Josee and Ariel

african american teenage girl

She was relaxing on the sofa, waiting for him to come home.  As as soon as her class ended, she left the university campus. She took  the bus to the condo building where they lived.  She did her homework and or studied for exams in the study for about two hours.  By the time she was done, it was time to fix dinner.

She loved preparing dinner for him.  He enjoyed her cooking.  Her mother taught her when she was 12.  “One of these days you’re going to be a wife.  The sooner you learn how to cook and keep a home, the better it will be for you.”

And here she was waiting for her husband after preparing one of his favorite meals.  Being married to him was beyond what she could have ever imagined.  Every night, she thanked God for blessing her with a wonderful guy whom she was madly in love with and who was madly in love with her.

They got engaged just months after she had introduced him to her mother and sister.  She still hadn’t met his family as yet.  Only his grandmother who was her piano teacher.  Three years ago, it was at her house where they met one afternoon during one of her lessons.  It was on a Thursday afternoon and she was playing the piano when he walked into the living-room.

He sat in the chair by the window and listened to her play.  She was acutely aware of him but remained focused on her playing.  When she was finished, his grandmother, Mrs. Eidelman introduced them.  “Josee, this is my grandson, Ariel.  He’s a lawyer.”

Ariel smiled and held out his hand.  He had the most incredible eyes she had ever seen.  He was tall and very handsome.  “It’s nice to meet you, Josee,” he said shaking her hand.

She smiled shyly.  “It’s nice to meet you too.”

“While you two become acquainted, I’ll go and make us some tea.”

Josee sat down on the sofa and Ariel sat beside her.  “You play the piano very well,” he remarked.

“Thank you.”

“My grandmother is an excellent teacher.  She taught my brother and me how to play the piano as well.”

“Maybe you could play something.”

“Sure.”  He got up and went over to the piano.  He sat down and played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.  When he was done, he rejoined her.

“That was amazing,” Josee said.  “Is your brother as good as you?”

“He’s way better than me and that’s why he’s the musician in the family and I’m the lawyer.”

“How do you like being a lawyer?”

“Actually, I love being a lawyer because I get to make a difference in someone’s life.  I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer after I watched the movie, To Kill A Mockingbird.”

“That’s one of my favorite books.  I always said that if I were living in those times and my father was in trouble, I would want Atticus Finch to be his lawyer.”

Ariel smiled.  “It’s one of my favorite books too and Atticus Finch is the kind of lawyer whom most of us in the profession aspire to be like.”

Just then, his grandmother rejoined them and as they had their tea and Apple cake, they spoke about other things.  Then, it was time for Josee to leave.  Ariel offered to give her a ride home.

“So, you know that I’m a lawyer and that I have a brother but I don’t know anything about you except that you’re learning to play the piano.  Which school do you go to?”

She told him.  “It’s a very good school.  I’m going to miss going there.  I’m graduating this summer.”

“Have you decided what you want to study when you go to university?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  I’ve decided that I want to study biomedical engineering.”

“That’s great!” he exclaimed.  “Engineering has been a male dominated field for a long time but I don’t think it will be for much longer.  More and more women are becoming engineers.”

“My father was an engineer so I want to be like him.”

“Were you and he close?”

She nodded.  “Yes, very.  I was devastated when he died.”

“How old were you when he died?”

“Eight.”

“How old are you now?”

“Seventeen.  I’m going to be eighteen in April.”

“Are you dating?”

“No.”  She wanted to ask him the same question but was too shy to do so.

“I’m not dating either.  I’m ten years older than you so, would you have a problem dating me?”

She stared at him.  He wanted to date her.  “No, I wouldn’t have a problem,” she replied.  “What about your family?  Wouldn’t they have a problem with you dating me?”

He shrugged.  “They might.  My mother has always wanted me to marry a nice Jewish girl.  She even has one lined up for me but I’m not interested.”

“I’m a Christian.”

“So?  I won’t be the first Jewish guy to date a girl outside of my faith and I won’t be the last.”

“I don’t think my mother wouldn’t have a problem because, Jews and Blacks have a lot in common.”

“Yes.  We were once enslaved and have always been targeted by hate groups.”

“It’s a sad world we live in.  I can’t wait for Jesus to return.”

“So, are you busy on Saturday?”

“I’m free after sunset.  Like you, Saturday is my Sabbath.”

“So, you’re an Adventist.  I have several friends who are.  We have a lot in common, except Jesus.  You believe that He’s the Messiah and we don’t.  There are many Jews who no longer hold to a personal Messiah, but hope for a messianic age of justice and truth.  For many of us, the coming of the Messiah or the messianic age still lies in the future.”

“Did you know that the first Christians were actually Jews?”

“Really?”

“Yes.  All of the writers of the New Testament were Jewish Christians except Luke who wrote one of the Gospels.  He was a non-Jewish doctor.”

“That’s another thing we don’t have in common.  We don’t accept the inspiration of the New Testament or its account of the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.”

