Thursday, September 19, 2013


         Laughing with pure glee I drove towards home. Working long 12-hour days, six days a week for the past six months had completely exhausted me. I’d worked hard and without complaint and that had given me good standing in my boss’ eyes. Today I’d been informed that I was to be given a raise and had been cut down to four days a week; I would now be working forty-hour weeks and have three-day weekends. Woo hoo!! I was feeling so blessed and I couldn't wait to get home. It had been so long since I’d had any energy and all I’d been able to do on arriving home was to eat and crash. I hadn't spent much time with my husband and I missed him so much! I stared out the window as I drove past Latham’s Fresh Produce and my mouth started watering. Oh man, as soon as I got home I was going to cook up a storm and stock the freezer so Scott could have meals whenever he wanted them; today my husband would get the home cooked meal he deserved! I made a sharp turn and waved to Sheriff Dodd as I made a U-turn; all he did was shake his head and keep going.
          Selecting Scott’s favorite fruits and vegetables was a labor of love and I spent 20 minutes squeezing fruit and vegetables and then carefully choosing only the juiciest. Molly Gutierrez was checking out and told me they had a sale on steak, chicken and arracheras at Bebo’s Meat Market and handed me a bunch of coupons and I was off to buy some more of my husband’s favorites.
          I ran in with my honey do list and right back out and made a pit stop at Mark’s Gas and Grub and grabbed some candles on the way out. I’d been so looking forward to our anniversary and I was going to make it a special one and then surprise him with the raise.
Sometimes I still couldn’t believe my amazing luck at having been blessed with my wonderful husband. First and most importantly, Scott was a Christian and he was always so supportive of me. He was a very talented architect, but eight months ago because of downsizing he’d lost his job at Booth, Dardman, Saxon and Associates. He’d tried for two months to find another job and then when it seemed that we might lose our house he’d agreed to let me go back to work for my old boss and he’d found a part-time at Jake’s Mechanics downtown. I hated that I hadn’t seen much of him lately because of the mandatory overtime, but those long days had definitely been worth it.

I arrived home and quietly parked the car. Scott’s car was already in the drive. Maybe he’d come home early from the shop to plan something special. I opened the side door, brought all the groceries in and started putting everything away; in my head I was already planning all the meals I’d be cooking for him and what we would do on our days off. I knew he’d be so happy!
Furball jumped up on the counter and knocked down the empty metal fruit bowl and from upstairs I heard giggling and then a gasp.
“What was that?” a female voice asked.
“Our cat probably jumped up on the counter again. Don’t worry, my wife won’t be home for hours yet,” Scott responded bitterly.
The giggling and other sounds started up again, but I knew it had to be my imagination, so I slowly made my way up the stairs and swung open the door to my bedroom. I felt all the blood draining from my face.
“Scott?” I whispered.
“Oh God!! Honey wait!!”
As if from a distance I could hear Scott shouting my name. My face went numb and I felt like there were hundreds of ants crawling over me, biting as they went. There was a loud roaring in my head and I needed fresh air.
“Fruit…vegetab…meat…I-I need anniversary...” I knew what I was saying didn’t make sense, but I couldn’t make the right words come out and it felt like my lungs were struggling to take in air.
I turned and walked woodenly down the stairs. I think I picked up my purse along with the keys, but I wasn’t sure. I got in the car and backed out of the driveway knocking down the trashcans, “Oh I forgot to take the trash out this morning,” I said dazedly.
Not quite sure what I was supposed to do I drove to Burlington, three hours from our town. I needed my mother.
I don’t know how I arrived there in one piece, but I did. I parked the car in the driveway and made my way inside. My heart was still beating like crazy in my chest and now my head was pounding as well, but I still hadn’t cried. I knew I’d feel better if I talked to mom.
Passing my father and brother in the living room, I made my way into the kitchen. Mom turned from the stove and started towards me.
“Mom, I caught Scott w-”, I didn’t get a chance to finish. She put her hand back and slapped me full across the face knocking me to the floor. I got up with my hand on my cheek, I didn’t understand what was going on and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling in the room. “Mom?” I was so dizzy and everything was slowly turning white around me.
“Scott has been calling like a mad man. He’s so worried about you. How can you be so selfish!?!” she screamed at me. “I thought I’d brought you up better than this. I’m so ashamed that you let something like this upset you. Men do that; it’s in their nature, so get used to it! Now wash your face and go home!!”
The buzzing started again, but louder this time. I felt like I was in a Peanut’s animation. All I could hear was, “Waa, waa, waa, waa, waa.” I shook my head slowly from side to side, cocked my head to the side as if that would help clear the roaring inside. As if from a distance, I watched as my father rushed in the kitchen along with my younger brother. They were talking to me, but all I could see were their mouths moving and there was no sound coming out. My mother was obviously explaining the situation to them and when my brother turned to me my first instinct was to put my arms up and cower. He touched my face gently, his face and eyes filling with rage as he turned on my mother. My father must have realized what had happened because he turned on her as well. I took that opportunity to walk out.


