Choosing Love Over Fear

man playing piano

He sat at the piano, running his fingers over the keys.  His heart was heavy and his mind muddled.  Music was elusive.  He couldn’t concentrate.  All he could think about was her and how much he missed her.  What a fool he had been to let her walk out of his life.  He had allowed fear to get the better of him.

What was he so afraid of?  Of falling in love?  Too late.  He was already madly in love with her.  It wasn’t lack of trust.  He trusted Odeta implicitly which was more than he could say about other women he had been involved with.  Did it have to do with her last relationship?  After they had been together for two years, the guy suddenly decided that he didn’t want to be tied down to one woman.  She later told him that it hurt like hell and it took a while for her to get over it.  And it was when she was starting to pick up the pieces that he came into her life.

They met at a trendy restaurant in Soho.  The usual piano player couldn’t make it because he was sick so as a favor to his friend, the club’s manager, he filled in.   He would never forget the first time he saw her.  She walked in alone, tall and beautiful, her hair cut short like a boy’s, wearing a red, off the shoulder dress which flattered her slender figure.  No jewelry.  Only a touch of red lipstick.  Her dark skin was flawless.  She looked like a model.  Their eyes met.  He wanted to stop playing and walk over to her but he stayed put.  Besides, she was meeting someone.  She walked past him and to a table where an African man was sitting.

african woman in dress bw

He kept an eye on her all evening as he played.  Was the man her boyfriend or husband?  Or were they meeting for the first time?  Was this their first date?  He shook his head.  Forget about it, Man.  You’re out of her league.  She looks like she’s used to being with men like the one she was with now–elegantly dressed, used to dining in expensive establishments like this, drove fancy cars and wealthy.

Still, he couldn’t help himself.  She intrigued him.  And when he took a break and went to the bar to have a drink, he passed by her table.  She looked at him.  He smiled and left the room.

As he sat down at the bar and ordered his drink, he saw the man she was with leave.  He didn’t look upset or anything.  A few minutes later, she came out of the dining-room.  When she saw him, she walked over to the empty stool beside him and sat down.  She ordered a virgin cocktail.  Turning to him, she said, “You play the piano very well.”

This close, she was even more stunning.  “Thank you,” he replied.  “Didn’t your date enjoy my playing?  Is that why he left?”

She smiled.  “He left because he flying back to Cape Town tonight.  And he wasn’t my date.  He’s my brother.”

He couldn’t hide the relief on his face.  “Your brother.  I thought he was your boyfriend or husband.”

“I’m single.  And you?”

“Single.  Are you a model?”

She laughed.  “No.  I’m a Marketing Director.”

“When I saw you, I thought you were a model.  I’m sure I’m not the first man to think that.”

“You’re right.  I have been approached by people in the modelling industry and they always are surprised when I tell them that I’m not interested and that I’m perfectly happy with being in the Marketing business.”

“It’s easy to see why they approach you.  You’re a very stunning woman.”

She smiled.  “Thank you…I don’t know your name.”

“It’s Ian.”

“Nice to meet you, Ian,” she said holding out her hand.  “Odetta.”

“Likewise, Odetta.  My break will be over in ten minutes.  Would you be able to stick around for half hour?”

She nodded.  “Sure.  I’ll just sit here at the bar until you’re done.”

“Good.  We can go somewhere else and talk.”

“So, what do you do when you’re not playing the piano?”

“Structural Engineering.”

“Sounds interesting.  Tell me about it.”

The ten minutes went quickly and he reluctantly left her at the bar to finish his session.  Half hour later, they were sitting at a cafe, continuing their conversation.  It was after mid-night when he finally gave her a ride home.  They saw each other the following night.  They began dating and things were going well until he got cold feet and told her that he they should take a break because things were moving too fast.  Hurt and angry, she walked out of the apartment.

That was a month ago.  Many times he wanted to go over to her place and apologize.  His life was empty without her.  What a fool he was to ruin a good thing because he was afraid.  And now, here he was alone and miserable, tinkering with the piano and missing her like crazy.

