Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sacred Restoration

Part Two (Read Part One here)

A teenage girl who visited her little brother in a Russian orphanage with gifts of candy has inhabited the shadows of my vivid imagination for 13 years. The teen is now 30 years old, the little boy, my son Roma, now 20. 

While I am talking about my son Roma . . . he kept us alert and on our toes in 2014. Readers are still visiting and commenting about The Hound of Heaven Winks and subsequent posts of how God relentlessly pursues this young man. On one vulnerable day in a year of power struggles, my strong-willed boy confessed that he wished we could find Liana. After years of not appearing even curious about her, he exposed his weakness and loss. 

In 2014 I joined more adoption groups to share what I have learned and to learn from the experience of others. From one of my Adoption group pages, in November, I learned about, the equivalent of Facebook for speakers of the Russian language. According to the website, 100 million use It was worth a try before I spent upwards of $2000 to begin a search that might not succeed. 

In late November I opened a account and stalked the site, but found no Liana S—. On my new wall, which I opened under Roma's former name, I posted photos of him when he was little, and composed a text stating when and where he was adopted, and my desire to locate his Russian family. If anyone searched his name, they might stumble across his/my page. Then I forgot about it until Roma was due home on December 20. 

I checked back on "our" account. No activity. I stalked again, looking in Mozdok and Vladikavkaz. There were a few subscribers with the S name in Roma's original hometown. Cousins? But no Liana. When Roma came home, after he got settled, I showed him the account and suggested he request some friends. It is overwhelming when everything has to be translated from English to Russian, but thankfully there are websites for that purpose. As excited as I was about the idea, Roma feigned indifference. For Roma it is a "power" thing—If I want it, he cannot want it. I encouraged him to just sit and look through it. He exposed his stubborn side (Is it accurate to say Roma just has a stubborn "side," implying that he has any another "side"? But I digress.)

With a house full at Christmas, I forgot. 

On December 29th, I told Roma, if he wasn't going to investigate more, I was. He said I could, if I wanted to, but he was not. Those were his exact words, so I had his permission. So I did. I friended every member of who had the same last name as his birth name. Surprisingly, it wasn't nearly as many as I thought, for a country the size of Russia and surrounding countries! One hundred million users! Since I had his permission, I added more photos of him, through the years, up to the most recent. I wrote as if I were Roma, because I had his permission. I said I was looking for family, especially my sister Liana.  I said a prayer, and posted it all, in English. His region of Russian is eight hours behind us. Everyone slept as my friend requests alerted mailboxes.

The next day, December 30, was busy, with family home for the holidays. When my daughter, Kellie, her husband, and five children met friends for lunch, I headed to check on my VK status. I had six new friends! Two messages!

One messaged, "Who are you?" (He had obviously NOT read my informative status!)

Another "friend", Eduard,  messaged, "Hi. Do you speak rushing language"

The messages were from hours ago. I answered the second one.

Trying to be very simple with my English, I wrote, "No. I was only seven. I only speak English now." (I felt silly in the conversation, pretending to be Roma. I've always only spoken English, and some people think that sounds funny because of my Southern accent!)

He messaged back. "I speak English very poorly. Are you my brother?" (perhaps translation difficulty? Cousin maybe?)

I had a live one, so I continued, "No, my brother is Rostilav, age 15. I am looking for family."

Eduard messaged back, "My father says you are Liana's brother."

I sat stunned, covered with chill bumps,studying the words. Then I typed breathlessly but carefully, "YES, Liana is my sister. 30 years old? Do you know her? I haven't seen her since I was seven. But she was very good to me."

Eduard: "Of course I know her. she is my aunt. sorry that didn't answer right away, I was busy."

I suspect Eduard and his father were checking me Roma out. I can only imagine what was happening in this family so far away at almost 11 pm, their time.

Eduard: "I asked my father. He said you are his nephew."

