A Second Chance

Natalie stood on the deck watching the Mediterranean Sea. It was a beautiful morning and it was the first day at sea.  She was on her second honeymoon.  For twenty-five years she was married to her first husband, Richard, a truly wonderful man.  They had started out as friends and then their relationship developed into something they hadn’t expected but felt was a blessing.

Together they raised two remarkable kids—Josh and Annie.  Those years with Richard were the happiest for her.  So, it was devastating when he died.  It was so sudden.  He was on his way home from the office when he collided with another vehicle which ran a red light.  The other driver escaped with scrapes and scratches but Richard’s injuries were severe.  He died at  the hospital.  It was her faith and the consolation of family and friends that got Natalie through those horrific years after Richard was gone.

 

In time the pain grew less and she was able to think of Richard without breaking down. She slowly began adjust to life without him.  Her kids now grown encouraged her to go out and enjoy herself.  She attended dinner parties, operas, ballets, concerts and even went on a cruise with a group of single friends.  It was on that cruise where she met Mark.  He was travelling with some friends too.  They shared the same dinner table and while the others went off either to the casino or to watch the live entertainment, she opted to go to the deck where she stood, enjoying the cool night air.  He joined her.  They spoke and she found that she enjoyed his company though she couldn’t get past the fact that he was much younger than her.  Still, he was really nice and she was so relaxed around him.  They spent a lot of time together and when the cruise was over, they exchanged phone numbers, promising to keep in touch.

 

Life returned to its old routine when she returned home but the highlight of her evenings was speaking to Mark on the phone  for hours.  They made plans to see each other over the summer.   She introduced him to her family and they seemed to like him although her mother didn’t seem too pleased.  She didn’t know exactly when it happened but she knew that she had fallen in love with Mark.  One night when they were sitting on the sofa, having tea, Mark confessed that her.  He asked her to marry him and she accepted but after he left, she worried about her family’s reaction.

 

She waited until they were at her mother’s house to make the announcement.  You could have heard a pin drop.  Her news had knocked them all for a loop.  It was some time before someone said something.  Josh spoke up.  “I can’t say that I am happy that you are marrying a man in my age group but I won’t stand in your way.”

 

Annie hugged her and said, “Yes, Mom.  You deserve to be happy again.  And I don’t see why it’s okay for a man to marry a woman much younger than him but a woman can’t marry a younger man.”  She said that for her grand-mother’s benefit.

 

Natalie looked at her mother whose expression was thunderous.  “How could you seriously be thinking of marrying a man half your age?” she demanded.

 

Natalie drew a deep breath.  “I didn’t plan to fall in love with a man younger than me but it happened.  Like you, I had a problem with our age difference in the beginning but I remembered that father was considerably older than you and yet, you were so happy together.  Mother, I am sorry that you don’t approve but God has given me another chance at happiness and I am going to take it.   We haven’t decided on a wedding date as yet but I will let you know as soon as we do.”

 

Her mother pursed her lips.  “Well, don’t expect me to be there,” she said.

 

And true to her word, she didn’t attend the wedding.  Nor did Mark’s parents which came as no surprise to her.  Still, she had hoped they make an appearance for their son’s sake.   She met them once when she was invited to dinner at their home in Long Island but that meeting didn’t go well.  They raised the same objections as her mother.  Mark’s mother had remarked that Natalie was a lot older than she expected.

 

It was a beautiful and simple wedding with some family and friends in attendance.  Her son gave her away and her daughter was the bridesmaid.  It was a day she would always remember.   And here she was now, basking in the joy she didn’t imagine she would experience again.  She had twice been blessed with two great men and she was thankful to God who had been her Anchor during those dark moments.  He had brought Mark into her life.

 

Mark.  He must be awake by now and wondering where she was.  She turned away from the rail and walked back to their cabin with its scenic view of the ocean, her steps quickening in anticipation.

 

woman in hat on deck of ship

Memories

She sat on the beach, watching

the sun set over the sea.  This

was her favorite spot.  She came

here every Father’s Day since her

Dad died six years ago.

 

She missed him terribly.

A heart attack had claimed

his life and robbed her of

the joy of having him give

her away at her wedding.

And it robbed his grandson

of knowing the most

amazing man in the world.

 

She smiled as she remembered

the times when she was a little

girl and he used to bring her

to the beach.  They would sit

facing the sea and he would

tell her all sorts of exciting

stories about pirates and their

adventures at sea.  Her

imagination would run

wild and she wished she

could be out at sea on those

ships with him.

 

For her twelfth birthday

he bought her a ship in a

bottle.  Every night before

she went to bed, she held it

in her hands as if it were the

most precious thing she had

ever seen.  It was because

it was from her Dad.