“In Hebrews, the writer explains how the sacrifices for sin and the Day of Atonement in great detail.  Maybe one of these days, we can read it together.”

“Maybe.  So, may I take you out for dinner on Saturday evening?”

She nodded with a smile.  “Yes.”

When he took her home and he followed her to the front door, she invited him in to meet her mother and younger sister, Deidre.  “It’s nice to meet you, Ariel,” her mother said as she shook hands with him.  “I’ve heard so much about you from your grandmother.”

Ariel smiled.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you too,” Mrs. Carter.  “You have a very nice home.”

“Thank you.  And thanks for bringing Josee home.  I hope we will see more of you.”

“You will,” he promised.  He smiled and shook Deidre’s hand before he announced that he had to leave.

Josee walked him out to the porch.  “Thanks for the ride home.”

“It was my pleasure.  I’m looking forward to seeing you on Saturday evening.  I’ll pick you up at 7.”

“Ok.”

“‘Bye, Josee.”

“‘Bye, Ariel.”  She watched him walk to and get into his car and drive away before she went back into the house.

“He seems very nice,” Deidre said.

“And very handsome,” her mother remarked.

That night Josee told her that Ariel wanted to take her out for dinner on Saturday.  “He wants to date me.”

“Well, I don’t have a problem with you dating him.  Just make sure that you don’t go to his place or do anything you know you shouldn’t.”

“So, you don’t mind that he’s in his late twenties?”

“I was your age when I met your father.  He was in his twenties too.”  She smiled.  “I don’t have any objections.”

Josee smiled.  “Thanks, Mom.”

After their first date, Josee and Ariel began dating.  On her eighteenth birthday, he proposed and she readily accepted.  She told her mother who said, “I think that the two of you should wait for at least three years before you get married.”

“You mean when I’m 21.”

“Yes.  You will be a young adult then.”

“All right,” Josee agreed.  “We’ll wait.”

“Make sure that the two of you go for premarital counseling.  It’s very important that you do.”

Three years later, soon after her 21st birthday, they got married by a rabbi and a priest at a non-denominational chapel.  It was a beautiful ceremony which included both Christian and Jewish rituals.  Her family, high-school and university friends were there.  Ariel’s parents didn’t attend but his brother and grandmother along with his friends and colleagues were present.  The reception was held at a banquet hall.  Josee looked lovely in her simple but elegant dress with her hair in an french knot.  Her face was devoid of any makeup and the only jewelry she wore was her wedding ring.  Ariel looked very handsome in his wedding suit.  As they faced each other and exchanged rings, there were tears in their eyes.  The love they felt for each other was evident on their faces.  Her mother was moved to tears.  In her heart, she knew that her daughter was going to be all right because God was in this.

For their honeymoon, they went to Montego Bay.  They spent eight glorious days on the island.  She smiled now as she remembered their first night in the suite after they had a mouth watering dinner and went for a walk along the beach.  They were both very nervous and excited.  For several moments they stood there staring at each other and then he was holding her in his arms and kissing her.  Since it was her first time, he took it slow.  However, the other nights, he was like a ravenous wolf.  She trembled at the memories.

“What are you smiling about?” the inquiry brought her back to the present and she looked up as Ariel walked into living-room.  She immediately got up from the sofa and hurried over to him.  He lifted her up in a hug.  She put her arms around his neck and lowered her head to kiss him.

“I was just remembering our honeymoon in Montego Bay,” she said after she drew back to gaze down at him.Image-4_4

He smiled.  “I think about it a lot too.”

“Dinner is ready.  While you go and change, I’ll set the table and share out.”

His eyes darkened on her face.  “I’m hungry but not for food,” he murmured before he carried her into the bedroom.  After closing the door behind them, he set her down by the bed so that he could get undressed.  Soon they were under the sheets making passionate love.

Dinner was still very warm when they finally had it.  As they ate, they told each other how their day went.  “I told my friend, Allison that we’re going to Florida next week for three weeks and she suggested that we visit Beth Tehillah Vetikva in Hollywood, Florida.”

“Is that a synagogue?” he asked.

“It’s an Adventist Messianic Congregation made up of both Jews and non-Jews who believe that Yeshua is the Messiah.”

“Josee…”

“I Googled them and it says on their website that they worship God in the context of their Hebraic heritage and they believe that we should live our lives by the word of God.  They also observe the Torah.  Please, let’s just go and see what it’s like.  Allison said that if you don’t like it, there’s a Jewish synagogue not far from there where you can go to instead.”

“All right, I’ll go but I’m only doing it because of you.”

She smiled.  “Thank you.”

They went to Beth Tehillah Vetikva and they both loved it so much that they decided to spend the entire three weeks in Hollywood instead of heading to Tampa as originally planned.  Several months after Josee graduated from university, they moved to Hollywood.  They joined the congregation of Beth Tehillah Vetikva after Ariel was baptized following a series of Bible Studies.

