that I would drop by Adam’s office to see if he wanted to go out for dinner.  The kids were with their grandparents.  We would pick them up after dinner.  I got on the elevator and walked to Adam’s office.  The door was closed but I could see the light under the door.  Without bothering to knock, I opened the door and walked in.

I can’t tell who was more shocked—Adam for getting caught red-handed or me for seeing my husband naked and in the arms of another woman.  I don’t know how long I stood there but when he moved towards me, I turned and ran out of the office.  I didn’t stop running until I was out of the building and heading down the street.  I frantically flagged down a taxi and scrambled into the back, the tears almost blinding me.  How could he?  And who was she?  Was he going to throw away fifteen years of marriage for a romp in his office?

When I got home, I ran straight up to our room and took out a suitcase.  I started throwing his clothes into it.  I didn’t want him around.  I couldn’t bear to see him.  I wanted him gone and I didn’t care where he went.  He could stay with her or a friend.  Was this the first time?  Were there other times?  What kind of man was I married to?

I hauled the suitcase downstairs and put it in the foyer, beside the front door.  I went into the kitchen and sat down at the table.  I buried my face in my hands and wept.

An hour later, I heard the front door open and close.  The kids went straight upstairs.  A few minutes later, Adam walked into the kitchen.  I didn’t look at him.  I couldn’t.  “I packed your suitcase,” I informed him.  “I don’t want you here right now.”

He sighed.  “Beth, I’m sorry…”

I looked at him then.  “Are you sorry that you hurt me or sorry that you got caught?”

“I’m sorry that I hurt you.”

“Who is she, Adam?  Some woman you picked up at a bar or someone working at the company?”

“She’s someone from my past.”

“You were in a relationship with her?”

“Yes.  We were lovers.”

“Lovers?”

“She was married.”

“Was married?”

“Yes.  She’s divorced now.”

I shook my head in disgust.   “Now that she’s divorced you figured that you would pick up where you left off.”

“It isn’t like that, Beth.  We didn’t plan to restart our relationship, it just happened.”

“These things don’t just happen, Adam.  You wanted to get back with her.  You didn’t think about how this would affect the kids and me.  You’re a selfish man.  I wish I’d never married you.”

His face suffused with color.  “You should have married Jack,” he agreed.  “He loved you.”

“Why did you marry me, Adam?  I know that it wasn’t because you loved me.”

“Beth, I cared about you and I believed that in time, I would grow to love you.”

“But you never did.  Is she the reason?  Are you in love with her?”

He sighed.  “I never stopped loving her.”

My hand covered my mouth as I tried to stifle the sob that rose to my throat.  Pain, jealousy and anger gripped me.  “Please get out,” I muttered tightly.

“Okay, I’ll go.  I’m sorry.”  He turned and walked out of the kitchen.

Minutes later the front door opened and closed.  I sat there at the table for a very long time before I went upstairs to my room and locked myself in.  The next morning, I told the kids that Dad was out of town.  A few weeks later, I filed for a divorce.  Adam and I have joint custody of the kids.  He and his ex- got married.

As I stood on the beach, gazing out at the ocean, I think about Jack.  He’s living in Seville and is happily married to a beautiful Spanish woman.   He friended me on Facebook and sent me photos of him and his family.  I’m truly happy for him.  He’s a good man and he deserves to be with a good woman.  There are moments when I still regret not choosing him.

As for me, I’m not ready for any relationships.  My kids and my career keep me busy.  I haven’t dismissed the idea of remarrying completely.  Who knows, one of these days, I just might get lucky and fall in love with a man who’s in love with me.

Toshiro Returns to Kampala

It was time to go to work but Ife didn’t feel like it.  Since Toshiro left she hadn’t felt like going to the hotel.  It was hard not going to his suite and being with him.  She missed him so much it hurt.  After she met his sister, Miko and learned that he was in love with her, she had hoped that she would have heard from him or seen him but, so far nothing was forthcoming.  It was now mid April.  Christmas had come and gone and she had gone through the motions of celebrating for Mirembe’s sake.  The New Year had come with the hope that Toshiro would return to Kampala.

All the way to the hotel, she thought about him and wondered if she would see him soon.  Her life was so empty without him.  She wondered if he would return to Kampala even if he didn’t have any business there.  Would he travel all that way just to see her?  She wasn’t sure.  When she went to the hotel last week Friday, she was told to get suite 406 ready because it was going to be occupied over the weekend.  Could it be him, she wondered but if it were, surely he would have left a note for her letting her know that he was there.   Yesterday was Monday and still nothing.  So, she concluded that he wasn’t the person staying in the suite.  It was someone else.

Today was Tuesday.  She went to suite 406, her heart heavy.  She let herself in and got busy.  It looked like no one had been there.   She started with the bathroom first, then the sitting room and the bedroom last.  She walked into the room where they had spent so much time together.  The bed looked like it had hardly been slept in.  Memories flooded her mind as she replaced the sheets.  When she was finished, she stepped back and it was then that she noticed the box on the work desk.

