Selma the Singer

Selma was born to a single mother, Elva, and was conceived from a ruthless rape by one of the king’s guards. Because Elva felt so embarrassed and ashamed, she hid herself from her family and friends. Her parents looked and looked for her, but never found her.

Elva finally gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She was scared and alone, no one to help her. She had seen her mother give birth before, so she somewhat knew what she needed to do, but felt very nervous as she took a knife to cut the cord that gave her daughter needed nutrients.

Elva loved her beautiful daughter, but knew she could not take care of a small infant and raise her properly. She wrapped her daughter in an old cloth she previously found, put her in a small woven basket, and in the middle of a dark night she went into the city and put her at the door of someone she knew would be marvelous parents for her little girl. Elva knew that the mother was still nursing a two-year old child, so was hopeful that this mother would be able to feed, nourish, and raise her little girl.

After dropping off the baby, Elva quietly left the city and traveled to another place far away, somewhere where no one would know her and her past life.

Outside the door, the little infant girl began to cry. The crying woke up the 12-year old daughter, Alona. She recognized the cry as that of a brand new baby and arose from her bed mat to search where the crying was coming from. She went to the door and discovered the baby. She picked up the baby, held her close and tried to calm her. The mother, Nadie, heard noise and came out of her bed chamber to see who was crying. She found Alona struggling to comfort the baby, but the baby continued to cry. Nadie lovingly took the baby and tried nursing her. By this time, everyone in the house, except for the two-year old, was awake and came to see the new baby.

The little baby quickly latched on and began to suck; she was so hungry. Nadie sang to the baby as she nursed her. The baby calmed and after feeling satisfied, went to sleep.

Alona asked her mother where the baby came from; Nadie did not know but told her that they would search for her mother in the morning. Everyone went back to bed; the baby stayed with Nadie.

After the sun came up, and the family woke up, the family was excitedly ogling the baby. The five siblings were fighting over who would hold the baby. After all, she was only about 1-2 days old and so cute! Nadie’s husband, Joshua, immediately fell in love with the little girl. He desired to keep her, and had a feeling they would keep her, but knew they needed to locate the mother.

After the morning meal, Joshua and Alona went to family and friends looking for the baby’s mother. They went to the market place and to the city leaders. No one knew of any woman who was pregnant.

Later that day, a young man about 20 years old, arrived at their home and informed Joshua and Nadie about a young girl, a good friend of his, who suddenly disappeared about 7-8 months previous. Her disappearance upset him because he really cared for the girl. He said the girl’s name was Elva. Her parents did not know what happened to her. Joshua and Nadie attempted to talk to the parents, but apparently they left the city about 5 months earlier and no one knew where they went. He told Joshua that if he found Elva, to tell her that he loved her and was concerned about her.

Over the next several weeks, Joshua and Nadie expanded their search to surrounding communities. Still, no word of a missing girl or where her parents could be. Many of their friends and family helped them search, especially those who travelled to other cities.

After about 5 months of searching, Joshua went with what his heart told him all along, that this baby was theirs to raise. They named the little girl Selma.

Selma was quite a precocious little girl. She won over everyone’s hearts that she came in contact with. She almost always smiled, even as a baby, and did not cry often. She loved to sing, and in fact, began singing before she started talking. She charmed others as she communicated by singing. Nadie knew that Selma would become a sensational singer and would be involved in productions that included singing.

Because Selma loved to sing, when she was six years old, Joshua and Nadie hired one of the best voice teachers in their city to give her singing lessons. Piers, the teacher, knew immediately that Selma was highly gifted and felt delighted to help her improve her gift.

Selma loved her voice lessons. She practiced daily; no one had to remind her. Her siblings, at times, would tire of listening to her, but understood her gift. They all had their own gifts and talents that they were also developing.

About a year after taking voice lessons, Piers concluded that Selma was ready to sing in one of the performances held in the city. Selma was ecstatic! She had already sung in the marketplace and enjoyed singing for an audience. Joshua was skeptical at first, but Selma looked at him with her pleading, big brown eyes and all Joshua could do was to laugh and give his permission.

The evening arrived for Selma’s performance. She had diligently practiced the three songs she was to perform and was ready and excited. Piers walked with Selma to the middle of the stage and introduced her to the crowd, then walked to the side of the stage and waited.

Selma began to sing, the crowd hushed, and became mesmerized by her clear, sweet, angelic voice. After she finished her first song, the crowd immediately stood on their feet, clapped, and cheered for her. After a few minutes of cheering, the crowd settled back down and waited for Selma’s next song. Again, after the song, the crowd stood on their feet and cheered for her. Selma sang one more song, disappointing the crowd as they wanted her to sing more songs.

Word quickly spread to nearby cities and communities of the Selma and her beautiful voice. Entertainment produces wanted to her to come to their cities to perform. Joshua and Nadie were very careful of how often Selma performed, especially while she was still a young girl.

(To be continued….)

 

 

Olivia Part 4

Olivia Part 1

Olivia Part 2

Olivia Part 3

In the following days, we continued to receive rain, too much rain. We were unable to plant new seeds because the fields were rain soaked and muddy. We knew that we needed to plant the seeds soon otherwise there would not be enough time to grow another crop before the cold season set in. We (they) prayed to the gods, the false gods, for the rain to cease and the sun to shine to dry out the fields. The rain finally stopped. After a couple of bright sunny days, the fields were dry enough to plant our seeds.

Gideon and the other leaders, knowing that the cold season would quickly arrive, concluded that another sacrifice must be rendered to the gods to appease them and to implore them for good weather so we would have sufficient food for the cold season and next year’s growing season.

My heart froze. Not another young girl to be sacrifice. I pled with Gideon and asked if there was not another way. He stared at me in disbelief and demanded to know if I listened to the prophets again. I informed him that I had not recently listened to the prophets, but felt truth to their message. Gideon’s anger rose to epic proportions. He hit me, again and again, then left me for dead. It was my dear son Shule who found me. He later informed me that after finding me, he prayed to the true God for help, then ran for a healer. The healer took me to his home and used herbs to help revive me and to help my injuries to heal.