Ariel joined one of the top law firms in Hollywood while Josee got a Biomedical Engineer job at the University of Miami.  Eight years later, they were expecting their first child.  Josee’s friend, Allison was invited to the baby’s dedication because it was on account of her that they went to the House of Praise and Hope where Ariel finally accepted Jesus as the Messiah.

Many Jews now recognize that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel. The World Jewish Adventist Friendship Center therefore provides a place within the Seventh-day Adventist denomination for every Jew who is waiting for the second coming of Jesus our Messiah to worship God in the context of their faith without denying their own culture – Richard Elofer, World Jewish Adventist Friendship Center Director

Sources:  BBC; Shiksha; My Tea Planner; Inl India; IEEE Spectrum; The International Bible Society; Waiting for Your Boaz; Chicago Tribune; Linkedin; Beth Tehillah Vetikva; World Jewish Adventist Friendship Center;

Her Dream

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She picked the cotton, the sweat pouring down her dark, leathery face.  She worked from sunrise to sunset, same as the men.  The overseer saw to that.  Slaves failing to do their tasks were flogged.  Her back was badly mangled from a whipping.  As she worked, she dreamed of the Elysian home she would soon enter.

56 Works

This post was inspired by the slaves–who worked from sunrise to sunset in the cotton fields and eighteen hours during Harvest time.  Men and women worked the same hours.  A pregnant woman was expected to continue working until her child was born and she was only given a month’s rest for recovery from child-bearing.  Mothers had to carry their children on their backs while they worked in the fields. Around the age of five, slave children were expected to work on the plantation.  They were looked after an overseer who carried a whip made of the toughest cowhide which they used on the slave.  It wasn’t uncommon to see slaves with their backs mangled.

Yet, in spite of these horrendous and cruel conditions, slaves continued to cling to their faith.

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Image is from http://e993.com/forex/Cartoon-Slaves-Picking-Cotton/

Source:  Spartacus Educational

Freedom for Joe

Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed – 8:36

gettyimages-84227778-612x612I’s in chains fo tryin’ to run away.  I’s a human being.  I shoulda bin free not nobody’s slave.  Dey treats us worst than dem animals.  When dey brought us here to this here plantation, dey had chains round our necks like we’s cattle.  And dey brand us like we cattle too.  I’s a man not an animal.  I was created by God like everybody else.  He don’t love me less ’cause I’s black.  He made me so.

‘Cause, we’s slaves we ain’t allowed to go to church or pray.  I’s bin flogged for prayin’, singin’ and goin’ to religious meetin’s in dem slave cabins.  I refuse to stop worshippin’ God.  Sometimes, me and da other slaves, we sings and prays all night.  I loves to sing ‘bout the Lord Jesus.  He died fo’ me and dem other slaves.  He died fo’ everybody.  Before, dey put Him on dat cross, dey whip Him bad.  My whippin’s ain’t nothin’ compared to the whippin’s He got ’cause of me and everybody who He died fo.

One day, I’s gon be free.  One day, I’s gon see ma Lord Jesus.  Either slavery’s goin’ end soon or I gon die befo’.  One day, I’s gon have freedom.

Oh freedom! O freedom!

Oh freedom over me!

An’ befo’ I’d be a slave,

I’ll be buried in my grave,

An’ go home to my Lord an’ be free.

One day, I’s gon be free to sing to my Lord and not git flogged for it.  One day, I’s gon break free of dem chains and git ma crown.  Oh freedom.

The negro spirituals as they were called were what helped the slaves during those times fraught with deep despair and disappointment.  Their faith in God whom they saw as their Deliverer and Jesus Christ, who died for them kept them going strong.  “They believed and affirmed in song that they were valued in the eyes of God and that one day they too would experience deliverance from their bondage.”  Those who died as slaves still found their freedom in Jesus Christ.

Let’s celebrate and reflect on the lives of these spiritual men and women “saw themselves as full “children of God” despite their condition of slavery and despite slave owners’ teachings.”  

Sources:  Christianity Today; BVN; Reflections; Bible Gateway

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

 

 

Keziah’s Story

Jill was my best friend.  We grew up together.  We used to like the same books, movies and boys.  And when the boy we liked at a particular time liked one of us more, there were not hard feelings.  We were happy for each other.  So, when she met and fell in love with Greg, I was happy for her, even though secretly, I was in love with him too.

He and I got along extremely well.  It took a lot out of me to hide my feelings from him, though.  I tried to distract myself with my studies and then my job after I graduated from university.  I dated other guys but always at the back of my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking about Greg and wishing that I didn’t love him.  Eventually, I stopped dating altogether and just focused on my career.