Then Eduard sent a link. I clinked on it. It was a VK account with a photo of a very pretty young woman in sunglasses. The name was not Liana. I studied the wall. The birthday was wrong. I knew Liana's birth date. I was careful not to be deceived.

Me: " That is not Liana, wrong birthday."

Eduard: "page her husband but it's on this page is she on photo"

Me: "Send her my page and photo. See if she recognizes me."

Eduard "I'll call you, don't worry everything will be fine. It's late tonight, tomorrow I'll call ok?"

Me: "That's right, it is night time there. Thank you so much!"

Eduard: "Glad to help you."

Roma arrived home in the middle of this frantic encounter, I grabbed him and tried quickly to fill him in on the details as we walked into my study. He was a textbook "deer in the headlights" as he was trying to process this development. I led him to the desktop computer and sat him down as I was explaining. "Read and answer," I commanded. And Roma, never for easy compliancy, sat, read, and answered. Not even minding me hanging over his shoulder to read.

Roma: "So you are my cousin?"

Sweet Eduard, ready for bed: "You are my relative know it."

Roma: "okay talk to you tomorrow."

Eduard, "No problem brother. Sorry for my English."

Then suddenly there was a friend request from the girl in the sunglasses. Remember, it is after bedtime in Russia.

Roma finished his message to Eduard: "Haha I dont't speak any Russian anymore" and accepted the friend request.

Eduard: "not anything to worry about . . . Liana you a friendship sent."

Roma: "yeah, I got it."

Eduard: "Chat"

Roma: "What?"

Eduard: "Communicate with her."

(Sometimes Eduard's English was better than Roma's!)

Roma: "I just did"

Eduard: "Do you have a translator?"

Roma is asking me, and I explain about translator sites on the web.

Roma: "Computer translates, so yes.

Then he switched to Liana.

Roma's and Liana's messaging, even with the awkwardness of translator was very sweet and intimate. I tiptoed out to give him some privacy for this raw and tender moment. 

Kellie and her family returned while he was still in the study, busy at my computer. I met her at the door and whispered, "Roma is messaging Liana." She looked into the office through the closed glass doors and her wide eyes filled with tears. Mine filled, again. Kellie knew Liana too. This was a monumental moment we were witnessing.

I read their correspondence later, as tears streamed down my cheeks. It is too personal to share. It will take time for these long lost siblings to get reacquainted. Roma told me he is too emotional to talk about finding Liana right now. I understand—Boy do I understand! I have cried for days! I have waited until Roma gave me permission to share this story. He allowed me to share all  the other interesting stories starring God and himself. This was different. This is too fresh. It is too raw, and tender. THIS is Sacred.

I knew Roma would not, could not, answer Liana's many questions. I opened my own account and have friended my dear young friend. I share photos with her, she with me. I answer her questions as best I can with a flawed translation system. We are forever connected. We are family. We always have been. She is as lovely as Roma described her over the years. I have since "met" one of Roma's lovely relatives, his father's cousin, and a former neighbor he knew when he was little. Apparently no one ever forgot Roma. If you know Roma personally, you're probably thinking, who could forget him?! I have seen his two precious nephews. How great is our God who, after Liana lost two little brothers, gave her two little sons.

Now the process begins to get to know Roma's past. Perhaps we will find youngest brother, Rostilav. Please pray for our families as we build bridges!

So many issues of adoption involve matters of "identity." I thank God, for He has restored Roma's identity. Not only is he a Beloved child of the Most High God, and us, but once again, even though 13 years and 5650 miles separate them, he is a treasured little brother of Liana!

Praise be to God.

Liana gave me permission to use her photos for this blog. Isn't she beautiful? 

Hope for Restoration

Part One

C.S. Lewis, who wrote over 70 books, once said, "I never actually made a book. It's rather like taking dictation. I was given things to say." I understand exactly what Lewis was talking about, because I too have been "given things to say." Everything I have recorded  that has been of significance comes from God. For all the tripe, I take full ownership.