 

She still had that bottle

and whenever she saw it

she remembered her Dad

and his stories of the sea.

One day she would tell

her son about his grandfather

and bring him to this beach

which held so many wonderful

memories for her.

 

sunset (1)

Rescued

She came from Niger, a place notorious for child marriage.

Her name is Abayomi which means “she brings me joy”.

She was only 14 when her parents insisted that she got married

Abayomi was filled with horror.  She had heard stories of  girls

as young as seven years  old being sold into marriage.

She didn’t want to get married–yet.  And when she did she

wanted it to be her decision.  She wanted to go to school and

study to be a doctor.   Her pleas fell on deaf ears.

 

A year passed and she was set to marry a man twice her age.

She had a wedding dress and the dreaded day was approaching.

There seemed to be no hope.  She thought of running away but where

could she go?  She couldn’t stay here.   She  thought of the horrible stories

she heard of young girls losing their lives when their parents married  them

of because they were having children when they were too young.  She didn’t

want to end up like them.  She didn’t want to die in childbirth.

 

No.  I’m going to fight this, she resolved.  She continued to refuse the

arranged marriage until her father cancelled it.  And to her surprise,

he encouraged her to join UNFPA’s Action for Adolescent Girls programme.

When Abayomi went to the programme, she met other girls who had left

school to marry and some were even pregnant.  She was happy that she had

escaped the same fate.  She had her father to thank  for that.  What had made

him  change his mind after he had been so adamant?

 

She learned that he had met a Christian who told him about Jesus.   Curious, she

asked him what he knew about Jesus.  He explained that Jesus would not have

wanted him to force her into doing something against her will.  Then, he gave

the Gospel of John booklet the man had given him.  After everyone else had

gone to bed, she read stayed up to read the Gospel.

 

As Abayomi read how Jesus rescued the woman caught in adultery from

being stoned to death, she realized that she too had been rescued from a

terrible fate.  She felt the tears spill down her cheeks and sliding off the

bed , she knelt on the floor.  “Thank You, Jesus,” she prayed.  She decided right

there and then to give her heart to One who had seen her plight and had come

to her aid.

 

Abayomi continued with her education and is currently in medical school.  She

is also encouraging other girls to say no to child marriage.  And her parents have

changed their views of forced marriage.  They believe that she should have the

right to choose her own husband and to marry when she is ready.

 

Nigerian Girl

Sources:  UNFPA; The Telegraph; BBC

The Wedding

A wedding farce, that’s what it was.

She sat there with a smile plastered

as her uncle told his tired jokes before

toasting to her happiness.   After fumbling

with the microphone, and saying “Testing, Testing”,

her father recited the lyric for “A Song for My Daughter”

which made her cry.   She cringed as her mother told every

body about the very embarrassing scrapes she got into

when she was a child.

 

Her sister got up there and remarked,

“Brian, I don’t know how you got my

sister to marry you.  She always said that

she would never get married.  She told me

once that….The bride’s mother signaled to

the DJ and her sister’s voice was drowned

out.  Thanks, Mom.

 

Brian held out his hand and they went

on to the dance floor for their first dance.

 

Aside from the shameless way her friends

were prowling after the eligible men,

her aunt’s incessant chatter and the no

so subtle looks the bartender gave her,

it was a pleasant evening.  She leaned

her head on Brian’s shoulder and smiled.

Tonight was the first night of many nights

together.

 

bored bride

Pray for Rain

 

Please pray for rain to fall in Fort McMurray, Alberta to put out the fire that has destroyed homes and devastated lives.  There is the heartbreaking story of a firefighter who lost his teenage daughter in a crash.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.   Another story had a happy ending.  A wedding dress was destroyed in the fire just days before the wedding but, thanks to the kindness of strangers, the bride has a new dress and is getting married tomorrow in Toronto.  Pray for the people who lost their homes, had to be evacuated and the firefighters who are battling the fire.

The response to the crisis in Fort McMurray has been incredible.  Donations have been pouring in.  Canadians have donated over $11 million to the Red Cross.  Among the agencies working to help the displaced is ADRA (Adventist Development Relief Agency) Canada.  ADRA Canada joined together with the Alberta Conference of Seventh-day Adventists to purchase a disaster response vehicle which has been filled with supplies to be delivered to those affected by this disaster.  Local Alberta churches will provide volunteers and local families have opened their homes to the displaced.  ADRA Canada has also partnered with GlobalMedic to send hygiene kits containing toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and a towel to 2,000 people.

If you are interested in helping ADRA in their work in Fort McMurray, please make a donation to their Emergency Relief fund at http://www.adra.ca/donate/.