When Jill told me that he asked her to marry him, I tried very hard to be happy and excited for her.  I put a big smile on my face as I congratulated her but as we hugged, my heart ached and the tears that glistened in my eyes were not tears of joy but of pain.  She asked me to be her maid of honor and I readily accepted.  When I saw Greg, I congratulated him.  He smiled and before I could react, he was hugging me.  I closed my eyes and hugged him back.  It felt so good being in his arms.  I wished the hug would last and then I felt guilty for wishing that.  I pulled away and I turned my back to him so that he couldn’t see the expression on my face.  We were alone in the living-room.  Jill was out on the patio talking to her parents.  I excused myself and joined them.  I had to leave because I was afraid that I would give myself away.

istockphoto-171306045-170667aI promised myself that after the wedding, I would pack up and move to Seattle where my sister and her family lived.  I could start a new life there.  I didn’t say anything to Jill because I didn’t want to spoil her happiness.  Besides, she was busy planning her wedding which was less than a year away.  I went with her, her mother, sister and Greg’s mother to find a dress.

It was bittersweet watching her try on the different gowns.  It touched my heart to see how happy and excited she was but I was also cut up about the upcoming nuptials.  I had no idea how I was going to get through the wedding.  For the first time since I have known her, I wished that Jill and I didn’t have the same taste in men.

A couple of weeks before the wedding, I ran into Greg’s mother and a man I had never met before.  I was on my way to grab lunch when I saw them.  Greg’s mother was very happy to see me.  After we hugged, she introduced me to her companion.  He was Luke, Greg’s half-brother by her first marriage.  He was very attractive.  When he shook my hand, I felt a jolt of electricity surge through, startling me and for a moment, I was nonplussed.  He had the most incredible eyes and the way he looked at me made my heart pound wildly and my pulse race but my mind was resistant.  How could I feeling like this about this perfect stranger when I was in love with Greg?  Was it really possible to be attracted to one man while in love in another?

As I stood there, trying to make sense of what was happening to me, Greg’s mother invited me to join them for lunch.  I wanted to refuse but it would have seem rude and besides, I was hungry.  We went to an upscale French restaurant.  I sat opposite Luke while Greg’s mother sat on my right.  Several times his eyes an mine met which really unnerved me.  After we ordered, Greg’s mother talked about the wedding and then, she mentioned how happy she was that Luke was going to be there.  He had just returned from South Africa where he had worked for a months working on a story.  He was a photojournalist.  It explained his swarthy complexion.

I noticed that he wasn’t wearing a ring which meant that he wasn’t married but it didn’t mean that he wasn’t romantically involved with someone.  I found myself wondering what type of women he was attracted to and chided myself for it.  I tried not to look at him unless I had to.  Greg’s mother didn’t seem to notice anything.  She was prattling on about different things.  Then, she said to me, “I heard that the bachelorette party was a huge success.  Lucy couldn’t stop raving about it.”  Lucy was Greg’s younger sister and one of the bridesmaids.

I was pleased to hear that.  It was hard trying to figure out what to do for the party.  As a Christian, I wasn’t into hiring a male exotic dancer or going to a male strip club.  Then, I went on Google for clean bachelorette party ideas.  I came up with a few which turned out to be a hit with the ladies.  It was worth the stress that came with planning the event to see them, especially, the bride-to-be enjoying themselves.  “Yes, it was and I’m happy to hear that Lucy had a great time.”

We talked about other things.  Luke didn’t say much.  The food was delicious although I felt self-conscious because I could feel him staring at me.  When we were finished, I followed them out of the restaurant and as we stood outside, I thanked Greg’s mother for inviting me to lunch and we hugged.  I turned to Luke and held out my hand.  “It was nice meeting you,” I said.

He took my hand and his eyes met mine in a steady gaze as he replied, “Likewise.  I’m looking forward to seeing you again.”

Again I felt that curious sensation and I withdrew my hand.  I bade them farewell and walked briskly away.  The next time I saw them would be on the day of the wedding.

Finally, the big day arrived and everything went very smoothly as far as venues go.  It was going to be bittersweet watching Greg and Jill get married.  When I walked down the aisle, my eyes went immediately to the bridegroom.  He smiled at me and then, his eyes shifted to the rest of the procession.  Luke was staring at me, though.  He looked very handsome in his wedding suit.  I tried to ignore my reaction to him as I stood there.

It was painful hearing Greg and Jill read their own vows.  The words were beautiful and there was no question that they were crazy about each other.  I fought back the tears all the while wishing that I was somewhere else.  When the ceremony was over, I was relieved although I managed to hide it well.  Soon we were at the banquet hall where the reception was to be held.  Then, it was time for the speeches and I was very nervous.

When it was my turn, I said a quick prayer before I stood up.  I had written a little speech on a cue card but I decided to speak from the heart.  I could tell that it went well because I could see Jill dabbing her eyes and smiling at the same time.  As I sat down, she blew me kisses.  While Luke gave his speech, I watched him, thinking how relaxed he looked and what an eloquent speaker he was.  The room was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop except when people erupted in laughter at his jokes.  I couldn’t take my eyes off him which confused me.