Finally, he got up from the piano and went over to the window.  He stood there for several minutes and then he quickly left the room.  He went into his study, sat down behind the desk and taking out stationary and a pen, he wrote her a letter, pouring out his heart.  By the time he was done, the letter was three pages long.  He folded them and stuffed into an envelope.   After sealing it and adding postage, he got up and left the house.  He walked to the mailbox and after a slight hesitation, he pushed the letter through the slot.

A week later, he was sitting at the piano again trying to play something–anything when the doorbell rang.  Thankful for the interruption, he got up and went to answer the door.  His heart lurched when he saw Odeta standing there.  She must have gotten his letter.  “Hello,” he said when he opened the door.  His eyes eagerly ran over her.  She looked beautiful in the denim dress.

“Hello, Ian.”

“Please come in.”

She went in and he closed the door.  “I got your letter.”

“I figured that’s why you’re here.”

“Thank you for writing it,” she said quietly.  “It explained a lot.”

“Let’s go into the living-room and talk.”

“I was so hurt and angry when you said that you wanted us to take a break from each other.” she said when they were sitting on the sofa.  “You said that things were moving too fast.”

“I’m sorry, Odeta.  The last thing I wanted to do was to hurt you but I was scared.  I was falling fast and hard for you.  I’ve been hurt before and I was afraid of getting hurt again.  And as I mentioned in my letter, I was afraid that you were on the rebound.”

“I can’t blame you for thinking that since we met just a few months after the breakup.  I wasn’t looking for anything.  Believe me, having another relationship was the last thing on my mind but that night when I walked into the restaurant and saw you I was immediately attracted to you.  That’s why I came over to the bar soon after my brother left.”

“I was immediately attracted to you to and was thrilled when you joined me at the bar.”

“Ian, I know you’re afraid of getting hurt.  So am I.”

“I’m still afraid but it’s nothing compared to the emptiness I feel inside without you in my life.”

“Do you want to give us another chance?”

“Yes, Odeta, I do.”

She touched his face.  “I was hoping that you would say that.”

This time I chose love over fear,” he murmured, his eyes searching hers and what he saw in them made his heart sing.  He had nothing to fear now.

Source:  Paired Life

Well Worth It/Watcher #writephoto

waiting

Photo by Sue Vincent

I stand here, in the mist, waiting.  Waiting for you.  Every year, I come to the spot where we last parted company and where you promised me that you would be upon your return after the journey which called you away suddenly.   You stood before me, your eyes holding mine captive as you professed your love for me and promised me that only a matter of the most urgent nature could part you from me.  Then, you took me in your arms and held me so close that I could feel your beating heart.  I felt so safe and warm in your arms.  I didn’t want you to let me go.  But you did.  I suddenly felt very cold.  The tears mingled with the dew as you cupped my face between your hands and our lips met in a kiss that made my heart sing and cry at the same time.

When finally, we drew back, neither of us wanted to be the first to leave.  We stood there, delaying the inevitable, still holding hands and shrouded in the thick mist that rose above the hills.  Then, you said to me, “Close your eyes.”  And I did.  Even as I felt you let go of my hands, I kept my eyes closed.  After a while I slowly opened them and you were gone.  It was as if the mist had swallowed you up.  I stood there for some time, hoping that you would come back but you didn’t.

Weeks, months and even years passed and still you haven’t come back.  Every day I come here, hoping to find you or that you would come to me but all I see is the mist–the mist which rises above the mountains and the mist that covers my heart.  I read your letters over and over because they are all I have of you.  They fill me with sadness, joy, longing and hope.  They are stained with my tears.

How much longer shall we be apart, Alfred?  It has been ten, long years since we stood here.  I hold in my hand your most recent letter in which you swore that you will soon return.   Dare I hope again when my hopes have been dashed so many times?   The years apart have not lessened or dulled my love for you in fact they have intensified it but how long shall I continue to wait for you?  What if–I can hardly bear to think it, but sensibility says I must–you never return?  What if you decide that you would rather be a free agent?  Oh, the thought distresses me greatly.