Curious, she went over to inspect it.  It was neatly wrapped in red and gold paper and there was a card with her name written on it.  She frowned.  It wasn’t her birthday.  Carefully, she unwrapped it and set the paper aside.  She looked at the white box before she opened it.  She removed the tissue paper and her eyes widened when she saw the beautiful kimono.  She took it out and examined it.  It was soft and expensive looking.  She walked over to the mirror and held it against her.  It looked really good.  It was the most beautiful and expensive thing she had ever had received.

She admired it for a few minutes longer and then put it back in the box and closed it.  She opened the card and read it.   Dear Ife, Do you remember that I once promised you that I would buy a kimono for you?  I hope you like the one I got you.  I will see you at 5:30 this afternoon.  Toshiro.  Smiling and heart pounding, she slipped the note back into the envelope and placed it on top of the box.  She wished she could try on the kimono now but she had work to do.  Besides, she was going to see him later.  She gathered up the wrapping paper and the old sheets and left the room.  She finished tidying the bedroom and the rest of the suite before she let herself out.  She was in better spirits now.  He was back and she couldn’t wait to see him.

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At exactly five-thirty, he let himself into the suite, his heart racing.  He was nervous.  She must have seen the box and card by now.  Did she like the kimono?  He hoped so.  It was more than just a gift to him.  She came into the living-room when she heard him.  They stood there, staring at each other for several minutes and then she approached him.

“I-I wanted to thank you for the beautiful kimono,” she said.

“Do you like it?”

“Yes, I like it very much.”

He smiled.  “Good.  The moment I saw it, I had to get it for you.”

“Thank you.  It-it was very kind of you.”

His expression changed.  “I didn’t do it out of kindness, Ife.” He moved closer to her, his breathing quickening.  He’d never been so nervous in his life.  “I did it because I love you.”

Ife swallowed hard, her heart was pounding and her head was spinning.  He loved her.

He continued.  “I don’t know if you feel the same way about me.  I know you want me.”  His eyes darkened at the thought.  He wanted more, though.  He wanted her love too but knew that he wasn’t entitled to it.  To be quite honest, he didn’t deserve it, not after the way he took advantage of her in the beginning.  “In two weeks, I will be leaving Kampala and returning to Tokyo.”

“You’re leaving in two weeks?”  He had just come back and he was leaving again in such a short time.  She couldn’t hide her distress.

He saw the expression on her face and hope flickered in his eyes.  It gave him the courage he needed to say, “Yes and I would like you to come with me.”

She stared at him, incredulous.  “You want me to go with you to Tokyo?”

“Yes.”

“But what about Mirembe?”

“I want her to come too.”

Ife’s mind was spinning.  He loved her and he wanted her and to go to Tokyo with him.  The thought of living in a strange country was daunting.  She had never traveled outside of Kampala.  What would life in Tokyo be like?  Would Mirembe and she live with him?  What kind of work would she be able to do?  She wasn’t going to miss Kampala even though it was her home.  Life here was a constant struggle and she was tired of it.

He watched the play of emotions on her face and reached for her hand.  “I know that moving to a strange country is scary,” he said.  “But, don’t worry, Ife.  I’ll take care of Mirembe and you.”  He drew her closer to him, his eyes meeting hers in a steady gaze.  “I love you and I want to marry you.”

Her eyes widened.  “You want to marry me?” she exclaimed.

He nodded.  “Yes, I do. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

“I’m a divorced woman.”

“That doesn’t matter.”

“You would take care of another man’s daughter?”

“When I marry you, she becomes my daughter too.”

Tears glistened in her eyes.  “I don’t know what to say,” she murmured.

He reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and took out a small black box.  “I hope you say yes,” he replied as he got down on one knee.  He opened the box and took out the ring.  He couldn’t wait to put it on her finger.  He held her hand and glanced up at her.  “Ife, will you marry me?”

“Yes.”  The word came out as a sob.

He rose to his feet and pulled her against him.  “I love you so much, Ife.”

“I love you too, Toshiro.”

He bent his head and kissed her.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.

A couple of days later, Ife introduced Toshiro to her brother, Irumba and his family and he was warmly received.  They were thrilled for Ife that she was embarking on a new life and they wished her all the best.  They promised to visit her in Tokyo.  They were going to miss her and Mirembe but they were happy for them.  Mrs. Sato was happy for them too and vowed that she was going to make the special trip for their wedding.   It was tough saying goodbye to them but Ife knew that she was making the right decision.  Her life was with Toshiro.

Two weeks later, they were on their way to Tokyo.  Mirembe was going to join them when the school term ended in the summer.   She was beside herself with excitement and had already exchanged several text messages, emails and What’s APP calls with Kento who was looking forward to hanging out with her.

Ife wore the kimono which looked really nice on her.  She was happy and as she settled into the middle seat on the plane, she couldn’t help smiling.  No more cleaning hotel suites, no more sanitation issues and her daughter would be able to go to a school which had toilets.  Most of all, she was happy because she had found love.

Some gifts are big. Other are small. But the ones that come from the heart is the best gift at all – Tinku Razoria