Keep the Spark Alive

Remember those times when you and he were dating how you used to be on the phone for hours?  You never seemed to run out of conversation.  There were no awkward moments.   The conversation just flowed.  And when you were together, the time just seemed to fly because you were having so much fun? And the only times you were not together was when you were at work.  There were those occasions when you were with your family but more often than not, you were with him.  It was torture being apart and total bliss when you were together.  There were times when you would go out with other couples but for the most part, you and he preferred to be alone, enjoying each other’s company.

Things quickly got serious between the two of you and pretty soon you are planning your wedding.  The big day finally arrives and you walk up the aisle, your eyes sparkling with excitement.  Your heart leaps when you see him standing there, smiling at you.  You gaze at each other as the vows are exchanged and then the minister pronounces that you are husband and wife.   After you kiss, you stroll arm in arm down the aisle in the midst of a sea of smiling faces.  After the reception, you go on your honeymoon where you enjoy a week in paradise, wishing you could stay there for the rest of your lives.

Life is wonderful as you settle into being a wife to your new husband.  Then, you have children…

Suddenly it’s no longer just the two of you.  Now there are four of you.  In my case, there are three of us. When I was on maternity leave, I was so happy when my husband came home.  I needed adult conversation and company after spending all day with a baby/toddler.  I didn’t feel attractive so I didn’t feel romantic.   We didn’t have anyone to babysit and we didn’t feel comfortable getting a stranger to do it so we were stuck.  We couldn’t go out for a romantic dinner.  We had to settle for entertaining ourselves at home while trying not to disturb our son.

Now, it’s a matter of trying to find time for each other.  During the week, it’s a challenge.  By the time we come in from work, we are tired.  Sometimes we have to prepare dinner.  After we eat, we have to spend time with our son before he goes to bed.  Then we have to clean up and have our baths.  By the time we are finished doing these things, there’s not much time for us to relax.  We have gotten into a rut where we end up watching television or a movie instead of spending quality time together.  We don’t talk as much as we used to.  We are not bonding as we used to.  It’s not much different on the weekends.  Our son and other things demand our attention.  And there is hardly any “us” time.

When a couple doesn’t spend quality time together, their relationship suffers.  The spark starts to flicker and if nothing is done about it, it will go out.  Ladies, what can we do to keep the spark alive?  I came across these tips which I plan to put into action.  I hope you will find them helpful too.  Instead of writing the tips word for word, I rephrased them as best as I could.

Date Your Spouse

Go out for a date.  Set up a date night schedule.  This will help you to have quality time together and reconnect after a hectic week.  It gives you the opportunity to appreciate each other and to unwind.

Surprise

It’s nice to surprise your spouse from time to time.  It can be as simple as leaving a note on the fridge or flowers at the office or tickets to a fun event.  Make a special meal for each other.  Dress up sometimes.

Prioritize Each Other

Make time for each other.  It’s not easy when you have children but you must make the effort.  Without your marriage, there would be no foundation for your family.  Besides, you will be setting an example for your children when it comes to good/bad relationships.  Set a good example.  Make sure that your spouse knows how much you value them and that life wouldn’t be the same without them.   Don’t assume that they know this.  Tell them.

Be Affectionate

Show your spouse how much they mean to you not only in words but in actions.  Hug and kiss them.

Be Spontaneous

It’s hard to be spontaneous when you are raising a family and juggling so many things at once but it’s a good idea to change things up a bit.  Instead of your regular dinner plan, how about having a picnic or eating out?  Instead of staying in over the weekend – go out.  Be adventurous and steer away from the norm.  Spontaneity in your life will help to keep the spark alive (Belief Net).

Add Some Playfulness Into Your Marriage

This is a way of breaking out of a routine.  You can sneak in a quickie before making dinner.

Talk to Your Partner

Instead of watching television, talk to each other.  Sit outside and enjoy the weather while the kids are in bed (Canadian Living)

Respect 

Show each other the same respect you did when you were dating.  Let others know that it is an honor for you to be with the one you love.  Speak kindly and listen to one another again.

Gift Giving

You don’t have to give elaborate gifts.  A random card with a note letting them know you are thinking about them would do very nicely.

Studying One Another

Ask each other questions like you are meeting for the first time.  You might find out that the things you thought were true or what may have been true 20 years ago isn’t the case anymore (What Christians Want to Know).

Talk to couples who have been married for 40 years and over.  Find out the secret of their success.

Have fun trying to keep the spark alive in your marriage.  If anyone has any tips they would like to share, I would love to hear from you.

Husband and wife smiling

 

 

 

Sources: Belief Net; What Christians Want to Know; Canadian Living

A Mother’s Hidden Legacy

Naomi was a Christian.  She grew up praying to Jesus as a Friend and reading the Bible so that she could get to know Him better.  So great was her love for God that it was natural to believe that when she had children, she would pass on her faith to them.  However, things didn’t turn out quite as she expected.

