Friday, 31 January 2014

My first love

We were 12 and in our first year of high school. I wouldn't say that it was love at first sight- it took me a good few months to fall for him. We were in most of the same classes and Shaun was a bit of a class clown. He had curly hair and glasses and was one of the popular kids. I wasn't. He started teasing me, and my friend Ruby said that he must fancy me, but I told her she was mad. Boys like him didn't fancy girls like me. Not that I was ugly or a social outcast or anything - I was just a bit quieter and a bit less obsessed with my looks than most of the girls in my class. Melissa, one of the popular girls, took a shine to Shaun and starting flirting with him whenever she got the chance. I remember being a bit gutted, 'cos it meant that I didn't have a look-in. She died her hair blonde one day- that was strictly against the rules- and our teacher Mrs DePlessis gave her double detention. Melissa didn't care. She only cared that it got the boys' attention.

When Shaun invited me to his birthday party I was genuinely surprised. I almost said no as watching Melissa flirting with him would have been too much, but I agreed to go along if Ruby could come too, which he said she could. It was a pool party at his house and Melissa wore a tiny pink bikini. I just wore my black school swimming costume like I always did. It hadn't crossed my mind to get a new outfit for the occasion.

It was a hot sunny day, and all the boys were showing off, dive-bombing into the pool and splashing the girls who screamed obligingly. Ruby and I sat in the shade and drank lemonade. I did swim for a bit, but it was chaotic. I didn't want to be jumped on. I guess we were all still kids then, but we really did feel like grown-ups. We took ourselves so seriously. Shane's mum, who said "Call me Jenny," walked around, getting drinks for everyone and making sure no-one got hurt. I thought she was brave to have so many of us round her house. We left the place a mess.

After a while, I headed inside to offer to help Jenny with the dishes. There were so many. She seemed grateful, and handed me a tea-towel to dry up with.

"What are your favourite subjects at school?" she asked me as she washed up a load of cups.

"English and art." I replied.

"Oh, I love art! I still have one of my old paintings that I did in high school. Would you like to have a look later?"

"Yes please." I replied.

We got on so well. I suppose I was a bit of a geek, staying inside talking to an adult when I should be outside having fun with my peers. But that's just the way I am. After a while, Ruby came in too and we both admired Jenny's painting, which was a self-portrait, and very good. She was very pretty, with long auburn locks.

After lunch, Ruby and I were sitting outside chatting when Shaun came over.

"Are you enjoying the party?" He asked.

"Yeah." I said.

"That's good. How come you aren't in the pool?" He sat down next to me.

"Oh, it's a bit too full. I don't want someone dive-bombing on top of me." I smiled.

"That makes sense. You should come round sometime when it's a bit quieter." He answered.

"Really? Thank you. Yes that would be nice." I got flustered.

I noticed Ruby grinning at me and felt myself blushing. I wasn't used to this type of attention from a boy.

He stayed and chatted for a while with us, before joining the boys again for a game of lilo-races.

"I told you he fancied you!" Laughed Ruby.

"No, I think he's just being polite." I replied.

"Rubbish. Guys don't ask girls round to their place just to be polite. What planet are you from? Oh my gosh, there's Melissa. She looks annoyed."

I looked up to see Melissa staring at me, and not in a friendly way. She'd obviously seen Shaun talking with me. She sniffed loudly and walked away when she noticed that I'd seen her.

When my Dad came to pick me up after the party, Shaun again asked if I'd come round soon, and maybe stay for dinner?

I said that would be nice.

"See you on Monday, thanks for coming." He beamed.

"Sure, thanks for inviting me."

I quickly left, before I said anything stupid.


I went to his house for dinner the following Saturday night. His Mom was really nice again, telling Shaun how I also liked art. I got on ok with his Dad too, who didn't talk much. After dinner, Shaun showed me his new keyboard - he was having lessons. He played a Beatles song on it - 'I wanna hold your hand'. He wasn't bad.

Then he said "I really like you."

"Oh, um, I like you too," I replied, taken aback.

"I was thinking... would you like to go out with me?"

"Ok." I answered, feeling myself blushing again.

"Cool. Do you want to go to the cinema with me next weekend?"


I looked away and pretended to find a picture on the wall really interesting. I really didn't know how I was meant to act. I'd never had a boyfriend before.

His Mom seemed pleased when Shaun announced that I was his girlfriend. I think it was a couple of months later when she first suggested that she take us to the local art gallery. Shaun didn't want his Mom hanging around, but I said I didn't mind. She was driving us there and back anyway, so it'd seem rude to make her sit and wait for us in the car.