Before coming completely back to my senses, I thought I heard the healer praying to the true God. As soon as I opened my eyes, he stopped praying. I begged him to continue to pray for me; his secret was safe with me. He looked at me with disbelief; I whispered that I believed in the true God.

The sacrificed occurred while I was recovering from my injuries. Another beautiful young girl, only 6 years old, was taken to the temple for her heart to be given to the gods. Again, all in our city celebrated. I was so grateful that I was unable to participate in the sacrifice and the celebration. It was almost worth the beating to not have to attend the celebration and the sacrifice with Gideon.

Our recently planted seeds began to grow. The fields were beautiful as the green plants grew, producing food to sustain us. We did not receive much rain, but our crops still flourished as the ground was sufficiently moist from the previous rains.

About one week after the sacrifice, another horrendous storm blew in bringing devasting winds, torrential rain, and then ice, not hail, but ice! No, not ice! It was too early for a frost. Our crops were not ready to harvest. A freeze would kill our crops.

The next morning, as we all gathered to determine the damage, Gideon again, wanted to blame the prophets and those who listened to the prophet for the damage. He angrily sought me out (I was no longer living in his house because of fears for my safety). He blamed me for the ice storm. Several people stood between me and Gideon, protecting me and telling Gideon that I was not to blame and to leave me alone. Gideon went on a rampage, blaming the prophets and their God for all the destruction.

We were all very concerned and fearful about how we would survive the cold season. We did not have much food left in storage and many of our animals were killed in the hailstorm. We knew we needed to carefully ration what food was left. Some people in our city were caught stealing food from others. Surprisingly, Gideon and other ranking people in our city made a declaration that anyone caught stealing food from anyone would be imprisoned and possibly put to death.

Gideon sent people to various cities around us asking if we could purchase food from them; most everyone was in a similar predicament as we were. Some food was brought back along with seeds for the next season.

The cold season was unseasonably cold. We had enough wood to keep us warm, but not enough food to help sustain us. My 11-year old daughter became very sick and passed away. There were not enough healing supplies to help her heal. In fact, many people in our city became sick and died. In a way, it was a slight blessing as there were fewer people to feed; but oh, how we mourned the loss of our people, our family, our friends. I grieved over the loss of my daughter and worried about my three remaining children. They were becoming so thin, weak, and frail. Inwardly, I prayed to the true God for them.

Finally, the temperatures warmed enough to plant seeds. We planted with great hope for a bounteous harvest. People in our city prayed to the gods for rain. I inwardly prayed to the true God for rain. None came. Our plants sprouted but then withered away in the dryness. The natural grasses did not grow well, so more of our animals died. My 10-year old son became sick and died. My heart broke! How could I continue to live. Two weeks later, my 9-year old son fell ill and passed away. Now, it was just Shule and me with so little food. My strong, brave strong Shule, now 7 years old was so frail. I feared for his health. He continued to pray to the true God for rain.

Gideon became violently ill and died. I cannot say that I was too heart-broken over his death as he created so much grief and pain. After his death, I decided it was time to talk to the people about the true God and to encourage praying to him. We had already lost too many of our family and friends. Rain was not coming. Our newly planted crops were withering away. Our animals were dying. If something did not change soon, we would all die.

I started talking to my neighbors. I told them that maybe it was time to pray to the prophets’ God and ask for forgiveness and ask for rain. Some thought I was crazy, but others took to heart what I had testified and decided that they would begin to pray to the true God.

The day came when Shule became sick. My dear, sweet and faithful Shule. I did not want to lose him. He was my anchor. If he died, then I wanted to die. In his weakened state, I knew that he would not last through the night without healing herbs and nourishment. I had nothing left to give him, no one in our city had anything to give him. All I could do was to pray to the true God.

I was tending to Shule when I heard a loud commotion outside. I ran to see what was happening. Down the street from my home, there were several wagons all loaded with food! I could not believe my eyes. How did anyone know that we were starving to death. I rushed to one of the wagon drivers and pled for food and herbs because my son was dying. A woman gathered some food and herbs from her wagon and followed me back to my home.

She quickly examined Shule, said a quiet prayer and gently gave him some herbs with a small amount of food and water. She told me that she would come back in a few hours to give Shule more herbs and food, but we needed to go slowly and give his body time to adjust to the food. She left to go help others.

These people were our angels. Only a true God could know of our critical condition. Our angels stayed with us for just a day, distributing food and herbs and most important, hope. And, my son; he recovered from his illness! I know that if these generous people did not come, I would have lost Shule that night.

Because of the angels who came, many of the survivors in our city began to doubt the gods they had been worshipping and started asking questions about the God that the prophets taught about. We did not know much about Him, but wanted to learn more. How could we do that? I mentioned to them that Shule and that I had been praying to the true God. Someone asked if I would pray to the true God for them. I uttered a simple prayer since that was all I knew how to do. I prayed that the prophets would come back and teach us how to really pray and I prayed for rain. That was my prayer. As I looked around, there were tears in many eyes; something was felt by all who listened to my prayer. It was a feeling of love, joy, peace, and hope.

Rain still did not come. The rivers and creeks were drying up. Soon we would also be without water. The food that the angels brought was about gone. However, because we gathered together daily to pray, we continued to have hope and faith that a change would happen.

A few more of our people became sick and died. We continued to pray, pleading for hope and for rain.

After our food supplies diminished and we tried to hang on to hope, another group of people came to us with several wagons loaded with food and supplies. We cheered them as they came into our city. The prophets came with them. Although we were physically starving, we first surrounded the prophets as we were spiritually starving. We wanted to know more about the true God they talked about. They were gracious in receiving us, but reminded us that we needed physical nourishment before spiritual nourishment. They distributed the food and supplies to us, those most desperate receiving what they needed first.

We celebrated the arrival of food and the prophets with a humble feast. I had been a part of many celebrations before, but this was unlike any celebration. We celebrated the gift of life as so many of our friends and loved ones passed away during our drought. Feelings of love and peace permeated everyone who attended.

One of the prophets, Noah, stood before us and began to teach us about Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation. Almost everyone there listened with strong intent. Unfortunately, a couple of my dear friends left; I suppose they were not ready to hear what Noah taught us.

Noah and the other prophets instructed us for several hours. They taught us, they answered our questions, they gave blessings of healing and comfort. Although it was several hours, the time seemed so much shorter. During the teaching, Shule enthusiastically ran up to Noah and told him that he wanted to be baptized. Noah laughed at Shule’s enthusiasm and promised him that he could be the first one baptized. Others of us expressed our desires to be baptized. Noah announced to us that they would baptize us the following day. We were ecstatic!

The next morning, a beautiful sunny morning, those of us who were ready to be baptized met down at the deepest part of the river that flowed near our city. The river was very low because of the drought, but there was one place that would be sufficient for our baptisms. Noah took Shule with him down into the water and baptized him. I was so proud of Shule! He glowed as he came up out of the water.

Noah then ask me to come down into the water and he baptized me. As I came up out of the water, I felt an overwhelming sense of love and peace that I had never felt before. Tears came to my eyes as I hugged Noah.

As more were baptized, clouds began to fill the sky. We prayed that these clouds would bring rain to our parched land. After the last person was baptized, the heavens opened and showered us with the blessing of rain! It was beautiful! We danced and sang in the rain. We knew that the true God heard and answered our prayers.

Noah established a church in our city where we worshipped the true God and His son Jesus Christ. We learned to obey the commandments and found great joy and happiness in doing so.

I later remarried to a wonderful man; one who loved the true God and served Him. We had three more beautiful children. Shule developed into a great leader in the church and the community. From the time he was baptized, he was completely committed to following and serving the true God. He taught many about Jesus Christ and His coming. With the gospel of Jesus Christ, we truly lived after the manner of happiness.

Olivia Part 3

Olivia Part 1

Olivia Part 2

One week after Mara’s death, I was with my four remaining children in our large garden, picking some of the beautiful flowers and herbs that grew there. I suddenly heard Gideon’s booming voice yelling and ordering someone to leave. I went to him and saw the same man that I saw at Mara’s death, the one who appeared sad and had tears in his eyes. The man was with two other men, telling Gideon and others who were with Gideon that they needed to repent or the Lord would send a famine to the people.

My heart jumped. He was a prophet! A true prophet, one that Mara told me to listen to. I rushed to Gideon and pleaded with him to listen to them. They came with an important message for us. Gideon immediately slapped me across the face, sending me to the ground, then warned me to never listen to them. Their God was nonsense and we worshipped the true gods. I arose, looked at the prophets with pleading tears in my eyes and ran back into the house.

I knew that I had to find a way to speak with the prophets; I wanted to learn more about what they taught. Later that day, Gideon left to visit a neighboring city. I could only guess he was traveling there to talk to the leader about what to do with the prophets.

After he left, I went to the marketplace to look for the prophets. I found them! They were talking to the people and telling us that they needed to turn to the one true God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Only by following the teachings of Jesus Christ would we find true happiness. My heart burned inside me as I listened to their message. What did that mean?

The prophets also warned us that if we did not repent and turn to Jesus Christ, our communities and villages would be afflicted with a severe famine and many would die. Several of the onlookers laughed and mocked at this statement. They told the prophets that we have had plenty of rain, we had a great amount of food in storage because of our bounteous harvest last year, and we had just made a sacrifice to our gods to assure our continued success. In fact, while they were talking, it started to rain! Some of our people again laughed at the prophets and bragged to them that the rain was a sign that our gods were taking care of us.

Because of the heavy downpour, most people went back to their homes. Not caring if I got wet, I walked over to the prophets, looking directly at the one that I saw at Mara’s sacrifice, and asked them about their God. I told them what Mara told me and that she came to me after her death.

Because I was Gideon’s wife, they cautioned me to be careful. They saw what Gideon did to me. I informed them that I did not fear Gideon; I feared their God. They briefly taught me about Jesus Christ, that He would come to the earth to save us from our sins. They taught me that by following His commandments, I could find true happiness and be with my Mara again. They told me that the burning of my heart was the Holy Ghost confirming to me that what I heard was true.

There was so much to learn! How could I be taught by these holy men without the wrath of Gideon coming upon me? They advised me to be patient; the time would soon come when I could be baptized. They also assured me that I would be protected during the famine, but they could not guarantee the protection of my children. They did say that if any of my children died during the famine, because of my faith, they would be taken to Heavenly Father’s arms, just like Mara. I felt so much peace from their words, a peace that I had never felt before. It brought joy and hope into my heart.

Two days after listening to the prophets, while secretly praying, Shule knocked on my door. I let him in. He desired to know more about the prophets. He heard them talking to the people and also felt Gideon’s anger toward them. He could not understand his father’s anger to men who actually seemed really pleasant. He confessed to me that he felt happy inside when he listened to the prophets and truly wanted to believe them. I gave him a big hug, right then and there! We hugged and we cried because of our newfound faith. I reminded Shule that we could not mention this to anyone, especially his father. We understood that we could not mention our faith to my other children, not knowing how they would react. We hoped that they would feel the peace that we felt and come to me. We decided then and there that we would secretly pray for them, and for Gideon.

Gideon and the other leaders in our city decided that the prophets needed to leave or die. They tried stoning them, but it was as if a giant shield was around them. They could not be hit by any of the stones. This infuriated Gideon. He ran after them with his sword, but was not able to catch up to them. Deep in my heart, I knew the true God protected them.

Our growing season seemed like we would have another bounteous harvest. Gideon and others laughed and laughed at the prophets and their prophecies about famines. It seemed as though we received the perfect amounts of rainfall, at exactly the right times to insure a productive and plentiful harvest.

About midway through our growing season, just as we were beginning to gather some of our harvest, the sky suddenly turned an eerie dark. It was almost as dark as night. We ran to our homes to take cover, understanding the potential intensity of the storm. The storm thundered upon us and it thundered hard. A whirlwind blew through destroying a neighboring city. Hail as big as apples, poured out the sky. The sound of the hail hitting the roof was deafening. Many pieces of hail broke through the roof and into the house. The howling wind was frightening! Trees and unsecured homes were blown over. One of our beautiful flowering trees fell onto our house!

After what seemed like several hours, but was probably only about one hour, the storm exited our area, heading to destroy neighboring cities. The bright sun shone after the encompassing darkness. We walked out of our house to complete chaos. The damage was devasting. All of the homes in our city were damaged or completely destroyed from the hail and wind. Many animals were injured or dead because of the hail. Some of our people died and were severely injured from the wind and the hail. All of our crops and fruit trees were completely destroyed.

As a community, we gathered together in the market area to make a plan. We needed to care for the injured, bury the dead, replant our crops soon, and rebuild our homes. We felt overwhelmed!

Gideon immediately blamed those who listened to the prophets for the storm. He told us that our gods were angry because some, including me, listened to the prophets. He threatened death to anyone who listened to the prophets. He said it was better for one person to die rather than our entire city to die. In fact, he sentenced the prophets to death. If they came back to our city, they were to be stoned.

Three days after the big storm, while we were cleaning up and repairing our city, and cleaning our fields so we could replant, the three prophets came back to us. They tried to remind us to repent and as we repented, our crops and herds would be safe. However, if we did not repent, a famine would soon come to our land. Because of Gideon’s threats and his death sentence, as the prophets were speaking, many threw stones at them. Some shot at them with their arrows. However, they could not be hit. I knew the power of the true God was protecting them. As I looked around, I saw others who knew the prophets were speaking truth but like me, were too afraid to listen to them.

After delivering their message, the prophets safely fled our city. I was awed by their protection. Shule came to me privately and told me that he knew they were true prophets and that we needed to repent and find Jesus Christ. I asked him how we did that. I knew repentance had to do with being sorry for the things that you did wrong, but how to pray and find Jesus. Shule suggested that we pray to the true God and tell him that we were sorry for what we have done wrong and ask for help from Jesus. It was simple yet straightforward. Not knowing exactly what to do, Shule prayed a very sweet and simple prayer. He said,

“God, the true God. Momma and I are sorry for what we did wrong. Please send Jesus to help us so we won’t die in the famine. That’s all. Thank you. Amen.”

After the prayer, Shule and I were overcome with feelings of peace, joy, and love that must have come from the true God. I had never felt anything like that before, especially from the gods that I claimed to have worshipped. I knew that there was a true God, a God who loved us and would help us. We also knew that the famine would indeed happen, but we would be protected. In my heart, I prayed for my other children. Unfortunately, they seemed to follow what Gideon and the other leaders were saying. I could only hope that I could find a way to bring the true God’s love to them.

(to be continued…)

 

Olivia Part 2

Olivia Part 1

Mara’s 12th birthday arrived. It was a beautiful day. The temperatures had warmed after our cold season. The leaves on the trees were budding and springtime flowers were in full bloom. I helped dress Mara in a beautiful white dress made from the finest silk and cloth available. The dress was made especially made for this occasion by our finest dressmaker. Fresh flowers adorned her beautifully plaited hair. Mara looked so beautiful in her dress, and so queen-like. My heart was sad as to what would take place that day, but so proud for her beauty. This day, Mara had an uncommon look of determination in her eyes, unlike the sadness that I usually saw.

Because this was such an important day for our city and the communities around us, people came from all over to participate and witness the events. Our gods would be appeased today and this was most significant for all our communities. Even the King and Queen came to join in the celebration.

The day started with a procession with Mara atop a high carriage for all to see. Everyone cheered for her. Many extravagant gifts were brought for her (which Gideon would take for himself). Gideon and I were also dressed in the finest of clothes, made by the best clothiers specifically for this occasion. Gideon ensured that we looked the part of the parents of a goddess. We were greeted by many dignitaries, including the king and queen. They bowed to us as they showed their appreciation for Mara’s sacrifice. They reminded us that we would be richly blessed by the gods. In my mind, I wondered how they could know that.

We hosted an elaborate feast with the best and riches foods and wines. Many entertainers including musicians, dancers, and musicians enhanced the celebratory mood. Everyone seemed to relish in the entertainment available to them.

Something in all the wealth, luxury, and extravagance seemed hollow to me. Something did not feel right. It did not feel right and appropriate that I should lose my daughter. I was told from the time Mara was born that I would not lose a daughter but giving the greatest gift I could ever give to the gods; Mara was born for this very purpose. Because of Mara, our abundant way of life would be preserved.

During the feast, in a rare alone moment, Mara confided in me and shared with me that an angel of the true God came to her in the night and instructed her not to be afraid. The true God would be with her and comfort her, and bring her home to him. She pleased with me not to be sad or afraid because I would be taken care of. Gideon then sat down next to Mara, we quickly changed the subject, however our eyes met with a clear understanding that my daughter knew something that I needed to learn more about.

My heart just about failed me. I somehow had to maintain my composure. I always thought something was not right about our gods, but now I knew. Now what was could I do?

After the feast, Gideon, Mara, and I led the procession to our temple. Then came the king and queen, our other children, followed by my parents, Gideon’s parents, then most of the banquet attendees. After arriving at the temple, Mara was offered wine with a strong relaxing drug, but she refused it. She humbly laid herself down on the alter, looked at me, this time with an even greater determination in her eyes. She looked up and stared as if she was looking at someone. Then Mara smiled.

The priest who would make the sacrifice, witnessed Mara’s expression and shouted for all to hear that she was looking at the gods and smiling at them. He proclaimed that the gods were very satisfied with Mara’s sacrifice, and with Gideon and me as her parents. Those watching cheered at the proclamation! He then performed the sacrifice while the onlookers continue to cheer. Her heart was held high for all to see and then put in a special orate vase made of gold to be given to the gods.

I was devastated. My beautiful, sweet Mara. But, even with the devastation I felt, I could not cry. I had to continue to appear as if I were celebrating with Gideon. I was so ready to go to my bedchamber and be alone to cry and to grieve the death of my daughter, but had to wait and pretend to enjoy the celebrations.

My mother came to me, put her arms around me and told me how proud she was of me and Mara. She assured me that I had just done the highest service for our people that I could ever do. I hugged her back and thanked her for her words. After all, she knew exactly what it was like to sacrifice a daughter. Did she ever feel like I felt? Did she have regrets? Her actions and words appeared that she had no regrets, but did I see a slight bit of sadness or regret in her eyes? I would probably never know.

The celebration continued through the day and into the night. Many people came to congratulate Gideon and me. They assured us that the Gods would bless us and take care of us. How could the death of a beautiful daughter be worthy of congratulations? How I craved to be alone.

During the events of the day, I noticed one man who seemed very familiar to me, but I could not place his face. He did not seem to share the same celebratory mood as the rest of the people. In fact, after Mara was sacrificed, I noticed a tear falling from his eye. Who was this person? Why was he at our celebrations? Why did he not celebrate like everyone else?

Finally, late into the night everyone returned to their homes. After checking on my children, I retired to my bedchamber, expecting to be alone like I usually was. Tonight, Gideon came to be with me. Oh, how I resented that. I needed to be alone. I was tired of faking my happiness. I needed to grieve! I told Gideon that I didn’t feel well; that did not stop him. He said that we needed to celebrate the sacrifice of our daughter and forced himself on me. I pretended, again, to enjoy myself but my heart was dying. As the sun’s light began to lighten the eastern sky, Gideon left. Finally, I was alone. My handmaid came in to see if I needed anything; I asked her to bring me some food, then I wanted to be left alone. I informed her that I needed time to worship our gods.

It was not long until food was brought, but I could not eat much. I was finally along and it was time for me to grieve. And oh, how I grieved. I cried and cried. I cried for hours. My dear Mara. In the midst of my grieving, my dear sweet Mara came to me. At first, I thought I was hallucinating from the wine I had the day before (even though I did not have much). Mara sweetly assured me that this was a real vision. She told me that she was happy and finally free of what she endured during her life. She implored me to listen to the prophets and I would be saved. She wanted me to find happiness and if I listened to the prophets I would find true happiness. She told me that the prophets will teach me about the true and living God and that He would help me. Then, she was gone. I cried for her to come back, but she did not.

Shortly after my vision, my youngest son Shule, 6-years old, knocked on my door. I quickly dried my eyes and let him in. He asked me why Mara had to be sacrificed. He loved his sister. They looked very much alike as Gideon was the father to both of them. Of all my children, Mara and Shule were the closest, despite the age difference.

Tears came to his eyes; I could see that he felt very sad. I offered the explanation that I was expected to give him, how Mara was born to be a goddess and that giving her life would help assure that we had food to eat and toys to play with. Shule did not seem satisfied. He told me that he thought something was wrong with that.

Again, I wished to tell him of my vision of Mara, but did not dare; I feared that he would tell the wrong person. He was only six years old and I did not think he would understand the kind of trouble we would both be in if anyone knew of my inner conflict. However, I had a feeling that at some point in time that I would be able to confide in him.

I hugged Shule and told him how much I loved him then we cried together. He was surprised that I was crying. He thought I was happy about Mara’s sacrifice. I lied to him, that even though I was happy, that like him, I missed her, but we can still be happy about what she did. Then Shule whispered to me that we could not tell anyone that we cried together and that we missed Mara. What a wise little boy! He possessed wisdom beyond his years.

(To be continued…)

 

Olivia Part 1

I, Olivia, lived about 600 years after the Jaredites came to the Promised Land. I lived during a chaotic time, a time of much wickedness and when secret combinations flourished. I was born to a family that deeply embraced secret combinations. My father was a high leader in our city. I was the second child of my father, but both my parents had children from various partners.

I was abused, raped, and went through various rituals as a young girl, all to appease the gods they claimed to worship. I watched as my older sister, the oldest child of my father who was the leader in our city, was sacrificed to the gods on her 12th birthday. This was a time of celebration as this sacrifice was to multiply our harvest, flocks, and herds. I did not understand why the celebration; I loved my sister. She comforted me during dark times; dark times that my father told me were to be joyful. I did not understand why they had to take her from me. I showed a happy face during the celebration but in my alone times, I cried. I could not let anyone see me cry as my father would find someone to abuse me, all with the intent to bring me joy. The abuses never brought joy; only more pain and sorrow.

Even as a child, I was well-known for my beauty. My hair was long, light colored, and slightly wavy, which made me more appealing to men. My blue eyes shone bright through the darkness. By the time I was 15, I already had been taken advantage of several times (done supposedly for my good), beat many times and once left for dead. My mother found me, took me to a healer, who brought me back to life. I wished that they just left me for dead; I did not want to live anymore.

At age 15, my father married me to a very handsome, but evil man named Gideon. He was five years older than me and paid a high price for me. Other men also tried to purchase me because of my beauty, but my father chose Gideon because of his wealth and high standing in the city. He would become the leader in the city within a few short years. My mother had no say in the decision.

At the beginning of our marriage, Gideon was kind to me. We lived in a large, beautiful home that was extravagantly furnished. I wore beautiful clothes and jewelry. I had servants to help me with the household. It appeared as if I had everything a girl could want. Soon after our marriage, Gideon made it clear to me that he could be intimate with whomever he wanted to be and allowed me to do the same. In fact, it was expected of me since men offered him money to be alone with me. I felt like dogmeat but could not tell anyone; I was expected to act like I enjoyed all the attention.

I became pregnant, knowing it was Gideon’s child. I was thrilled to be carrying a child! I had high hopes to be good mother and try to raise my child in better circumstances than I was raised in. In fact, I even thought about running away; to find a new town to raise my baby. I also know that my baby would become a sacrifice at age 12 if Gideon did in fact become a community leader. It was what we did. It was how we thought we gained more and more wealth.

My baby, a beautiful little girl, came one month early and was very tiny; one of the smallest babies I ever saw. Gideon named her Mara. I had no say in the name, but thought Mara was a beautiful name. Gideon ordered the healer to help me care for my baby, since this baby would be the sacrificial baby when she turned 12 years old. The healer worked a miracle with Mara and she grew big and strong, and beautiful! She caught the attention of several young men, and unfortunately women, at a very young age.

Shortly after Mara was born, I became pregnant by another man. In fact, I had 5 children total, by three different men. Gideon fathered many children; I’m not really sure how many he really fathered as some of the mothers were not sure who the father of their babies were.

Regrettably, Mara went through the rituals that young girls went through during our time, all with the intent to appease the Gods (really it was men’s lusts). I felt awful for Mara; I knew how exactly how she felt since I went through the same rituals. I felt so helpless; I wanted to do more, but did not know what to do.

I wanted to teach my children right from wrong, but was unsure myself of what was really right and what was really wrong. I know what my father, who was a wicked man, taught me; but his teaching did not feel right to me. It seemed that there was more to life than what I was taught to believe.

Mara’s eleventh birthday arrived. The entire city celebrated because that was one year from the time she would be sacrificed. Mara was treated like a goddess, dressed in the finest apparel. She looked so beautiful; she was extraordinarily beautiful since she received the best of physical traits from both Gideon and me. For her birthday, she was given lavish gifts, the best food to eat, and put on a beautiful golden throne to sit on for all to see.

She was told that in one year’s time, on her next birthday, that she would become a goddess. She was told that as a goddess, she would be able to help her family to obtain greater riches and abundance. It was the greatest honor and privilege to become a goddess. She would have all that she wanted and more during the next year.

Men, and women, hoping to have alone time with Mara, gave Gideon and me marvelous gifts. Even the king and queen of our land came to us with gifts. Other community leaders came to us with lavish gifts. I talked to Gideon and asked him if we could spare Mara of having to please so many people. Gideon sweetly, and I say that loosely, reminded me of the importance of Mara. He tried to convince me that her roles of the sacrifice and being a goddess were more important than even a king. So, the more people that could be with her, the more our city and the cities around us would prosper. How could I deny the greater good? This just did not feel right to me. I mentioned that to Gideon, he slapped me across the face and told me never to say anything like that to him or anyone again. What could I do? I felt helpless and alone.

Shortly after Mara’s birthday, men proclaiming to be prophets again came to our town and began speaking to us that we needed to repent or the Lord Jesus Christ would send a destructive famine. Gideon and the other men, and many other women, laughed at them. Who could this Lord Jesus Christ be? There was no way that whomever this man was, could be more powerful than our gods. The Gideon picked up a stone, then one by one, the others watching the prophets picked up stones. They stoned the prophets. I watched, in horror but not letting my emotions show, as three men died.

There was something about the prophet’s message that touched my heart. I wanted to know more, but did not have the courage to talk to them. Oh, how I desired to talk to them, to hear their message, to again feel what I felt when they spoke. I could not talk about my feelings with anyone; if someone found out what I thought and felt, I could also be stoned. I needed to live. I needed to live for my children.

Several months passed then more prophets came. They gave their messages and then quickly left. Again, their message touched my heart; I felt peace.

I watched Mara closely during this year. I loved my daughter dearly and was saddened because her eyes appeared depressed to me. Although she put up a good front of acting the role of a goddess, I recognized her misery. I desired to talk to her and console her, but Gideon surrounded her with servants and guards and ordered them to monitor her continually, except with those who paid a price to be with her. Even then, guards were posted outside her room. He assured me it was to protect her, but I knew there was more to it than that. I so desperately wanted just to hold her and take the pain from her that I saw in her eyes. The times I was able to talk to her, I could only tell her how proud I was of her and how beautiful she was.

A week before Mara’s 12th birthday, additional prophets came to our city. They specifically told us that if we went ahead with Mara’s sacrifice, God would send a famine that would destroy us. Again, Gideon and others laughed and mocked them. Who could this God be? Gideon convinced all who listened that our gods were more powerful than this God the prophets talked about. After all, we were wealthy! We had an abundance of food, clothes, gold, silver, crystals, and whatever else we wanted. Surely our gods favored us, took care of us and would always take care of us.

Again, something about what the prophets said touched my heart and I felt a peace that I never before experienced. I wondered if we were doing the right thing by sacrificing Mara. But, it was our tradition. It was done to keep our gods happy. But, what about this other God? I continued to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself. How I wished I had someone to talk to. How I wanted to talk to Mara.

Gideon began to stone the prophets. They quickly ran from our city without injury.

(To be continued…)

 

Isaac the Warrior Part 5

Isaac the Warrior Part 4

The details of our plan were discussed, debated and then decided upon. The biggest detail we needed to work out was what were we going to do with all the people; there would be a few hundred people at the banquet. We had plenty of rope to tie them, there was more rope at the palace, and there were also some linen bags at the palace that we could put over some heads, but where to put everyone? Thankfully, there would be many more of us than of them.

Paco talked to another guard that he trusted and this guard suggested that while the people were asleep, we unarm them and move them into various rooms in the palace with guards at each door. We would have plenty of men to guard everyone, especially since they would be unarmed and tied up.

My father suggested that we hold trials immediately, starting with Shim and his closest associates, with execution by hanging for those who would not repent and swear with an oath that they would support the previous laws. My mother gasped at this proposal and tears flooded her eyes. Even though Shim committed many atrocities, he was still her son. My father held her close as tears also flooded his eyes. My mother pulled back, looked at my father in his eyes and told him to do whatever he needed to do, even if it was putting her son to death. She had to give him to God and let God take care of him.

Everyone, especially the men, in our village knew exactly what needed to be done. As many details and scenarios as possible were well thought out. The men were organized into groups of ten to twenty men and each group had a specific assignment, a specific place to go in the palace, a specific room to guard. Those groups were organized into larger groups of about 100 men. There were leaders for each group, all ultimately reporting to me, Paco, and my father.

During this time of planning our escape, Paco and I redeveloped the bond we once had when we were small children. I finally could completely forgive him for what he did to me and my family. I knew his repentance was sincere and complete. I knew he was right with God and that God had forgiven him. Paco was doing all he could to make amends to me, my family, and our people. His transformation was miraculous.

The day finally came for Shim’s banquet. Shim wanted his guards and taskmasters to have one of the best banquets of their lives. The decorations were elaborate. The food was exquisite; much of the food coming from our people. The scantily dressed women were beautiful. The wine was a bit stronger in its potency–just enough to be strong, but not noticeable to those who drank it. The winemaker had the juice that Esther prepared and put it in all the jars of wine.

We were given a strict curfew and were told that if any of us left our huts and tents after sunset, we would be taken prisoner. I was concerned about the curfew and the guards that would be guarding us, but Paco assured me that all the guards were defectors. And besides, there would not be as many guards as there should have been. Paco talked Shim into having fewer guards, but some of his best and strongest guards, so more could attend the banquet. Besides, we had the strict curfew.

The banquet time arrived. The soldiers and guards, dressed in their finest apparel, headed to the palace. We were able to see a few before the sun set. As the sun set, we went into our huts, awaiting the word from the guard Paco had in the palace. This guard was to come and tell us when everyone had fallen asleep.

Paco recounted to us what happened. The feast was amazing. There were many different types of meats, breads, cheeses, and fruits. However, before the guests began eating the food, Paco made sure that everyone had wine. He offered a tribute to King Shim! He offered tributes to the guards. Others began to offer tributes! Some tributes were even for the women who were there for entertainment. Many of the guards quickly became quite infatuated with the women and began to drink more wine. They gave the women more wine, as many had high hopes to appease their infatuations later that night.

About 30 minutes after the first tribute, all in the banquet room become drunk and very sleepy. They enjoyed the festive atmosphere, but one-by-one dignitaries, guards, and entertainers fell asleep. All fell asleep except those who knew about the wine; those whom Paco trusted.

Paco quickly sent the messenger to us. Those who were on guard helped us to retrieve our weapons and ropes. Most all the men, some of the older boys, and a few women headed to the palace in anticipation. My father led the way, walking side-by-side with his wife and sons, me, and Paco.

We walked directly into the banquet room as Paco assured all guards at the palace also received wine. Everyone went straight to their assignments. We tied everyone up and put the linen bags over Shim, his associates, and as many of the high ranking guards as we had bags for. They were so well tied that we knew there would be no way to escape. Our people moved many of the prisoners to their various rooms while Paco and I led our father and mother back to his throne where they both wept. They knelt down and prayed aloud, prayed mightily in thanksgiving to God for their deliverance. We all knelt down and prayed, thanking our God for delivering us out of the captivity of Shim. We then sat down and enjoyed the feast! We let all who came with us enjoy the amazing food that Shim had prepared. The winemaker brought us weak wine that had not be tainted with the juice for us to drink.

Because of the strength of the wine, Shim and those who drank the wine took longer to wake up than it did for me and the other volunteers. But, we were ready for them! Knowing how I felt when I woke up, feeling exhilarated, we wanted to be sure that Shim and his people, if they woke up feeling the same way, would not be able to over take us.

After close to 24 hours from the time they took the first sip of wine, some began to wake up. As they awoke, they were disoriented, feeling like they had a hangover. We figured that the disoriented feeling was due to the strength of the wine. We were grateful for this as most did not have the desire to fight. While the banquet attendees were waking up in the various rooms, our people told them what happened and how my father was back on his throne. Many, even in their weakened state, shouted for joy! We did not realize there were so many who opposed Shim! Unfortunately there were some who cursed us, but those were not as many as we expected.

We gave Shim and his associates and all those who attended the banquet time to become more coherent so they would comprehend the trial they would face. Shim was first. He was brought to face our father and his bag taken off of his head. Father asked Shim if he was willing to give up his nefarious ways and follow the commandments of the land. Shim looked away from him and said that he could never do that, then spat on the floor. Father reminded Shim of the testimony that he had when he was young. Shim, with hate and evil in his eyes, said that he never had a testimony and there is no such thing as God. Father reminded him that the punishment for the atrocities that he committed was hanging. Shim dared our father to hang him. With tears in his eyes, he sent Shim to be hung.

There were several conducting the trials as we had so many people to go through. Father took care of Shim and his closest associates. There was only one of them who wanted to change and follow the laws of the land. He gave his word that he would never rebel against the king again and would follow the laws of the land. He was let free, but all the others were hung. We wept for the loss of life. Too many were hung that week. Many who were not closely associated with Shim gave us their oath that they would support my father and support the laws of the land; we were grateful for that.

It took time, many months in fact, for our society to return to normal. We had a lot of trauma that needed to be healed. Even some who originally followed Shim had trauma that needed healing. We again began to be prosperous, always remembering from whom our prosperity came from.

Com the Gardner

 

Com was a Jaredite gardener. Not a farmer with fields or orchards or flocks, but a gardener. He grew herbs, vegetables, and flowers for his family and to sell at the local market. He lived during a peaceful time, yet trained for warfare, as did all the Jaredite men, and even some women. He didn’t hunt much, but traded produce from his garden for meat.

Com was born to parents who loved to garden. Com’s father, David, grew fruit and nut trees as well as vegetables. Jerusha, Com’s mother, grew amazingly beautiful flowers and herbs. Both his parents sold their products in the local market. There were times when they took their produce to neighboring cities because of its excellent quality. People came from all over to purchase Jerusha’s flowers; she grew a fantastic variety, including several different types and colors of roses and medicinal herbal flowers. Her favorite customers were young men buying flowers to impress a young woman. Ahh…the delights of young love!