After dinner, it was time for dancing.  Luke came over to me and asked me to dance.  I couldn’t refuse.  As the maid of honor it was my duty to have a great time and spend a lot of time on the dance floor. So, to kick things off, it was the tradition for the maid of honor to dance with the best man the song immediately following the first dance.  Heart beating like crazy, I got up and followed him to the dance floor.  As I stepped into his arms, I couldn’t help thinking how good he smelled and what a terrific dancer he was.  His movements were fluid and graceful.  We danced several dances and then returned to the table.  While he went to dance with his mother, I went over to Greg and Jill.  After Jill and I hugged, I kissed Greg on the cheek.  He looked so handsome in his suit and so happy.

When Greg left the table to dance with his sister, Jill said to me, “I saw Luke and you dancing earlier.”

“Yes, it’s customary for the best man and maid of honor to dance with each other.”

“I think Luke likes you.”

My heart skipped a beat at the mention of his name.  “Why do you think so?” I asked, trying to sound indifferent.

“I’ve seen the way he keeps looking at you.  He’s a very handsome man, Keziah.  And he’s single too.”

“I’m not interested in him, Jill.”

“Really?” she exclaimed.  “Why not?”

“He’s not my type.”

“You and I always liked the same type of guy.  If I weren’t crazy about Greg, I would have gone for Luke.”

I found myself thinking the same thing.  If I weren’t in love with Greg too, I could see myself with Luke.  Just then, Greg rejoined us and I excused myself.  I mingled with other guests, make sure that everyone was having a good time.  Then, it was time for the cake cutting ceremony which meant that the party was at the half-point.  Afterwards, it was time for the newlyweds to take photos with their guests.  I was relieved when the party was over.  I was tired and wanted to crawl into my bed and sleep in very, very late.  After saying goodbye to the newlyweds who were off to their honeymoon, I made sure that everything was fine before I left.

Luke offered to give me a ride home and I accepted.  We didn’t say much in the car but when he walked me to my door, he asked, “When can I see you again?”

I shrugged.  “I don’t know.”  I hadn’t planned on seeing him again.  Right now, all I wanted to do was to go to bed.  I didn’t want to think about the wedding or about Greg on his honeymoon.

“Have dinner with me tomorrow night.”

“I can’t.  I have other plans.”  That was true.  I was going to a concert with my sister.

“What about Monday night?”

“I don’t usually go out on a week night because of work.”

“All right, how about Friday night?”

He was very persistent.  “All right,” I said.  I gave him my number.  “Thanks for giving me a ride home.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Good night.”

“Good night, Keziah.”  He reached over and kissed me on the cheek, making me catch my breath.  The area on my skin tingled.  I unlocked my door and went inside.  I waved at him before closing and locking it behind me.

I stripped, changed into my sleepwear and went straight to bed.  I fell asleep immediately.  Not wanting to think about Greg who was probably having great time in Aruba with his new bride, I buried myself in my work.  The days went by very quickly and Friday was here.  I felt nervous about going to dinner with Luke and was tempted to call it off.  I told myself that I would go out with him just this once and flatly turn him down if he were to ask me out again.

He took me to a Spanish restaurant where the atmosphere was warm and friendly and the food one of the best I have ever had.  There was live entertainment.  At first, I didn’t say much but then he began asking me about myself.

“So, does Greg know?” he asked suddenly, startling me.

“Know what?” I asked.

“That you’re in love with him?”

“I’m not in love with him.”

“I think you are.  I saw the way you looked at him at the wedding.”

“I don’t know what you think you saw.”

“I’m going to make you fall out of love with him and fall in love with me.”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” I informed him tightly.

He shrugged.  “All right.  I’ll drop it–for now.”

“Tell me about your job.”

“As you know, I’m a photojournalist.  I work independently with different television networks.  It’s an exciting and risky job.”  He told me about the different assignments he had undertaken and some of the risks.  It sounded very thrilling and I could see why he loved it.  He was ambitious and a wanderlust.  I envied him.  It must be nice to travel to different places and meet different people while capturing stories through photos.  My job as a Graphics Designer sounded so boring in comparison.

We talked about other things.  Then, it was time for him to take me home.  On the ride over, he brought up the subject of us dating each other.  I tried to put him off but he was very persistent.  By the time he walked me to my flat, we had another date.

Luke and I began seeing each other regularly.  I didn’t mention it to Jill right away but when I did finally get around to it, she was thrilled.  “I knew it!” she exclaimed.  “I knew that you weren’t being honest with me when you said that he wasn’t your type.”

LukeThere was no denying that I was attracted to Luke.  He made me feel things Greg never did.  All it took was a look or a touch to make me weak in the knees.  I didn’t want to feel like this about him, not when I was supposed to be in love with his half-brother.  Yet, lately, it wasn’t Greg who occupied my thoughts.  And when I was hanging out with Jill and him, I found myself thinking about Luke and how dangerously close I had come to sleeping with him that night when he took me home after we went to the theatre.

In the foyer of my flat, he pulled me into his arms and kissed me.  At first, I was too stunned to do anything and then, my arms were around his neck and I was kissing him back wildly.  The kiss lasted for a while and then, I pulled away from him.  I told him that I couldn’t invite him in because of what would happen and explained that I wanted to wait until I was married to have sex.  He respected my wishes and after we made plans to see each other the next day, he left.  We made sure that we didn’t spend any time at his place or mine.