I clutch the letter in my hand tightly.  I must believe that one day very soon we shall meet upon this mountain on a clear day.   Until then, I shall be here waiting for you.

I turn to leave and then I see you coming towards me.  I blinked, thinking that I am imagining it but you’re real and now you are running towards me.  I start to running towards you, laughing and tears running down my cheeks.  When we reach each other, you pick me up and swung me around.  I cling to you, feeling a little giddy but I’m over the moon.  Ten years, three months, four days and six hours later my wait was finally over.  Alfred and I were back together again.  After he put me down and I caught my breath, he got down on his knee and proposed.  Delirious with joy, I accepted and the following week we got married.

A couple of weeks later, we packed up and moved to London where Alfred worked as a solicitor in the office owned and run by the uncle whose urgent business was the cause for our long separation.  The said uncle had suddenly taken ill and needed someone to be in charge of his business until he recovered.  Since his nephew was a lawyer and a very promising one at that, he employed him.  His uncle was so impressed with him that even after he recovered from his illness, he encouraged him to remain in his employ.

When it seemed that his stay would be indefinite, Alfred begged to take leave of his uncle so that he could come back to me.  It was then his uncle suggested the move to London.  And here we are, living in London and not far from the famous Sherlock Holmes at 221B Baker Street.  I like it here although I miss the mountains and the mist sometimes.  What matters most to me is not where I am but that I am with Alfred.  And nothing except death will part us.  And all those years I waited for him were well worth it.

True love is worth waiting for even if it takes a lifetime. Then in return a lifetime of love will be waiting for you – Anurag Prakash Ray

This story is in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Watcher for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

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.

Whitney Houston

I was shocked and sad when I heard that Whitney Houston was dead.  She was only 48 years old–just a few years older than me.  As I watched coverage on CNN and saw clips of her video The Greatest Love of All my heartfelt condolences went out to her mother Cissy Houston who was featured in the video.  In the scene where mother and daughter hugged, I thought to myself, little did Cissy know that she would one day be burying her beautiful daughter. 

Whitney was blessed with an amazing voice.  I couldn’t believe that such a powerful came from such a slender person.  She could belt out notes that no one could.  She was in a class all by herself.  The first time I heard her sing was I believe the song she did with Teddy Prendergast entitled “Hold Me” which appeared on his album, Love Language. The single was released in 1984 and gave Houston her first taste of success, becoming a Top 5 R&B hit. It would also appear on her debut album in 1985. 

Whitney was a model.  She appeared in Seventeen and became one of the first women of color to grace the cover of the magazine.  She was also featured in layouts in the pages of Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Young Miss, and appeared in a Canada Dry soft drink TV commercial.   Her striking looks and girl-next-door charm made her one of the most sought after teen models of that time.

Whitney was destined to be a great singer.  I read on Wikipedia that she was the only artist to chart seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits (“Saving All My Love for You”, “How Will I Know”, “Greatest Love of All”, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)”, “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”, “So Emotional” and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”). She is the second artist behind Elton John and the only female artist to have two number-one Billboard 200 Album awards (formerly “Top Pop Album”) on the Billboard magazine year-end charts.

Houston’s 1985 debut album Whitney Houston became the best-selling debut album by a female act at the time of its release. The album was named Rolling Stone‘s best album of 1986, and was ranked at number 254 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Her second studio album Whitney (1987) became the first album by a female artist to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Houston’s crossover appeal on the popular music charts as well as her prominence on MTV, starting with her video for “How Will I Know”, influenced several African-American female artists to follow in her footsteps.