I had been to the art gallery a couple of times before, but Jenny really made the art come alive. She seemed to know an interesting fact about every painter. She also knew who the local artists were; she was friends with a couple of them. I was chuffed when she said she'd introduce me to one of them one day. I hadn't met a real artist before.


That was 30 years ago. I can't believe that the time has gone by so fast. I still feel like a 12 year old on the inside. We still regularly attend art galleries together. And the theatre. We recently started going to an art class at the local college too. We might even be in a local exhibition at the end if we're good enough. I'm enjoying painting and sculpting and drawing again - just like in high school. The difference is that I usually drive now. Jenny's retired but we still have lots in common.

And Shane? Oh no, we broke up years ago. We were 14 when I found out that he was cheating on me. With Melissa. She just couldn't help herself.

They only went out for a few months when he caught her cheating on him with a boy from the year above. Quite funny really - they deserved each other.

And that's the story of my first love. It didn't turn out like expected, but then it rarely does.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Sarah's story

"Sarai, I have something to tell you."

Abram and Sarai were eating lunch together. Sarai popped a piece of bread in her mouth and looked at her husband.

"God has told me that I am going to have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky." Abram announced.

Sarai choked on her piece of bread.

"I'm sorry, I don't think I heard you right. God said that you are going to have lots of children?" Asked Sarai incredulously.

"Yes. And grandchildren and great-grandchildren." Smiled Abram.

"How exactly is God going to give you all of these children and grandchildren? He does realise that you are old and I am post-menopausal, doesn't he?"

Sarai believed in God but this was ridiculous. And if He really wanted them to have children, why would he make them wait until they were very old? Why not bless them when they were healthy 20- or 30- somethings? Even if they did have a child now, who would look after it when they died of old age? It didn't make any sense.

"Abram," she said, "that's great that you have so much faith in God. But can't you see that it's just an impossible dream for us now? Maybe if we'd have been younger. You know how we longed for children for so many years. But we decided that God had other plans for us, other ways to bless us. Why bring this up now?"

Abram finished his drink slowly.

"I haven't brought it up, God has. He has made me a promise. And I believe Him. He's God - he can do anything! Now, I need to get back to work. One of the shepherds has been causing problems again and I need to have a word. See you later."

Abram kissed his wife on the forehead and ambled out of the house. Sarai noticed that he was walking slowly these days, not with the energy that he had as a young man. And his once-lustrous hair was now grey and thin. She stood up to clear the table. How dare God make her husband a promise that he didn't intend to keep? She did love God, but this had really upset her. It would just get Abram's hopes up.


Sarai woke up one morning with the idea. If God was to bless them with many descendants, but she could no longer bear a child, what He'd probably meant was that Abram was to impregnate a much younger woman. That made a lot of sense. She had watched how Abram now walked with a spring in his step, often thanking God for his promise and talking about what it'd be like to have a baby in the house. She didn't think her husband noticed how much this saddened her. But, if their Egyptian slave Hagar was to bear Abram a child, then God's promise would be kept! Abram would be such a proud father, and she, Sarai, could raise it as if it were her own. Well, besides the nursing, she couldn't do that. And she was a bit too old to be woken in the night - she needed her rest. Perhaps Hagar could look after the child herself.

Hagar would do as she was told. But she had to think of a way to convince her husband that this was a good idea.

That night, Sarai prepared a feast for her husband. It contained all his favourite food - freshly made bread, lamb, and delicious vegetables. She made sure that Hagar was well dressed as she served them that night.

"Thank you." Said Abram. "That was delicious. What's the special occasion? Have I forgotten our anniversary again?"

"No Abram. Hagar and I prepared it together. I just wanted to show how much I love you. I have a suggestion. I would like you to listen to it carefully before responding. You and I both love God, and would love to see his promise come true about our having a child."

"Yes, I can't wait!" Responded Abram happily.

"Well, don't you think that what God actually meant was that you would have a child, and I would simply raise it as my own? I mean, it's obvious that I am far too old to conceive and safely carry a baby now! My suggestion is that you sleep with Hagar. That way you can have all the descendants that God promised you."

"What? No! I am sure that God meant for us both to become parents." Replied Abram.

"But how? How can you be sure that this is what God meant? Can't you see that I am too old? This way makes a lot more sense, I'm sure you will agree."

Sarai placed her hand gently over her husband's.

"It wouldn't be infidelity, you know. Just fulfilling God's plan."

Abram continued to disagree with his wife, but eventually she wore him down with her arguments.

So Abram and Hagar slept together, and soon she conceived a child.

When Hagar realised that she was pregnant, she was filled with guilt. She had known that it was wrong to sleep with another woman's husband. What now? Would Sarai be filled with jealousy and order her baby to be killed? And Abram, would he really see their child as his own?

She began to hate her mistress for putting her in this awful position. Every time she served Abram food or asked if he needed anything, Sarah would stare at her. As her belly grew, she found it more difficult to perform household tasks.

"This is Sarai's fault." She thought to herself after another sleepless night of leg cramps and rushing to the toilet.

Sarai noticed that Hagar was unhappy and treated her differently. One day, the pregnant slave snapped when Sarai asked her to lift something.

"Do it yourself!" She cried. "Can't you see I am heavy with child?"


That night in bed, Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”

Abram replied that Hagar was Sarai's slave, and she could do what she liked with her. Sarai mistreated Hagar and soon the slave ran away.

An angel found Hagar in the desert and asked why she was there.

"I have run away from my mistress because she hates me." Replied Hagar.

"Return to her and look after her. God promises that you will be blessed with many descendants. You are going to have a son. Call him Ishmael, which means 'God hears'. He will have many enemies, even his brothers will be hostile towards him."

So Hagar returned to Sarai.

When Abram and Hagar's son was born, they named him Ishmael. Abram was 86 years old.

Thirteen years later, God appeared to Abram.

“This is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.  No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.”

God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision, and also renamed Sarai Sarah.

 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”

And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

God said, "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year."

That day, every man in Abraham's household, including Ishmael, was circumcised.

Later, three men visited Abraham and told him that this time next year, Sarah would have a son. Sarah was eavesdropping on their conversation, and couldn't help but laugh. She just couldn't believe it.

Soon Sarah started being sick every morning and whenever she was hungry. One of the young ladies she was talking to, said

"That's weird. I only ever get sick like that when I'm pregnant. I knew she was on her way when I started feeling nauseous all the time, and couldn't keep down my breakfast."

 She smiled and kissed the top of her baby daughter's head.

Sarah stopped what she was doing. Could it be true? Could she finally be pregnant? It couldn't be possible, surely. She tried to shrug it off. But when she felt a sharp kick against her belly one morning, she knew that God had kept his promise. She was going to have a baby!

Sarah rushed to find Abraham and tell him the good news.

Soon she gave birth to a son who they called Isaac.

Sarah could not believe that finally, after so many years of barrenness, God had blessed her with a child of her own. He had kept his promise! She couldn't understand why He had made them wait for such a long time, but at last, their beautiful son was here.

Sarah cradled her newborn in her arms.

She said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” She added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

Abraham watched his wife and son together and thanked God for his faithfulness. He had never felt more proud.

Monday, 6 January 2014


God had promised to Abraham (at the time known as Abram) that one day his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.  

He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.(Genesis 15:5-6)

But Abram's wife Sarai had not heard from God. She had to take her husband's word for it that the unseen creator would perform a miracle and bless them with a child in their old age.

Why should Sarai believe this crazy promise that her husband told her about? Would you? I must admit that if I were in her position then I wouldn't be in a hurry to decorate the nursery either. 

Sarai tried to trust God, but it was just too hard. Instead of waiting for a miracle she decided to help God along. Instead of being patient she decided to speed things up in her own way. It's understandable in a way. She really wanted God's amazing vow to be fulfilled but she just couldn't see how it possibly could be.

 Sarai intervened by convincing Abram to sleep with a servant girl to get her pregnant. 

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.” (Genesis 16:1-5)

Sometimes it's hard for us to trust God, especially if we have been given prophetic words that seem unlikely or are taking too long to be fulfilled. Manipulating people or situations can often seem like an easy answer, but can have unhappy consequences.

Sarai bitterly regretted her decision to let her husband sleep with Hagar. I'm sure that every time she saw their son Ishmael, she was reminded of her mistake. It would have been hard not to feel bitter, and ask God angrily why she still hadn't conceived.

God sent three messengers to remind Abraham (God had changed his name) of his promise. Sarai's name was also changed to Sarah.

Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

(Genesis 18:10-13)

God had not given up on his promise, despite Abraham and Sarah's sin. At the right time (according to the Lord, not people) Sarah finally conceived their longed-for son.

Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

(Genesis 21:1-6)

I can only imagine how ecstatic Abraham and Sarah were! God had not forgotten them after all.

I can't really blame Sarah for what she did. Sometimes having faith is really hard. But it would've been so much easier for her if she had trusted God and waited for his perfect timing.