Why do I feel compelled to share my little stories of significance? Because they point to God! God is the Author of my significant stories! They draw me closer to Him, and ultimately to a place of overwhelming peace and JOY, regardless of the daily challenges!

Many readers of my book, But the Greatest of These is Love have reported mopping tears as they read. The most commonly asked question is about Liana, Roma's sister, age 17 at the time of Roma's adoption 13 years ago. Are we in contact with her?, they eagerly ask.  

In Roma's "profile" (his life summary prepared for prospective adoptive parents) I first learned of Liana. Roma, seven at the time, had a younger brother, Rostilav, age two, and an older sister, Liana, age seventeen. How could anyone split up a family? He was a "social orphan," meaning he had at least one parent living. The paper trail of Rostilav had ended abruptly more than a year ago. Our case worker speculated that he had been adopted because of his young age. Most adoptive parents choose children under five. Once over five, most children are never adopted.

I was profoundly sad when learning of Liana. I cried  when writing about her, and every time I read the book again, I cry again. And yes, I have reread many times. When I hear from a reader saying, "I am on page __ and I have laughed and cried." I pick up a copy that is always nearby and start reading at that page to see what has triggered emotion. I get caught up in the story and keep reading, laughing, and crying, like I haven't read it before, like I didn't LIVE it, like I don't know how the story ends! And, as a matter of fact, I don't know how the story will end. It is ongoing. It continues to be a good story. It is God's story, so I will not diminish it with false humility.

 The powers-that-be did have the authority to split up a family. Liana was not eligible for adoption. Rostilav was already adopted, and Roma was on adoption parade, being displayed, by way of his circulating profile, for international adoption. Although I was fighting God about His idea of adoption, He had made His Will unmistakably clear. We were taking a small step toward that end by hosting Roma when he was part of a group of five children, ages seven to twelve, who were being flown to American for a five day visit. All Sacred Indicators pointed to this little boy. A few short, hectic months later, God led us to Russia to bring Roma home.

Upon our return home, we gradually went through the mountain of paperwork requiring our attention. One was a translation of the official document Liana had signed releasing him to what she hoped would be a better life than what she could give him. She was not yet 18, shy just five weeks. She had no rights to contest the adoption; her signature was a formality. We were later told that had she been 18, she would have had rights to custodial guardianship. With guardianship of a minor brother, she would have been granted government aid and an apartment. I wondered. . . had the accelerated schedule to adopt  been a calculated plan. We filed papers in late January. Six weeks later, we had a court date. A month after that, we found ourselves, deer-in-the-headlights panicked, on a plane, bound for Russia. On the return trip, nine days later, we had our new son in tow. Waiting parents before us had waited a year, or longer, and had been required to make two, and sometimes three trips, some trips lasting several weeks.  

In the past 13 years, I have never forgotten Liana. Always in the shadows of my imagination was a teenage girl who had lost her family. I got to know Liana through Roma's stories of her. He talked about her as if we knew her, and pretty soon we did! He told us she was beautiful and she told him funny stories. She visited him at the orphanage with gifts of candy. I was always touched by this gentle act, but Roma was always reminded how miffed he was that the caregivers insisted that he share his treasured gift with the other eager children.

Liana was only six weeks younger than my tender-hearted daughter, Kellie. I am thankful that God put Roma into a home with an older sister who had not yet left for college, who is beautiful, who doted on him, who read him stories and played games with him, and gave him candy. Not a substitute for Liana, but a reminder from a Loving God who provides for our needs.  

For the first three years, home visits were required and paperwork sent back to Russia, to document  Roma's wellbeing. I requested, at every home visit, that the officials in Russia please get word to Liana that Roma was loved and thriving. I watched as the social worker wrote the request in her notes, every three months, as she pronounced that Roma was bonding well and in good health.  