It was Sunday evening and we were having dinner at Jill’s and Greg’s place.  We talked and laughed.  After I helped Jill to clean up, we played Charades and other fun games.  At one point I was alone in the living-room while the others were downstairs in the basement watching a movie.  I had come upstairs to use the washroom but before heading back down, I went into the living-room and was looking at the framed photos on top of the mantle-piece.  I took down the one of Greg and Jill and smiled as I looked at it.  It was taken on their wedding day.  They looked so happy.  I put it back and took down the one of Greg alone.  I remember when it was taken.  It was on his thirtieth birthday which was a few years ago.  I was the one who took it.  I remember thinking how lucky Jill was.  Now, I’m simply happy for her.  Greg and she were meant to be together.

I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I didn’t hear when Luke came into the room.  When he came and stood in front of me, I almost dropped the photo.  “You startled me,” I told him as I placed it back on the mantle-piece.

“I called you but you didn’t hear me.  You were too busy staring at that photo.”

“I was looking at the other photos too,” I replied defensively.

“I know how you feel about Greg.  I saw the way you looked at him at the wedding.”

“I think we should join him and Jill.”  I started to move away when he caught my arm.  I stared up in his face, my heart beat accelerating.

“How long are you going to carry a torch for him?” he demanded, his eyes flashing with anger and jealousy.  “How long are you going to love a man who doesn’t love you and reject the man who does?”

I gulped, my eyes wide as they met his.  “You-you love me?”

Yes!  Isn’t it obvious?”

“I–I didn’t know.”

“Well, now you do.”

“Luke–”

He released my arm and moved away.  “I’ll see you around.”

Alarmed, I asked, “Where are you going?”

“What do you care?”

“But, what do I tell Jill and Greg?”

“Tell them whatever you like.”  And he strode out of the living-room.  Minutes later, I heard his car drive away.

I stood there, shaking.  When Jill came into the living-room to find out what was taking us so long, I burst into tears.  I told her everything.  She took me over to the sofa and when we were sitting, she put her arms around me.  “I always knew how you felt about Greg,” she said when my sobs had subsided.  She handed me a bunch of tissues.  “He never suspected.  I knew how hard it was for you to see someone you love marry someone else, even if that someone else is your best friend.  I also knew that in time your feelings for him would change and they have.  It isn’t Greg that’s making you cry like this, it’s Luke.  You’re in love with him, Keziah.”

She was right.  I was in love with Luke.  The realization hit me the moment he stormed out of the living-room and out of my life.  “What am I going to do?” I wailed.  “He thinks that I still love Greg.”

“Well, go and tell him that he’s wrong.”

I stood up.  “All right.  I’ll go over to his place.  Hopefully, he’s there.”

“And if he isn’t, wait.”

“I’ll call a cab and–”

“Oh, no, you don’t.  I’ll take you.”

“Thanks, Jill.”

After she went and told Greg that she was going out for a while, she hustled me out of the house and soon we were heading over to Luke’s place.  She offered to wait with me but I insisted that she go home to her husband.  I promised that I would call her the next day.  As soon as she left, I took the elevators up to Luke’s penthouse.  I rang the bell but there wasn’t any answer.  I rang again and then I heard the latch being drawn back and then I was staring up into Luke’s face.  “What are you doing here?” he demanded.

“I need to speak to you,” I said.  “May I come in?”

He opened the door wider and stepped aside so that I could go inside.  After he closed the door, he turned to face me.  He leaned against it with his arms folded.  “So, what do you want to speak to me about?”

I took a deep breath.  “You’re wrong about my feelings for Greg,” I informed him.

He didn’t answer but from the expression on his face, I could tell that he didn’t believe me.

“I’m not in love with him, Luke.  I’m–I’m in love with you.”

His eyes darkened.  “I want to believe you but, the way you were looking at his photo…”

“I was looking at it and thinking that Jill and he belonged together.  I admit that I was in love with Greg but when I met you and I was instantly attracted to you, I was confused.  I couldn’t understand how I could be in love with Greg and feel the way I did about you.  I tried to put you off when you first asked me to go out with you because I was afraid of getting hurt.”

He reached out and pulled me against him.  “I would never hurt you, Keziah,” he muttered thickly.   “All I wanted and still want is to have a future with you.”

My response was to put my arms around his neck and kiss him.

“If you love two people at the same time, choose the second. Because if you really loved the first one, you wouldn’t have fallen for the second” – Johnny Depp

Sources:  Wedding Wire; Stag and Hen; Bridal Guide; Hitched; AISFM Blog; Good Reads;

Blinded But Not Defeated

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In June 2011, Rumana Monzur’s visit to Bangladesh turned into a nightmare when her husband, the father of her child viciously attacked her.  He robbed her of her sight and disfigured her face because she wanted to pursue a higher education in Canada.   “He has made my world dark.  I can’t see my daughter,” she told Bangladeshi newspaper, The Daily Star.  She couldn’t see her daughter’s face.  He was arrested days after the attack. Doctors were able to reconstruct her face but they couldn’t restore her eyesight.

