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.

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!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Building a Palace

The last series of posts beginning with The Hound of Heaven Winks, garnered a lot of page views, shares, private messages, emails, and teary phone calls. And I'm sure many kind people kept their opinions to themselves when they thought I'd lost my mind or joined a cult! One expressed concern was that I have been too open about my son's private life. Perhaps I share too much. But I share to the Glory of a loving God who I want to make visible.

The calls of encouragement and thanks I received far outnumbered the ones I interpreted as assessing my insanity. After all, I was writing about "spiritual warfare"! Angels and demons! Casting out demons! You know, stuff Jesus talked about! 

Many readers have asked, and yes, Roma made the trip to Idaho, the build up to which was documented in the previous posts. The journey to Idaho was a divine arrangement by a miraculous act of a merciful, gracious, active, persistent, and supernatural God, and servants of God who answered the Call along the way. Every experience he has lived adds to his growing testimony that I pray he will one day share. Will it be soon? Or must he endure many more stories of how God found him as he was running away or bouncing along in the pit of hell? I don't know. Roma is only 19. 

Did I understand at 19? I might have thought did. I had grown up in the church. I did all the "right" things, for the most part. I never doubted God's existence. However, I didn't know I was asleep in the faith, comfortably just coasting along. I was shaken awake in my fourth decade with an experience I describe as the "scales falling off my eyes." I had been blind, but suddenly I could see! I didn't understand then that it is a process that continues throughout life. Powerful readings, conversations, and experiences have peeled other layers of scales back on a regular basis. Every time God reveals a new bit of His Truth to me, I become more curious and thirsty for more Living Water. To know and love God, and to make Him real to others has become my life's greatest desire. 

When I was experiencing my born-again epiphany, a trusted friend who knew what I was going through sent me an article that led me to a book that resonated with me. I wrote about it in my post, Quantum Change. The book by the same name is not about "religion," it is a psychology book. Check it out. I am convinced what I experienced 14 years ago was indeed a Quantum Change, where my priorities changed through no effort of my own and I met God for the first time in a powerful, intimate, life-changing way. 

I have prayed for this kind of life-changing experience for my children and everyone I pray for! I didn't deserve it. I didn't go looking for it, because I didn't know I needed it or that it was even possible.  It was an extravagant Gift from God that I initially tried to reject.  

So I circle back, as always, to the God who relentlessly pursues us. All the time.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity: "Christ says, 'Give me All. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good . . .Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.'"

What are humans, that God is mindful of us? I ask myself this question all the time. We know what God wants from us.We are most often not having any part of it, so we keep running! We wander off, God comes after us, offering His best. We are always wondering how painful God's best for us will turn out to be.

I wish I could paraphrase C.S. Lewis, but no one can express ideas like he can, so I will end with another quote from Mere Christianity,

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."

We would be wise to let Him have His way! 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Angels and Demons, part two

My last post ended with me in a state of near hopelessness, for the first time ever. Roma seemed to be lost in a haze of evil. I couldn't reach him. He didn't want to be reached. I went to bed Sunday night despondent and crying over my lost boy.

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." –Psalms 30:5

Monday morning, June 23, when I woke up, the world seemed much brighter than the night before. I reread Roma's texts. "You need to reconnect my phone, I have to be able to contact Markus."

Who was Markus? Did he mean Mark? Mark was the man who wanted to take Roma and other young men to his ranch in Idaho for a week. The mere suggestion of the trip had "irritated" Roma two days earlier. He had said, vehemently that he was NOT going. But Nancy was so sure Mark was the "real deal" from her first meeting on Saturday. I totally trusted Nancy!

I turned his phone back on. I texted, (even though I had been instructed to stop responding to him), "if you want to go to Idaho, we will pay."

"Yessssss" he texted back. I knew whatever his reason for deciding to go, God wanted him there.
Our texts through the morning revealed a hurt boy. We "made up," and I offered grace to a boy who needed my love like never before. He needed mercy so much more than the world's view of "justice" at the moment!