Naomi’s parents arranged her marriage and although the wedding was held in the church and followed all the Christian traditions, her husband was of a different religion.  Can you imagine being in Naomi’s shoes?  You were raised to love the Lord.  You look forward to going to church and worshipping Him in His sanctuary with others who share your faith.  Then, one day, you are forced to stop going to church because your husband won’t allow you.  And to make matters worse…your husband is an alcoholic.

Shortly after the wedding, Tarak’s alcoholism reared its ugly head.  He had a steady job as a truck cleaner but spent the money he earned on drinks or cigarettes.  As a result it was a struggle just to have the bare necessities.   The struggle only increased when they had Oppilmani and Sadhya, born two years apart.  Now Naomi had two growing children to feed not to mention providing them with clothing and education.   Overwhelmed, she was compelled to reflect on her life before she got married.  With a penitent heart she began to pray.

She didn’t tell Tarak that she repented of her neglect of God or that she was praying for the family’s restoration.  She didn’t tell him that she was praying for him–that he would stop drinking.  Can you imagine how hard it must have been for Naomi to keep these things to herself?  How she must have longed to tell her family about Jesus and how only He could help them.  Then, hope came in the form of Gospel for Asia Pastor Zaafir when  he came to their village.  God heard her prayers and He sent help.

Naomi began to speak to Pastor Zaafir frequently and began attending church again.   As she grew in the Lord, Pastor Zaafir helped her to enroll Oppilmani and Sadhya in the local Bridge of Hope center.  This proved to be a blessing for the children.  They excelled in their studies and learned about Jesus.  How it must have brought joy to their mother who had dreamed of telling them about the Friend she had since she was a child.

The joy was short-lived, however.  Tarak’s animosity returned and he began to verbally abuse his wife when she attended church and insisted that the family follow his religion.  In the wake of this new wave of opposition Naomi attended church less but refused to stop going altogether.  All the while she continued praying for her family even as they were about to face a crisis…

…pray without ceasing – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Tarak’s years of drinking and smoking finally began to take a toll on his health.  What began as asthma quickly turned into something very serious and unmanageable.  How terrifying it must have been for his family when he began vomiting blood.  He couldn’t eat anything.  However, the waves of nausea and the vomiting didn’t stop Tarak from continuing to drink alcohol.   Within a few days, he was taken to the hospital where doctors determined that he had a serious lung infection.  If he didn’t have an operation he would die.  What was the family to do?  For years Tarak had spent his income on alcohol.  There wasn’t enough money for the operation.

Naomi and the children, went home, bracing themselves for a future without her husband.  The children continued to attend the Bridge of Hope center but it didn’t take long for the staff to notice that something was wrong.  When they inquired, Oppilmani told them about his father’s condition and that the family couldn’t pay for the surgery.  The staff offered words of encouragement and hope.  They assured the boy that Jesus could solve his problems and then they decided to visit the family.

The coordinator of the centre went with two social workers and GFA’s pastor Bahurai to the family’s home where they saw an alarmingly thin Tarak who looked much older than his age of 35 years.  The group shared God’s Word and encouraged the family to ask for His mercy.  The Lord spoke to Tarak’s heart and the father confessed his wrongdoings to God.  From that moment on, there was a transformation.  Naomi no longer faced opposition from her husband and she was free to regularly attend prayer meetings.  She, the pastor and other believers prayed for Tarak’s healing.  He began to recover slowly and he opened his heart to the God who was healing him.

Tarak no longer insisted that his family worship his god or protest his wife’s church going.  Instead he brought the children to church.  It took a life-threatening illness for Tarak to know the true God.

God had answered the prayers of a mother who had known Him all of her life.  She had turned back to Him after she was forced to neglect Him–knowing that He was her only Source of comfort, hope and deliverance.  God heard the prayers of a wife who wanted her husband to stop drinking.  He heard the prayers of a mother who wanted her children to worship the true God and go to school.  He heard the prayers of a woman who wanted to free her family from their struggles.

The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective – James 5:16

What a wonderful end to this story.  A man once opposed to wife’s God had embraced Him.  Oppilmani and Sadhya who once worshipped a traditional god was now worshipping the Creator.  They will continue their family’s legacy by raising the next generation to serve the God who had brought them hope amidst adversity.  As for Naomi, she watched the Lord do amazing things for her family.  “Jesus turned our trouble into happiness,” she said, “and we are ever thankful to Jesus.”

You can help to do amazing things for other families like Naomi’s by sponsoring Bridge of Hope children.  Your sponsorship will open the door for children to share Christ’s love with their families.  If you are interested in learning more about Bridge of Hope visit this link.

I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy, For You have considered my trouble; You have known my soul in adversities – Psalm 31:7

 

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia