Winifred woke to hear Michael declaring God’s blessings over her and her “new year”. As she said “Amen” to each proclamation, she silently thanked God for being alive to witness another birthday and more importantly Michael’s transformation. After the prayers, Michael gave her a kiss and wished her a happy birthday; she gave him a bear hug in return, smiling as she said thanks. She was in high spirit as she prepared for work. On entering her car, she noticed a big birthday cake and a large gift bag on the passenger seat. She was surprised that she could not hold back her tears. It was amazing that Michael could arrange such a surprise despite returning home early from work the previous day and spending the whole evening with the children. She thanked God for her blessings; her mother would always say “if blessings were shared, none would be given to her”.
Winifred backed out of the drive way as she hurried to beat the already mounting traffic on her route to work. The day had started off on a beautiful note; it was definitely going to be a lovely one! “I wish my days were always like this”, she mused to herself. She was eager to open her gifts, but for the usual morning traffic she would have un-wrapped it before driving off. Her eyes kept straying from the road to the gift bag, the wrapping looked good, and she could only second guess what gifts Michael had gotten for her.
With the car properly parked, Winifred took time to admire the lovely wrapping of each gift after which she gently un-wrapped them. “Oh my!” she said in surprise with her eyes wide and jaws dropping. She was taken aback by the choice of gifts Michael had gotten for her – a bath set, lingerie and a GUESS wrist watch with glistering stones on the face. All the gifts were simply breathtaking and as she made to drop the gift bag, she saw the birthday card lying at the bottom of the bag. She held her breathe as she read the wishes on the card, the wordings were so real and each line brought a memory to heart. She kept reading those lines again and again and by the fourth time she had tears in her eyes.
“I Love You Because You Are My Rock,
My Heart, My Safe Place To Land.
I Love You, Because You Are
Just So Amazingly Lovable
I love you because you are a beautiful and
I love you because
Had my back, Understanding,
Supporting, And believing in me
Like no one else ever has”
Happy Birthday my Love
The choice of words evoked so much memory that she could barely hold back the tears. She became….”truly a safe place to land”, when a ship load of Michael’s goods was confiscated by the Nigeria Custom services. “Oh!” the emotional, physical and psychological trauma they experienced, the support, the prayers and finances she provided… She further remembered the day she picked Michael’s call and heard his girlfriend rant about the lunch date he missed and….. Yeah “extraordinary woman” is the word to describe her…the pains of betrayal she passed through that period was better imagined. Her thoughts strayed to the different excuses she told the kids why daddy had to work late, even when she knew he was spending time with Tessy, his secretary. “…had my back..” truly she had his back. Oh the number of times she had played the fatherly role because Michael was busy with “other things”. In spite of all these and many more she still stood by Michael…….”like no one else ever had”
Winifred simply believed in the marriage institution. Seven years ago when she stood at the altar to exchanged marital vows with Michael, she made a promise to God that she will never break her vows to God and Michael. Truly the years and all of life experiences had tested those words and promises….. Only the fear of God has kept her. Sometimes, when she reached her wits end with Michael’s many “fall outs”, her mum’s words of wisdom still resounded in her head – “a woman’s place is beside her husband and her main responsibility is keeping her home”. What more can a woman do to keep her home and man? This, she had tried so often to answer. And despite the agony her marriage sometime offered, Winifred always has a smile for everyone, a listening ear and a `warm embrace for any hurting soul, no one could imagine the hurt she sometimes experienced in her marriage. She was simply a “selfless” person!
Her most embarrassing moments had been those times she had to ask Michael to fulfill is marital obligations to her. His repeated excuses has caused her to doubt her looks and even questioned her self-esteem. She often caught herself staring at her image in the mirror, desperate to know what had changed in the last seven years…. So many nights after the children have been tucked in; she soaked her pillows with tears. How can a man share a room with a beautiful woman he does not touch? She smiled as she remembered the countless times she cried out in prayers to God. She had chosen to carry her broken heart to God and wait for His time. Those days and experience were now in the past. Winifred sighed out as she uttered “thank you Lord for answering my prayers and turning my tears to joy!”
She was so engrossed in her thoughts that she did not hear Bassey, the security personnel attached to the car park tapped at her window. Bassey whom she usually stop to chat with noticed that she was parked for long and had made no attempt to get out of the car. He came to enquire if all was okay, the repeated tapping brought her out of her reverie; she quickly wiped the tears and told him that she was okay. Bassey walked away with a concerned look on his face. She quickly cautioned herself, “today is a day of joy and I am happy”.
In the weeks preceding her birthday, Michael behaved differently. He came home earlier than usual, spent time with her and the kids and surprisingly started praying with her in the mornings and night. And as such, today’s morning blessingS upon her wasn’t a surprise.
As she stepped out of her car, she smiled and spoke to herself “why can’t every day be like today”. She felt so special and loved. She flashed Bassey a charming smile and headed for her office where she was welcomed with screams of “happy birthday Winnie” from her colleagues. Her joy and laughter new no bounds! Truly “after the night comes dawn”.
It is true that life often takes us through uneasy paths, lonely archways and bitter experiences. If the pains we experience sometimes veer into our marriages or the relationships we hold dear, let us not be swallowed up by it. That rough patch will someday become a past. Just keep faith, pray and believe God, light will break forth at the end of the dark tunnel.
Keep on holding on!
“…in quietness and confidence is your strength…” (Isaiah 30 v 15 ).