A few years ago, I registered with several adoption groups whose purpose is to find family members lost through adoption. Separating children from their families causes trauma. I worried about Liana, as well as Roma. Some children never recover.  We had been so naive at the beginning. We believed we could love Roma enough for any pain of lost family to heal. Roma seemed to be thriving. He is, by nature, a happy-go-lucky child. He was distracted with many activities of his own choosing. He seemed eager to embrace his new life. Roma appeared to be ready to close the heavy door on the previous chapter of his past. I, on the other hand, was unable to shut that door completely.

As he grew, he didn't want to talk about Liana anymore, and didn't want me to mention her name either. Was it too painful?

"Mom," Roma would try to comfort me in Roma's blunt manner. "She is probably dead." 

Is this how Roma dealt with his loss? Of course it could be true, but his effort to forget Liana was to wipe her out completely? He couldn't conceive that his sister could be somewhere "over there," continuing life.

He turned 18, then 19. Roma is 20 now. Life happens fast. It is unbelievable that he has been my son for almost 13 years! Liana knew him for only seven. Is he mature enough to deal with what might be an emotional experience? How can they even communicate? He doesn't remember Russian, and it was doubtful Liana, now 30, knows English.

Does she have a family? Does she ever wonder about Roma? Does she think about us as much as I think about her? 

I continued to pray.

Continue to Part Two here

Friday, November 14, 2014

Until we meet again

Last month I said farewell to my bravest hero, my most passionate fan, my fiercest champion. My first and best friend.

My sweet mother passed peacefully into her reward on October 10, 2014. But I will not say I lost my mother. No, my dear mother is not lost! I know exactly where she is!

At the Hospice Home in Burlington, NC, my mother walked through the thin, invisible veil that separates the two worlds, and into her Eternal Home. The veil did not seem invisible to the angels who work in Hospice care. Their testimonies and Mother's faith made the veil more "visible" to me.

For her last three days of life, I traveled from Maryland to be with "Honey," a name given to her by my second daughter, her third grandchild. Kellie was simply repeating what my dear step father had called her. Even though the first two grandchildren called her "Grandmommy" for their first verbal year, "Honey" stuck. It was a perfect name for this gentile Southern lady, and she adored it. Over the years we all called her "Honey" too.

The devoted nurses and staff at Hospice Home confidently visited her room to interpret the signs for us. The most common observation was, "She is 'very peaceful.'" After hearing the description repeated often, almost as a unexpected surprise, I asked if they often saw otherwise during their care for the terminally ill. Oh yes, they had seen fear and anger. I recalled my grandfather, a very private man who died when I was 17. As he lay unconscious and dying in the hospital, we heard indistinguishable groans of agony, terror, and even rage directed at some thing, invisible to us. In contrast, my mother lay there, beautifully tranquil, having left nothing unsaid or unresolved. "She has one foot in this world, and the other in the next," observed one nurse. She took that final step from this flawed, physical realm patiently. I wondered what she must be encountering on the journey to Heaven.

On our previous visit, three weeks earlier, she had gently attempted to prepare me for the inevitable, "Now Darlin', if I die in my sleep, I want you to be happy for me." I assured her that I would, since I plan on a future reunion. So, I was happy for her when she departed with a peace that calmed us all, even the nurses on her death watch, twelve days before her 86th birthday. It would have been selfish to be sad for her. This world is not our home. Death is the most inevitable and unavoidable part of life.

And hers was a beautiful death.

She had always loved the Lord—she shared once that she had felt like a special "pet" of God's. She felt his love so strongly even as a young child. I could recognize her pure God-Love, even when I was very young, as she prayed with us kids as we knelt beside our bed at night in our little apartment. They were intimate friends, my mother and God. She had learned early to trust Him, and learned that He was worthy of her trust.

Her life had not been an easy one. She had grown up during the Depression. Her parents worked in textile mills. They didn't stay married for long. Still she thought of her childhood as a blessed and happy time. Her sickly mother, older sister, Jean, my future mother, little Nell went to live with a relative. (By the way, "Nell" is pronounced "nail" in North Carolina,  but in the South we stretch it out a tad, to two syllables!)  She was smart and excelled in school, achieving the award of Salutatorian of her class at graduation, but there was no money for college, and no expectation to alter the circumstances.

Her first child died at birth. Three more babies followed, me being the middle. My father left the family when I was five. My mother worked hard to support us, and although I am sure we would have qualified for public assistance, my proud mother wouldn't consider it, choosing to model the best example she could for us, trusting God to make a way.  She eventually made a decent living with the Federal Government. Slowly she climbed the ladder to a position as a quality control inspector for military contracts. She gave God the glory for every promotion and advancement. Even though we never owned our own home and had little money for extras, I remember her sharing with a less fortunate neighbor, a single mother of twins. And she always tithed at church, where she was the forth grade Sunday school teacher for a million years. She didn't complain. She didn't gossip. She didn't envy. She had a spirit of love and gratitude. Her life was her testimony of how much God loved her in return.

I remember men calling and her curt response was always, "I don't date." She put her children first considering us an extravagant Gift from God. When I was in college, thanks to a community scholarship, she met and married my dear step father, through an intervention by God Himself. She was confident of that it was a Divine match! We couldn't argue once we got to know this dear, Godly widower, who considered himself so blessed to have been Matched with his adorable new wife. Honey said a faith-filled farewell to Nathan who died in 2008.

I spent my quiet nights at Hospice Home with my mother's life flashing before me. I often imagined Nathan on the other side of the veil with his arms held wide, eager for the reunion. During the three days and nights I spent there,  I grew close to the staff. Did they talk this boldly with others who might not share their faith? And they ALL had a considerable faith. Anyone who works so close to the veil, must see beyond it at times. Even the cleaning lady, 68-year-old Barbara, preached love to my sister and me as we counted down the hours. Leaning on her dust mop on one side, and moving it to the other when her topics of revelation changed, occasionally running it over the shiny floor, still talking about the God she knew so well, occasionally breaking into a hymn.  Barbara was a beautiful, spiritual black woman, rich in Testimony for the Glory of God. She too had known hard times. But not anymore. She had been wooed away from employment of a former family into Hospice care when her gifts of compassion and wisdom were discovered. She and my mother would have been good friends. I brought out a photo of my mother so Barbara could tell me how beautiful she was. Yes she was, on the outside of that already diminishing body and on the inside. Her soul is eternal.

In the past few weeks, I have often picked up the phone to share some news with her, only to remember that she is not there. I have many messages that will go forever unerased from my phone of her sweet, animated, ageless, Southern voice.

I have realized what a blessing and honor it was, and will always continue to be, to have a mother of faith. I had a mother who prayed for us children, for our families and friends, even for our enemies. The legacy she leaves us is a priceless treasure. My mother served the role as mother and father. She was the nurturer, the affirmer, the disciplinarian, and the confidante, the teacher and preacher, the never-tiring prayer warrior, the sweet, warm, and welcoming grandmother and great grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend. I have huge shoes to fill! But I had an awesome teacher!

Until we meet again, sweet Honey.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Prodigals, every one

"Consider it all Joy when you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4

This year, 2014, has been a year of trials. I am learning perseverance. By most standards, "JOY" should not be the first word to describe these experiences, and yet I have experienced remarkable JOY! Important lesson I have learned — Joy is not the absence of suffering, but the Presence of the Most High God. In this season of testing and, yes, even suffering, God's powerful presence has sustained me and brought me to a new level of faith. I am grateful. 

One reader recently messaged me after reading the Hound of Heaven Winks series of posts, "It's stories like these that make me say 'how do people say God doesn't exist?'" So, if my shared stories help people "see" God, I will keep sharing them.

Storytelling. Sharing our testimony. I have been given more than my share of "interesting" material for powerful storytelling! And even instructed, in a dream, to "write all this down." I strive to be obedient to that command. 

My ways are not God's ways, nor my thoughts His thoughts, so I am so thankful that Jesus told stories for illustration, instruction, and illumination. I am grateful that he shared The Parable of the Prodigal Son. 

In The Parable of the Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15:11-32, the earthly father does not go after the spoiled, ungrateful son. Unceremoniously, he lets him go. No wringing hands or anxious pleading. No angry threats, condemnation, or recrimination. 

I have a wise friend, Dave, who always taps his forehead enthusiastically when I am share my prodigal stories. "Their brains are not fully functioning. The frontal cortex is not completely grown until they are in their mid twenties," Dave offers an explanation to which I eagerly cling!

And there are new studies revealing evidence of Dave's assertion.  

I have no power to speed the clock. I have no control. I do have power to influence as the clock ticks, but I must be careful how I deliver that precious and powerful tool of influence. It has to be wrapped in unconditional love.

Until that frontal cortex is mysteriously set, (and I suspect I'll recognize some signs)  I often imagine I am talking to a blob of gray clay as I communicate with the young people in my life. Great potential exists in gray matter, as in gray clay. I'm sure it is no accident that God is often called the Potter, and we, the clay. 

As a sculptor myself, I must resist the urge to grab that potential masterpiece sprawled before me and slam it on the table, as I might a real blob of clay (I assure the reader this is a genuine technique called "wedging" and has a purpose!) Sculpting, as "influence," is tedious and delicate work requiring patience. I must be reminded of this. Daily. Hourly.  

Now, back to Jesus' powerful parable. . .

 The father, knowing he had no power to control his self-centered son, lets him go. And in verse 17, (a verse I must have overlooked in previous readings) Jesus said, "Then he (the son) came to his senses."  Hmm . . .  (The frontal cortex element?) God created and understands the workings of these complex organs. The "inevitability" of this step rings true to me. It is part of the process! For all involved. It is in the process that we are transformed! The father didn't say goodbye and then forget about his son. Or even lose hope that he will return. The father never stopped scanning the distant landscape for the boy he prayed would appear on the horizon. Verse 20b reads, "While he was still far away, the father saw him."  

About two and a half years ago, I had a sudden premonition of impending suffering. I have never been prone to depression, so this dark cloud came as a surprise to me. Every perseverance-building incident that has happened during that time, I ask God, "Is this it?, is this what You've warned me about?" hoping that this not-so-horrible experience might be why God issued His warning. I am thankful for His "heads up." He knew these challenges would come, and He is merciful and loving enough to warn me about it, instead of allowing me to be blind-sided. And He has promised to never leave me. That comfort transcends any pain.

That recurring feeling of coming trials also came with a "Prodigal Son" Sacred Echo, leading me to to seek wisdom in all things "prodigal." Prodigal is defined as an adjective meaning "carelessly and foolishly spending money, time, etc."  Another surprising definition is "yielding abundantly." Tim Keller used this definition in his best seller, The Prodigal God

Another important book heightened my perspective, The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Henri Nouwen. Maybe since I am an artist, I related to Priest and author Nouwen's chance encounter with a wall poster of the famous Rembrandt painting by the same name. Nouwen was struck by the hands of the father. His was a powerful spiritual journey. Aren't they all?

Neuwen recognized his own role as all the players in the drama. First, as the younger son, he searches where "It" cannot be found. Then, as the arrogant older brother, he has been judgmental, vengeful, and unforgiving. And finally as the father, Neuwen knows he must be the welcoming, forgiving, loving father. 

I like to think I was never the "younger brother" in this story. Being an introvert who is averse to conflict and a "rule follower," I never left home to satisfy a wild temperament. Then there are those less prideful moments when I recognize those little signs that I had, indeed, "left Home."  I also confess that I have suffered from the arrogant attitude of the older brother who was resentful of the return to glory of an undeserving "brother." I have also fallen short when I was called to be the spiritually mature "father" who didn't hold grudges, who forgave, and who loved unconditionally. 

I see it as progress. C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, "When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less." 

I pray that my eyes be open to my own wretched shortcomings in this unfolding drama, this remarkable journey, remembering that our Gracious God redeems all of it.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Brothers Karamazov

I read The Brother's Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky a couple of years ago. A 800 page, 19th century Russian epic novel is not usually my cup of tea, but when the title kept coming up on lists of must-reads for Christians, I was curious.

The staggering number of characters and plots is dizzying. Between the three brothers alone, Dmitri, Ivan, and Alexei/Alyosha, they have a whopping 14 nicknames. Then there is the other brother, Smerdyakav, the illegitimate one. Paragraphs can run on for eight pages! It is not an easy read. I found myself flipping back to remember who was who, and wishing some capable contemporary author would take on the daunting task of updating the behemoth, tidying the subplots, quickening the pace, getting to the point already, modernizing the paperweight!  But I slogged through! In the months that it has taken me to process the book, the reward has come.

More than a few have called The Brothers the greatest novel ever written. Read some excellent reviews here. The book has power. Soviet dissidents in the Soviet Union in the 1970's gave much credit to Dostoevsky and his contemporary, Leo Tolstoy, for their spiritual curiosity in an age of atheistic philosophy in the USSR.

One reviewer on Goodreads writes, "It's hard not to wish that one had such bizarre events going on around one in order to prompt such lofty oratory." His words reminded me of my own remarkable events this summer, summarized in my posts starting with The Hound of Heaven Winks. With the heart highs and lows of the continuing story of my own "Dmitri," it is surprising that JOY is the overarching emotion. Joy is not the absence of suffering but the mighty Presence of God! God continues to show up!

Although the two authors never met, Tolstoy was critical of the younger Dostoevsky, perhaps jealous, but was rumored to have kept a copy of The Brothers on his bedside table.

Before you rush out and buy it, I'll warn you, it isn't for everyone. I repeat, It is not an easy read! It has been called a murder mystery, but the mystery is solved a few chapters in. Dmitri, the eldest is accused of his father's murder. He is arrogant, but not unlikable. Then there is cold, intellectual Ivan. The youngest brother, Alexei/ Alyosha is called the hero at the beginning of the story by the narrator, but he doesn't seem to do anything heroic, by the world's standards.   And mysterious Smerdyakav. Four brothers from a rich and despicable father, Fyodor Karamazov. The book was actually intended to be the first of a trilogy. The next installment was to follow the brothers to America. But Dostoevski died four months after The Brothers was published.

The sheer mass of this book had been almost prohibitive for me, and being a slow reader, I felt like I could have lived the story as fast as it took me to read it. And that was one of the  points. As one night in the story symbolically turns into morning, the message of the book dawned on me. The characters changed not nearly as fast as I would have liked. So too, in life. The change came slow and with some emotional sting involved. I continue to think about the characters. And not until I looked back on the story does it continue to change me. I want to be like Alyosha. I strive to be like Alyosha. He is the hero.

"Life is a journey" has become a cliche. But the Power of the Universe keeps nudging us back to the High Road of this journey. We wander off, He comes after us. It is a Supernatural experience. Pay attention and experience the JOY of the journey.

If you can get through The Brother's Karamazov, it just might change your life.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Light Bulb Power

Summer has a way of distracting me from quiet, introverted activities, such as writing blog posts. Although life has not paused, we have enjoyed a few weeks of peace.

Roma has been home a month from his adventure in Idaho. Quick recap:

First week, he stayed home, reconnecting with friends, readjusting to house rules after four months with no rules.

Week two we spent together, en route to and from Atlanta.

Home again for the third week, Roma continues to struggle with house rules.

Week four he was in Pittsburgh, PA with our church youth group for work camp, repairing houses.

Building his character, his humility, his gratitude, his faith, and his testimony!

Am I waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop? Maybe, but I am also celebrating a season of relative calm. Calm before the next storm? Maybe, but God reminds me that tomorrow will have it's own worries. I will not "go there" today!