She crossed over from singing to acting.  Her first movie was “The Bodyguard” with Kevin Costner.  She looked stunning in the movie.  She helped to make the movie a blockbuster with the hit theme song, “I Will Always Love You.”  I read that the movie was originally supposed to feature Diana Ross and Steve McQueen but was scrapped because it was too controversial.  Kevin Costner based his portrayal of his character on Steve McQueen and even got the actor’s trademark haircut.  Whitney starred in and contributed to the soundtracs of other notable movies such as  Waiting to Exhale (1995) and The Preacher’s Wife (1996).  The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack became the best-selling gospel album in history.

It was revealed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that in the mid-1990’s she became a “heavy” user of marijuana and cocaine. By the 2000s she was struggling; her voice grew smaller, scratchier and less secure, and her performances grew erratic.  It seemed as if she had made a comeback.  At the BET Honors Award show in 2010, she was vibrant and she thanked her fans for their prayers and support as she accepted her award.  She acknowledged her mother Cissy who was in tears.  It was a touching moment.  Two years later Whitney died on the night before the Grammys.  Jennifer Hudson paid her a fitting tribute at the show.  Whitney was also celebrated at Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy’s party.

Whitney as a woman of action.  She was a supporter of Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement. During her modeling days, the singer refused to work with any agencies who did business with the then-apartheid South Africa.  In 1989, she formed The Whitney Houston Foundation For Children, a non-profit organization that has raised funds for the needs of children around the world. The organization cares for homelessness, children with cancer or AIDS, and other issues of self-empowerment. In 1990, she was the spokesperson for a youth leadership conference hosted in Washington DC. She had a private audience with President George HW Bush in the Oval office to discuss the associated challenges.  Charities Whitney supported are: 

When America was entangled in the Persian Gulf War, Whitney performed “The Star Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XXV on January 27, 1991.  Due to overwhelming response to her rendition, it was released as a commercial single and video of her performance, and reached the Top 20 on the US Hot 100, making her the only act to turn the national anthem into a pop hit of that magnitude.  Whitney donated all her share of the proceeds to the American Red Cross Gulf Crisis Fund. As a result, the singer was named to the Red Cross Board of Governors.  Her rendition was considered the benchmark for singers and critically acclaimed. Rolling Stone commented that “her singing stirs such strong patriotism. Unforgettable”, and the performance ranked No. 1 on the 25 most memorable music moments in NFL history list.  Following the attacks on 9/11, it was released again by Arista Records, all profits going towards the firefighters and victims of the attacks.

Later in 1991, Whitney put together her Welcome Home Heroes concert with HBO for the soldiers fighting in the Persian Gulf War and their families. The free concert took place at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia in front of 3,500 servicemen and women. HBO descrambled the concert so that it was free for everyone to watch. Houston’s concert gave HBO its highest ratings ever.

She was a woman of many accomplishments.  Three of her singles, “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”, “So Emotional”, and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” all peaked at number one on the US Hot 100 chart, which gave her a total of seven consecutive number one hits, breaking the record of six previously shared by The Beatles and The Bee Gees.  Houston became the first female artist to generate four number-one singles from one album. Whitney has been certified 9× Platinum in the US for shipments of over 9 million copies, and has sold a total of 20 million copies worldwide.  The success of the tours during 1986–87 and her two studio albums ranked Houston No. 8 for the highest earning entertainers list according to Forbes magazine.  She was the highest earning African-American woman overall and the third highest entertainer after Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy.  With her world tour continuing overseas, Houston was still one of the top 20 highest earning entertainers for 1987–88 according to Forbes magazine.

What a remarkable woman Whitney Houston was.   What a loss of a great icon who captivated many with her beauty and voice.  She will be greatly missed.  Notes to Women salutes her and our thoughts and prayers are with her family, especially Bobbi Kristina Brown, Whitney’s only child.  The 18 year old was recently released from the hospital after she was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Sunday morning. According to reports, she was being treated for stress and was taken out of the Beverly Hilton on a stretcher at around 10:30 a.m. “Bobbi was always by [Whitney’s] side in everything she did,” a source told US weekly. 

Bobbi and her mother were extremely close.  Journalist Jawn Murray who interviewed Whitney numerous times over the years, told Fox News:  “They were amazingly close…they had a relationship that really resembled the relationship that Whitney Houston had with her own mother, Cissy Houston,” Murray said. “Whitney loved her daughter. Bobbi Kristina was her only child and her pride and joy. Because of that, she treasured her.”  Apparently she shared some very personal photos of her and her mother on Twitter and tweeted this heartwrenching message to her Twitter followers:  “This would be MYWORLD. I love my mommmmy, more then you’ll ever imagine.”  Our hearts and prayers go out to this young woman who has suffered such a tragic loss.

God gave me a voice to sing with, and when you have that, what other gimmick is there?
 
I finally faced the fact that it isn’t a crime not having friends. Being alone means you have fewer problems.
 
I like being a woman, even in a man’s world. After all, men can’t wear dresses, but we can wear the pants.
 
My mother taught me that when you stand in the truth and someone tells a lie about you, don’t fight it.
 

Precious Lord

Today I learned who wrote the beautiful hymn, Precious Lord, the one we hear playing in the background when we see images of starving children in poverty stricken countries.  Here is the story of how this hymn was born: 

Back in 1932, I was a fairly new husband.

My wife, Nettie and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago’s south side. One hot August afternoon I had to go to St. Louis where I was to be the featured soloist at a large revival meeting. I didn’t want to go; Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child, but a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis .  I kissed Nettie goodbye, clattered downstairs to our Model A and, in a fresh Lake Michigan breeze, chugged out of Chicago on Route 66.

However, outside the city, I discovered that in my anxiety at leaving, I had forgotten my music case. I wheeled around and headed back.

I found Nettie sleeping peacefully. I hesitated by her bed; something was strongly telling me to stay. But eager to get on my way, and not wanting to disturb Nettie, I shrugged off the feeling and quietly slipped out of the room with my music.

The next night, in the steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again. When I finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union  telegram. I ripped open the envelope….Pasted on the yellow sheet were the words:YOUR WIFE JUST DIED.

People were happily singing and clapping around me, but I could hardly keep from crying out. I rushed to a phone and called home. All I could hear on the other end was “Nettie is dead. Nettie is dead.'”

When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between grief and joy. Yet that same night, the baby died.

I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart.  For days I closeted myself.

I felt that God had done me an injustice. I didn’t want to serve Him anymore or write gospel songs I just wanted to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well. But then, as I hunched alone in that dark apartment those first sad days, I thought back to the afternoon I went to  St. Louis . Something kept telling me to stay with Nettie.  Was that something God? Oh, if I had paid more attention to Him that day, I would have stayed and been with Nettie when she died.

From that moment on I vowed to listen more closely to Him.  But still I was lost in grief. Everyone was kind to me, especially one friend. The following Saturday evening he took me up to Maloney’s Poro College , a neighborhood music school. It was quiet; the late evening sun crept through the curtained windows.

I sat down at the piano, and my hands began to browse over the keys. Something happened to me then. I felt at peace. I felt as though I could reach out and touch God. I found myself playing a melody. Once in my head they just seemed to fall into place:  ‘Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired,

I am weak, I am worn, through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.’

The Lord gave me these words and melody, He also healed my spirit. I learned that when we are in our deepest grief, when we feel farthest from God, this is when He is closest, and when we are most open to His restoring power.

And so I go on living for God willingly and joyfully, until that day comes when He will take me and gently lead me home.

—-Tommy Dorsey

This story is a reminder that during the times when we are hurting and we are angry with God, He is right there.  He never left!  He speaks to our hearts and there are times when we  ought to listen but we don’t.  We let the cares or distractions of the world occupy our thoughts.  God knows and sees everything.  When He speaks to your heart–listen.  If like, Tommy, God tells you to stay close to a loved one, do it.  You may never get another opportunity to be with that person.  And, whenever you are hurting and you feel alone, remember this promise, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Tommy was not alone–he had God and his and Nettie’s son–a reminder of the love they shared.