I drove around for a while; I don’t even know where I went. Then all of a sudden I thought, “If Scott can do it, why can’t I?” I drove until I came to a bar and took a few twenties from my wallet and walked in. I don’t exactly know what I planned to do, but by then I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly. All I could hear was my mom saying, “Men do that; it’s in their nature. So get used to it!”
What did that mean? Had Scott done this before? Was this something I had to learn to live with, to accept? I walked in that bar and handed my keys to the key guardian at the door. I didn’t drink and had no idea what to order, so I asked the bar keeper for advice.
“Sweetie, whiskey’s the way to go for what ails you. Here it’s on the house and don’t leave with any of these scum buckets, ya hear me?” she asked cracking her chewing gum. I nodded, I was still so much in a daze and wasn’t sure if this was real or a dream.
A few guys came up and asked me to dance and in sheer defiance I agreed. I danced for a couple of hours and then I realized that what I was doing wasn’t making me feel any better. I felt so dirty like I’d been standing in garbage all day; the cigarette smell and the liquor that everyone was drinking seem to seep slowly into my pores.
I walked up to the bar and handed Lindsey my other set of keys and a slip of paper with my phone number and address on it, “Can you call this number and have them pick up the car please?”
“Sure honey. Are you okay?”
I think I nodded; I’m not sure and walked out. I walked and kept on walking. I didn’t know where I was going or how I was going to get there I just knew I had to walk there. I stepped on something sharp and glancing down realized I didn’t have my shoes on. “I wonder where I left them. Scott just bought the…” A tight ball of misery started up slowly from my stomach and suddenly exploded in my chest.
The tears that wouldn’t come before began pouring down my face and wouldn’t stop. I started screaming, “God, help me please!!! God, where are You!!!? God…please God, I need You!” I was shaking so hard and I knew I had to sit down someplace before I fell over.
Looking around I saw I was on the bridge going back into town. Somehow I’d walked all the way back and hadn’t even realized it. Walking over to the rail I stared into the water and started sobbing again. I carefully climbed over the side railing and just sat. The water looked so inviting; so cool and calm, nothing like I was feeling right now. A dreamlike calm just kind of slid over me and I remembered that I couldn’t swim. All I had to do was to bend over a little bit and I could end this pain.
I stood up, removed my glasses and sniggered just a bit at that (oh vanity, thy name is woman), closed my eyes and leaned forward and found my left arm caught in a tight grip. I grabbed the pole closest to me with my other arm and glared through my tears, “Let go of me. Can’t you see I’m busy!?”
“Yes ma’am I can see you’re busy, but I don’t think you should do what you’re thinking of doing,” the young officer said gently. “Can’t we just talk for a bit?”
“I don’t want to talk,” I whimpered.
“Well how about if I do the talking?” he smiled as he asked.
“O-okay, but don’t touch me anymore.”
“I won’t touch you, if you promise to just sit there and you let me come over on that side to talk to you, okay?” he asked softly.
“All right,” I said with a raspy voice.

“So what’s your name, ma’am?” he asked.
“You said you were going to talk. Why don’t you tell me what your name is?” I demanded hoarsely.
“Sure, no problem! My name is Officer Gabriel Angeles,” he smiled as he held his hands up in the air. “I want to help you, but I can’t if you don’t tell me what happened.”
I don’t know how it happened, since I really didn’t want to talk, but I found myself telling him everything.
“Do you know what I almost did?” I asked in disbelief, tears rolling down my face. “I was willing to let myself get picked up and have sex with a total stranger just to get even with him. What was I thinking?” I began to shake uncontrollably and wrapped my arms around myself.
“Most humans react that way. Someone hurts them the way you’ve been hurt and they want to hit back. The problem is it only makes things worse, not better. You know?” he asked.
“I just don’t understand what’s going on. I feel so lost right now.”
“Well I’m sure that once you’ve spoken to him, talked it all out, maybe gone through couple’s counseling you’ll come to a point where you’ll be able to forgive him.”
I turned my head and stared angrily at him, “What did you say? Forgive him? No! I don’t think so. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that.” The sobbing started again and I had to gulp several times before I could speak. “He slept with her in the house we chose together, in the bed we’ve shared since we got married. H-how am I going to be able to forget that?” I was shaking again and it felt like someone had physically taken my heart and was ripping it painfully in two. “How is it possible to forgive someone who betrays you like that? The only man I’ve ever wanted or been with is my husband, that he could want someone else says, I’m not enough for him,” I said quietly with an occasional shuddering sob. “I’m just not woman enough and it hurts,” I said with finality. My nose was running and I could have cared less what I looked like. I allowed my grief to completely envelope me and rocked to and fro as I wept.