Com was the oldest of 5 children. From the time Com was born, he was with his parents in the garden. Before he could crawl, Jerusha would wrap him in her scarf and hold him while she worked in her flower beds. Once he was able to sit up, Com would sit in the garden and play in the dirt. He loved playing with the dirt and squishing it between his fingers!

When he started crawling and walking, David and Jerusha created a small fenced in play area to put him in to prevent him from digging up seeds and plants, which he loved to do! Com had plenty of dirt and grass to play with in his play area and was usually quite content there. As he grew older, he learned how to plant seeds, handle the plants gently, and distinguish between desirable plants and weeds.

When Com was about 5 years old, his parents gave him his own little garden space, along with a small shovel made out of fine steel with the handle being made from a type of hard wood. Com loved his shovel; he felt so grown up! He used it to dig holes to plants the seeds that he chose to grow. He used the shovel to help him weed his garden. He even used it to dig holes where he was not supposed to dig holes – even in his neighbors’ yards!

Com’s first little garden was quite a success, much to his delight. He grew radishes and lettuce because they were easy to grow, and green beans because they were some of his favorite food! After saving some plants to turn to seed for his next garden, he took his produce to the market with his father and actually made a little bit of money. He parents taught him to save most of what he earned to purchase seeds and supplies for his next garden.

When the next growing season arrived, Com was eager to start his next garden. He pleaded with his parents to have a bigger space so he could grow more plants. He wanted to grow more green beans, radishes, and lettuce, and he also wanted to grow some pumpkins. He saw big pumpkins at the market and really wanted to grow some of his own. He also chose to grow a couple of tomato plants and some marigold flowers.

David, thinking that would be a lot for a 6-year old boy, had a heart-to-heart with Com, explaining the time maintaining his garden would take. He wanted to be sure that Com understood the responsibility of a larger garden. Com assured his father that he really wanted a bigger garden and told him that he would work hard at maintaining the garden. David then agreed to allow Com to have the bigger garden.

Com took his saved up money to the market to purchase the seeds he needed to add to the seeds he saved from the previous year.

Finally, planting day arrived. The weather had been warm enough for long enough that David and Jerusha were confident that it would not freeze again. Com grabbed his shovel and began digging the proper holes to plant his seeds. He also used his shovel to create a small mound for his pumpkins seeds, then carefully planted them.

The first thing Com did after waking up each morning was to run outside to check his garden. He checked the soil to be sure it had the right amount of moisture for the seeds. He pulled any weeks that started to grow. He carefully watched for the first signs of his seeds beginning to sprout. Com loved his garden!

After about a week from the time Com planted his seeds, when he went outside to check his garden, he discovered sprouts. He was so excited, he ran back into his house, woke up his parents and begged them to come outside with him. It was a very happy day for Com.

One week later, Com’s parents were outside intently talking with Jerusha’s brother, with his two younger siblings, Leah who was 2 years old and Rebekah who was about 1 month old. Com was at his school class for the morning, learning how to read and write as that was important for the Jaredite people. Suddenly, Rebekah became fussy so Jerusha took her inside to feed her. David continued talking to Jerusha’s brother, focusing on the conversation and not paying attention to little Leah.

Leah, who absolutely adored Com, was exploring the gardens, and decided she wanted to play with the small plants in Com’s garden. While playing, she pulled most of them out! Com came home at about that time, saw his plants laying on the ground, and became very upset. He yelled, screamed, and cried. David, realized what happened and felt bad for not watching Leah more closely, took Com into his arms and apologized. He and Com looked at the pulled-out plants, observed that they were unharmed and thought they would be able to successfully replant them.

David took Leah inside the house, came back out with Com’s shovel and they proceeded to replant all the small plants. After planting, Com retrieved water from their well and carefully watered all the plants. Thankfully, all but one of the plants survived and continued to grow and produce many vegetables. Com did forgive Leah as she was very sorry for what happened.

For Com’s 11th birthday, David presented him with a full-sized shovel. He loved his new shovel as much as he’d loved the little one when he turned five. It was made of the finest steel. The handle was also of the same steel with a layer of hardwood attached to the steel. His name was carved into the wood along with a tree, signifying the Tree of Life.

He continue to expand his garden and the fruits, flowers, and vegetables that he raised. He experimented with different growing techniques, different placements of plants, cross-pollinating, among other techniques. He learned much from his experimentation. His gardens flourished!

Com became renowned for his gardening skills. Many wanted to know and learn his techniques so he taught many different gardening classes. Jerusha would teach with Com, sharing her vast knowledge of flowers.

Most years, there was plenty of rain for the gardens and fields where Com lived. For the most part, the people in his community followed the commandments of God and so were richly blessed. There were a few years where rain was not as plentiful. It was not because the people were any less righteous, it was part of their life experience. During these times of drought, Com and the other farmers pulled water from the wells to water their gardens and crops. It was tedious work, but worth the effort as the people needed their crops to survive. Many in the community came together to help each other water the crops.

One day, as many in the community came together to help water a farmer’s cops, Com’s fun-loving, happy personality longed to help lift the sober mood. It was a very warm and dry day, and they were about finished watering. Everyone was sweating because of the heat. He was now married with two children of his own, and decided that his wife, Paza, needed a little cooling off. He took one of the buckets of fresh, sweet well water and threw it on her!

Paza looked at him in amazement. He’d never done anything like that before. The others watched closely, wondering if she would be angry at Com. She acted angry, took a bucket of water to Com, who stood still, wondering what she was going to do. Then, with a big smile, she threw the bucket of water on him! Com reached for another full bucket, but Paza ran from him. Com chased her, water spilling out of the bucket, and threw the remaining water on her, and splashed water of others in the process! Soon, it became a huge water fight! Just about everyone joined in on the fun. Because of the stresses of the drought and the continued hot temperatures, the water fight helped to cool everyone off and helped the community to relax and find enjoyment.

Com and Paza continued gardening and teaching others about gardening their entire lives. They passed their skills to their seven children who continued the family tradition of gardening, working hard… and having fun, too.