Her world was plunged in perpetual darkness.  She underwent psychological counseling. Her story captured headlines and the world watched as she courageously recovered from her ordeal.  A month after the attack she moved back to Vancouver with her daughter.   Two years later she finished her Master’s degree and decided to pursue law.

On Wednesday, May 24, 2017, Rumana received her law degree.  As she stood there, trying not to cry as she said goodbye to the University of British Columbia which had been her home and a source of solace and strength to her for seven years, she admitted to crying a lot during the first 18 months.   It was a challenge not being able to read any more and having to be helped around the campus.  But she soon realized that she just had to keep going and what encouraged her was how nice the people on campus were toward her.

As a little girl, Rumana had dreams of becoming a pilot which for her would have been very liberating and free.  However, she chose, instead rising sea levels and environmentalism as her field of study because Bangladesh, more than most places, is at risk from climate change.   Then, her world changed in 2011 when she returned to Dhaka to tell her husband, Syeed Hasan Sumon that she wanted a divorce.  He reacted by trying to rip her eyes out with his hands, biting off the end of her nose and ripping flesh off of her cheeks and one arm.  He told her, “I wanted to kill you with acid, but good for you I couldn’t find any.” He died in custody of an apparent heart attack six months after the vicious assault while awaiting trial for attempted murder.

Why didn’t Rumana leave this abusive marriage earlier?  She explained why in an interview.  “It is hard to have the courage to stand up to social norms, social stigma,” she said. “That mindset that if we talked about it it’s shameful for yourself, it’s not at all like that. I thought like that too, that if I share it with anyone it’s a shame for myself.  I wanted to look like I was happy in my marriage, that made me socially acceptable, that’s what I thought.”  It is truly sad when the abused feels shame when it should be the abuser who should.

Rumana wants the women in abusive relationships to know that they have options. “The power has to come from within. I didn’t have the courage to stand up for myself for a long, long time, and look how I ended up, right? I paid a huge price. I want them to know their lives are precious and they should not accept something which deteriorates their capacity and potential. Life is full of opportunities, they need to know there is always a way out of those abusive and brutal relationships, it’s not their fate.  Not only women — men, children and elderly people, violence is not something worth tolerating, you need to get out of it as soon as possible.”

It is my hope and prayer that women in abusive relationships will leave the first opportunity they get to do so.  No marriage or relationship is worth risking your life for.  As the Bible says, women are created in God’s image and are of great value to Him.  A woman was meant to be a man’s companion, helper, supporter, etc. to be loved and appreciated.  She is not to be trampled on, abused, mistreated, neglected, discarded or devalued.  And success is not supposed to be gender bias.  Success comes from the Lord and it is for everyone.  It takes a special kind of man who wouldn’t feel threatened by his wife’s success and aspirations but will offer her his complete support.

What kept Rumana going after she was blinded and brutalized? “What I told myself is, ‘You have three options now,’ ” she said with a smile. “I told myself, ‘You just fell in the garbage, what can you do now?’ Either I can stay there, or I can try to stand up slowly, or I can stand up as quickly as possible and start to move forward.  As you can see, the last option was the most acceptable and so I chose that. I didn’t want to stay in that garbage. I didn’t want to lose hope.”

Kudos to Rumana for her courage and her determination not to remain down but to stand up quickly and move forward.  She wrote the exam for law when everyone thought she was crazy for doing that and today, she’s a lawyer with the federal Justice Department.  You have to admire the tenacity of this phenomenal woman.

Sources:  The Daily Star; Vancouver Sun;

Blind Justice

It’s every man’s business to see justice done – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

amina-lawal-75988c2c-18a9-40e6-8760-03de9da929c-resize-750There are organizations like Equality Now, Women For Women International and V-Day, which are dedicated to protecting the rights of women all over the world.   But long before these much needed organizations existed, there was already a human rights activist who walked the streets of Jerusalem, Galilee, Samaria, healing the broken-hearted, setting at liberty those who are bruised and delivering them from terrible circumstances.   He stood for equality of women and for people from all walks of life.  His name was Jesus Christ.

Over two thousand years ago, early in the morning as Jesus taught at the temple, the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had committed adultery to Him.  One can picture a crowd gathered around Him and then this poor woman was thrust in the middle so that all eyes were on her.  Shame and humiliation came over her and she held her head down unable to look her accusers in the face.  She probably wished the ground would open up and swallow her.

The men said to Jesus, self-righteousness oozing off of them.  “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.  Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”  Alone and with no one to defend, the woman must have resigned herself to the fate she felt sure awaited her.   So for a while as she stood there terrified, the scribes and Pharisees kept badgering Jesus because He did not answer them right away.

Finally, He stepped in as the woman’s defense attorney and in a brilliant line of attack, He said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”  That stumped the men.  They hadn’t expected Him to come to the woman’s defense.  They had expected Him to agree that the Law of Moses should be adhered to.  This was the same man who had said that He came not to change one point of the Law and yet here He was defending a woman who had broken one of God’s commandments.  Yet, they could not say anything in their own defence. Their conscience testified against them and they had no choice but to drop the matter.

History repeats itself.  On March 22, 2002, Amina Lawal, a thirty-year-old Muslim woman was sentenced to death by stoning after confessing to having a child while divorced.  Pregnancy outside of marriage was sufficient evidence for a woman to be convicted of adultery according to the Shariah penal code for Muslims.  The man whom she named as the baby girl’s father denied having relations with her and his confession was enough to clear him of any charges.  So, although it takes two to commit adultery, only the woman was found guilty.

Amina’s accusers had to drop the charges against her because the conviction was invalid.  She had already been pregnant by the time the harsh Islamic Shariah law was implemented in her home province.  Her lawyer was quoted as saying, “The law of justice has prevailed over the law of man.”  Amina was free to go and live her life.

After her accusers had left, Jesus asked the woman, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours?  Has no one condemned you?”

She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:7-11).

That day the law of God’s justice prevailed over the law of man.  God’s justice is different from man’s justice.  In both cases the men were not charged.  They were not brought to court to face charges like Amina and the woman.  Both women had to face their accusers alone.  They were both stripped of their rights and their dignity.

In both cases the men were misapplying the law to suit themselves.  Stoning to death has been used to define the Shariah law but according to Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc., “the punishment prescribed by the Shariah of the Quran is ONE HUNDRED LASHES each to the adulterer and the adulteress, in public.”  The Law of Moses specifically stated, “the man that committeth adultery with [another] man’s wife, [even he] that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”

In both cases, the law, which was implemented for everyone, was only applied to the two women.  Under the two laws, the man and the woman were supposed to receive the same punishment.  Justice is supposed to be fair not blind.

In both cases justice prevailed and both women were given back their freedom.  In both cases God pointed out the corruption of the system.  The guilty was perverting the law to destroy their victims.  The words of King David ring true. “Justice and judgment [are] the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face” (Psalm 89:14.  God had passed judgment on the accusers and had shown mercy toward the women.

The reaction of the scribes and Pharisees to Jesus’ words about casting the first stone proves that “the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12, 13).  The love, mercy and forgiveness Jesus showed to the woman brought to light how hateful, unmerciful, condemning and dishonest they were.  The stones, which they had picked up to throw at the woman, were thrown back at them in the words of Jesus because He had pointed out to them that they were sinners too.  In dropping the stones they were dropping their self-righteous act and uncovering themselves, proving that nothing can be hidden from God.

After the woman and her accusers were gone, Jesus said of Himself, “I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Jesus gave light to the woman who had been living a life that brought her nothing but heartache and shame.  Now Jesus had lifted the darkness of self-recrimination from her and let her see that she could turn her life around.  He showed her that he loved her and that He wanted the best for her.  He showed her that she was not beyond redemption.  He showed her that she was not worse off than the self-righteous men who were hurling accusations at her.  He was showing her that in His eyes we are all equal.  And He was showing the people what true justice is.  One person cannot be tried while the other gets off scot-free.  And everyone is entitled to a fair trial.  This woman was not.  So, Jesus the Light of the world brought to the forefront the duplicity and injustice of society.

He was the Light that shone in the darkness of men’s souls.  The scribes and Pharisees, try, as they did, could not shield their desperately wicked hearts from the true Light.  In what He did, Jesus was setting an example to others. No one was above reproach and instead of publicly humiliating someone, take him or her aside and talk.  When He was alone with the woman, He told her to stop sinning.  In effect, He was saying to her, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).  He was telling her that though she was living a sinful life she could do something to change that.  She was in charge of her own destiny not, the men who wanted to stone her to death.

Salvation is of the Lord.  That day, Jesus saved the woman’s life.  He prevented her from being stoned to death.  He had spared her life like He spared Amina’s.  With a death sentence hanging over her head, Amina had placed her faith in God, believing that He would protect her.  “Nothing happens without God’s knowledge or God’s permission,” Lawal told reporters in her lawyer’s Abuja garden (World News – November 2003 issue of The News International.

It was not a coincidence that the woman was brought to Jesus.  Jesus knew that this would happen.  He knows what we need before we need it.  He knows what we will do before we do it.  He knows what we think and how we feel.  He knew that those men would bring the woman to Him.  And they could not have stoned the woman without His permission.  Jesus was always one step ahead of them.  He perceived their thoughts even before they voiced them.   Nothing happens without God’s knowledge.  And like Amina and the adulteress, we can all declare, “and marvelous [are] thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true [are] thy ways, thou King of saints” (Revelation 15:3).  Praise the Lord, for justice and mercy come from Him.

Source:  Birthday Wishes;