If you are a new reader, you should at least go back to The Hound of Heaven Winks and read all the newer posts from that point. My wish is that each post reads like a continuing story, like a chapter in a novel. Maybe one day there will be a sequel to But the Greatest of These is Love. Roma is more than eager to be a colorful, engaging character who diligently strives to create interesting drama!

More on our trip to Atlanta: On Sunday, July 13, Roma and I headed south, first stopping for two nights in North Carolina to visit friends and family. On Tuesday, we continued to Atlanta for two nights for a court appearance on Wednesday for his arrest for "disorderly conduct," which is, by the way, a "city ordinance," and does not affect his clean criminal record. He does, however, owe me $350 for his fine.

For me, the highlight of this trip to Atlanta was the opportunity to meet two very dear Sisters in Christ who had previously been dear Facebook friends, Nancy and Beth. Such JOY in meetings those two Godly women who God had clearly placed in Roma's and my paths!

We stayed an extra night in Atlanta so Roma could attend the Wednesday night service for young adults at Passion City Church. He had met friends there with whom he wanted to reconnect. In the "Oval," outside the theater, is a wall with light bulb sockets creating the words, "Jesus is Life." On his last visit before he left for Idaho, Roma lit one of those light bulbs. Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City, mentioned those lights, and Roma by name here, starting at the 13:47 mark. ( this link no longer works)

Once home from Atlanta, as Roma was again struggling to live in a house with rules, I frantically read a book, Losing Control and Liking It, How to Set Your Teen (and Yourself) Free. I only have a teen in our house for a few days, so I am reading fast! I would recommend it, but start before your child is a teen!

God is clearly after Roma. So I wait for the Supernatural Work of the Holy Spirit. Losing Control reminds me I have no control over Roma and his choices, and I do not have to take responsibility for them. They are his. Mine are mine. I have "influence" but not "control." How can I best exercise my influence? By loving him and continuing to "be there." I see growth. I celebrate every victory. It is a process. God is in control and continues to make me aware that He wants His job back!

Starting in my next post, I might change the name of a certain character in my ongoing saga, the protagonist who is also sometimes the antagonist, in order to protect the guilty. I think I will name my new young, lovable, exciting, and sometimes exasperating character Dmitri, after a brother in Fyodor Dostoevsky's magnum opus, The Brothers Karamazov.  The Main Character will remain the same—God! Read some of the reviews on Goodreads. An 800 page, 18th century Russian epic novel might not be your cup of tea, but the book has staying power. It influenced intellectual Soviet dissidents in the 1970s, sparking interest in spiritual matters—taboo topics in the former Soviet Bloc.

Dostoevsky wrote that each of the three brothers described his own faith journey's steps.
Dmitri, the self-centered, happy-go-lucky eldest brother is not a bad guy, but he makes poor choices.
Ivan, the middle son, is an intellectual atheist.
Aloysha, the youngest, is a man of considerable faith, the "hero" of the story, as the narrator points out in the opening chapter.

You will read the next 790 pages paying attention to learn why Alosha is the hero.

Read more about Fyodor Dostoevsky in this post, Powerful Literature.

Roma's light in lower right corner in the "F" of LIFE
Would readers like a more tumultuous update like the past several posts?  Those are the stories that "write themselves." They give me chills to live, write, and read. Those are the exciting ones. But life is not always exciting. Not always a mountaintop experience. Sometimes we dwell in the valleys. Most of the time. God is no less present in the valleys.

Roma has had experiences in his short life that are becoming part of his testimony. My testimony too! He has plugged his light bulb into the Source, and witnessed the results. That knowledge is powerful! Will his light always shine bright? No. Sometimes we move too far from the Source of Power. But we remember where the Source is when we long for that Power. If we could only understand the Divine Pull and comprehend God's infinite love for us, and the lengths to which He is willing to go to bring us back to that Source.

I don't often "get it." How could I expect "Dmitri" to understand.

Thanks for tuning in! Keep praying!