Officer Angeles and I sat on that ledge for what seemed like hours; he talked and I listened in between bouts of crying.
Every once in a while he’d stop talking and just sing a song. He sang Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus his voice soothing me, the words to the song so powerful that it was as if I could feel Jesus’ arms cradling me.
“Jas, do you believe in God?” Officer Angeles asked.
“Yes I do,” I responded with tears in my eyes, then with a startled look, “I never told you my name!”
“Lucky guess. You just look like a Jasmine,” he said smiling.
“How does someone look like a Jasmine?” I asked hoarsely. “I’m done talking. You’re just delaying the inevitable.”
There was silence, then something that sounded like a sniffle. Turning to face him I was startled into asking, “Officer Angeles, why are you crying?”
“Jas, is life so horrible that you don’t want to live anymore?” he asked. “Before you answer that question, let me ask you another. How do you think God feels when a husband or a wife cheats on his or her spouse? Can you imagine the pain He must be going through? Even worse how do you think He feels when someone He loves dearly takes his or her own life?”
“Why is He in pain? I’m the one Scott cheated on. Me!” I screamed.
“Yes, you’re right he did cheat on you and you should be hurting, but are you saying it’s unforgivable? What if he’s truly sorry and wants you to forgive him?”
“I don’t know. I’m hurting so much right now. I’ve never felt like this before.” I gulped. “For our wedding day we wrote our own vows and we promised that we would love each other forever and that God would always be the focus; the cornerstone of our lives. How is it possible for something like this to happen to Christians?”
“Jas, you know that Christians aren’t perfect. They make mistakes in life like everyone else. The only difference is that because they’re Christians they feel conviction and they come before God and bring their sins to Him and if they’re truly repentant He forgives them. Haven’t you ever done anything that you knew was breaking God’s heart?” Officer Angeles asked.
Through my sobs, I answered, “When I was fifteen, I started hanging out with this group of girls that everyone told me were trouble, but I wanted to be cool. We went to the mall and we went into this cute little shop and they told me that if I wanted to keep hanging out with them I’d have to steal something and I did. They patted me on the back afterward and told me I was finally one of them, I was so ashamed.”
“Yes and then finally four days later after much prayer you went back to the shop, took responsibility for the theft and then told those girls you didn't want to hang out with them anymore, didn't you?” he asked.
“I did. I asked God to forgive me and I know He did, but I felt that I needed to take back what I’d stolen and then I had to forgive myself as well,” she responded, then turning her head sharply, “Wait a minute! I didn't tell you about that!”
“No you didn't  but your Father knew all about it and He heard your prayers.”
“I had no idea my dad knew what I’d done, but how do you know?”
“Your dad knows my Boss really well. They talk about everything and my Boss tells me things like this. He was really, really proud of you,” he said.

Starting in almost a whisper he began to sing another song, one I’d heard before, but hadn't really had the time to really listen to.

"Blessings" • Laura Story

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise
13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LordPalms  27:13-14
 “Officer Angeles, can I ask a question,” I asked, “and will you answer it truthfully?”
“You can ask me anything and yes, I will answer you truthfully, I can’t do anything else,” he responded.
“When I found Scott with that woman, I went home to my mother. Scott had already called and admitted to what he’d done, but instead of being angry with him, she said I was selfish and that it was just something I’d have to get used to. Is it true? Is this something I’ll have to live with my entire life if I go back to Scott?” I could feel the tears flowing down my cheeks again. “If I feel like this now, is this something I’ll have to endure every time he does this?”
“Jas, your mother had a very sad childhood and she’s been carrying a lot of baggage with her and she has yet to give all of that up to Jesus. She and your father have been married 36 years and he’s been faithful all this time, because first and most importantly, he loves God and secondly, that makes his love for your mother even stronger. Now let me answer your question. No, this isn’t something you’ll have to get used to if you go back to your husband, but you do have to cry out to God and ask Him to direct your paths. That is the only way, you’ll find your way out of this darkness.”
My body began to shake again uncontrollably and with a hoarse voice I cried out, “God if You’re really hearing me; please, please help me!!”
Officer Angeles tugged on my hand and leaned over to whisper in my ear, “He heard you, Jas. Now I’m going to let go of your hand and get back over on the other side of this ledge. I think your husband wants to talk to you.”
In surprise I looked down and realized that he’d been holding my hand this entire time. I looked up at him and smiled, “Thank you,” I said quietly.
Turning my head I looked straight into Scott’s eyes. He never looked away from my eyes while he quietly thank Officer Angeles, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” he said repeatedly.
Climbing over the side he sat down and looking down at the water, he began to cry, “I’m so sorry baby. I’m so, so sorry. I was feeling worthless as a man for not being able to take care of my wife and I took my eyes off of God. I’m not excusing what I did. There’s no way I can. I broke God’s trust and yours and if you don’t want me back I won’t blame you, but if you give me another chance I promise that I will be the best husband that God ever created. I won’t ever betray you again. So please, please give me another chance,” he began to weep and somehow I found my arms around him.
I didn’t know if forgiveness was possible, but looking at this broken man in my arms I could tell he was truly sorry. I didn’t know what the future held for us, but I was going to give it all to God.


          Celia dusted off the album and sitting down turned and patted the sofa beside her. Turning to the first page she slowly smoothed her hand over the photo that showed a young man in his late twenties with his arms around a younger woman. He was trying valiantly to smile for the camera, but there were tears in his eyes and so much pain; the woman’s face full of disillusionment. Turning another page she pointed out another photo of the same couple to Jacey; this time the smile on the young man’s face was genuine and there was a half smile on the woman’s face. 
“That was taken a few months after they started living together again,” she said. Pointing to the opposite page she smiled, “Here they’d just found out that she was pregnant with their first child and they were so happy.” That same couple was holding on to each other for all they were worth; love and happiness shining out of their eyes.
“Mom, why are you showing me these pictures now. Shouldn’t we be meeting the girls at the bridal shop?” Jacey asked.
“I made the appointment at the bridal shop for 12:30 so we’ll make it in plenty of time and I’m showing you these pictures the way my mom showed them to me the day I decided to marry your father. That first picture your great-grandma forced on them knowing that dad had cheated on mom.”
“You’re…what!? Grandpa cheated on grandma?!” Jacey burst out. Looking out the window she watched as grandpa Scott walked hand in hand with grandma Jas, stopping every once in a while to brush back her snow white hair, kiss her nose or whisper in her ear. She watched as grandma blushed and giggled. “I can’t believe it, looking at them now. Are you showing this to me, because you don’t want me to get married?”
“Honey, I’m not showing you these pictures to dissuade you from getting married, I’m showing them to you because you have to know that marriage takes a lot of work and that sometimes married couples have huge struggles, but if they work hard at it they can overcome anything.”
A gruff voice from the doorway interrupted, “Sweetheart, what your mother is trying to tell you, is that sometimes men, even Christian men make mistakes, but that God and godly women like your grandmother forgive and a so-so marriage, becomes the best marriage because of that forgiveness,” Scott said.
“Baby, Christian women make mistakes too and if they want forgiveness, then they have to learn to forgive. It’s a two-way street!” Grandma Jas said, smiling as she leaned against the living room door. Slowly she walked towards Scott and taking his hand in hers, she kissed it tenderly and with a big heartfelt sigh said, “Sometimes we think that prayer or even screaming out to God never reaches His ears, but I can tell you that it does. He listens, forgives and gives us second chances.”
“How do you know that grandma?” Jacey asked.
Settling comfortably in Scott’s arms, Jas repeated their story, ending with, “We’d gone through therapy and we knew that our marriage would be stronger than ever, because this time we wouldn’t let anything take our focus off of Jesus. We went to the police station together; I wanted Scott to properly meet Officer Gabriel Angeles. He’d only seen him briefly when he’d come upon us at the bridge. This man had spent hours with me; talking, singing, holding my hand and he kept me from killing myself, but when we got to the police station they had no idea who we were talking about. They didn’t have anyone there by that name and even the description I gave them didn’t ring any bells. The car he’d used was one they’d stopped using over a decade ago,” she stopped to take a deep breath. “I remember calling dad and asking him the name of the friend he’d told about me shoplifting. Dad didn’t even know I’d ever shoplifted. Somehow, someway Officer Angeles and his Boss knew something that nobody else ever knew. I believe God sent me an angel that day, because He knew that Scott and I had something else to do for Him and a stronger marriage to make and we have. We counsel couples all the time and because we’ve been where they are now we know how to help them. We’re able to show them that forgiveness, true forgiveness can completely change a marriage and for the better,” she smiled up at Scott, “God gave us a second chance and we took it.”
Scott looked down at his Jasmine and the love in his eyes was blinding, it shone so strongly. He looked over at his granddaughter and with tears in his eyes said, “The biggest problem with what I did is that I forgot my first love. I took my eyes off of Jesus.”
Taking his wife’s hand they started toward the front door, “We’re gonna go smooch over by the lake. You girls have a good time shopping for the dress.” Leaning down he kissed his wife softly on the lips and together in Christ they walked outside.

Matthew West

It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those who don’t deserve
It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word

It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always angers own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying, “Set It Free”
Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Help me now to do the impossible

It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what its power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you
Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me
Forgiveness, Forgiveness