I had spent Saturday afternoon, before all Hell broke loose, literally, reading the long, detailed, articulated email and information Mark had sent me after he met with Nancy and husband that afternoon. His testimony and career credentials were impressive, and Sacred Echoes rang throughout. His recorded testimony included his unexpected Call to mission work in Russia, much like mine to adoption. The God-you-have-got-to-be-kidding feelings, the provisions supernaturally supplied for the Call. And, "coincidentally" (I think not), he mentioned in his email the name of only one young man who was a past ranch visitor. Mark had no way of knowing that I just happened to know this young man's mom on Facebook. I live in Maryland, and Beth, in Atlanta. As Facebook friends-you-don't-actually-know go, Beth is closer than most. We were connected by a mutual friend, adoption, and my book. We have even spoken on the phone a couple of times, and prayed together for our boys!

Sunday I sent Mark an email informing him of Roma's arrest. Would that preclude him from going, and could the trip help him if he didn't think he needed help?

Mark said that Disorderly Conduct was a misdemeanor, and he had met much tougher cases than Roma. He was hopeful. No, he changed his word to "confident."

I asked the price of such a week. Only his plane fare. Mark said he and his wife had been blessed with this mission and would provide for all his needs for the week.

Too good to be true?

Beth, my facebook friend who had prayed with me for our boys was learning the same time I was that her son and Roma had been invited by Mark to dinner! She was speechless on how it had all happened. She called me and we marveled at God's work in the lives of our two boys. She echoed Nancy's sentiment that Mark was the real deal! She said that whatever Mark suggested, do it.

Mark called on Monday evening and patiently answered our many questions. He had had an experience with God many years ago. He had been an addict and almost at the point of death when God came to him. He spoke of the demon who had lived in him, causing depression and addiction. He said as soon as he saw Roma, God told him that Roma was the one he was supposed to take to Idaho. That many of these boys adopted from Russia had a foul spirit attached to them.

Nancy messaged me on Monday morning to say Mark had just called her husband. Remember, Nancy and her husband had not met Mark before Saturday, less than 48 hours earlier. Mark asked if they could pick Roma up from his hotel room that he would soon be checking out of, and bring him to their house. Could he stay with them for one night? He would keep him until Thursday, June26, when he would fly out with Mark instead of waiting until Saturday, June 28, with the other boy, Roma would fly with Mark. Mark was afraid to leave Roma unattended until they got on the plane. He didn't want anything to happen to Roma to prevent him from going. He said that Roma's demon was fighting for his life, and would try to stop him from going to Idaho. I looked back over the past few days and saw it was true.

This was starting to sound like a Frank Peritti novel!

Before this experience, I have talked about "spiritual warfare" in abstract terms. But now I have witnessed it, and felt it, and Nancy was constantly validating my suspicions through the weeks of our close communications. And now a man God so clearly led into our lives is talking about casting off demons? This man who is a lawyer and scientist by profession?

Nancy successfully handed Roma over into Mark's care on Tuesday, June 24. Tonight, June 25, Nancy is picking him up to take him to his last, for a while, Wednesday night service at her church. She asked me if it was okay. I messaged back, " BE VERY CAREFUL WITH HIM! Haha! I feel like you will be in possession of the box that holds the Hope Diamond. The box doesn't look like it, but Satan wants to steal it, and God has gone to amazing lengths to protect it! Please keep him on a leash and in ankle cuffs!"

She wrote right back, "I will protect it with my life!"

What are the chances all these connections would have happened without Divine Help? Zero!

Had I continued along my stubborn path, having once said that if a child of mine was ever arrested, I would let him sit in jail a couple of days to learn a lesson. Satan was counting on that. I am thankful for Nancy's gentle nudge that we needed to get him out. The window of time was so small, to get him off to Idaho. Had I been firm about my earlier conviction that Roma needed to learn the hard way was exactly that, MY convictions. I had not consulted God about it. And the Enemy didn't want Roma to get out. He wanted Roma to miss this trip that God so clearly was lining up.
The timing, the circumstances, when I look at the bigger picture, were uncanny. Roma meets a man on Saturday, and by Tuesday, is staying at his family's home. On Thursday he will be flying off to a new opportunity. Had I listened to MY conviction to turn his phone off forever, this opportunity would be lost.

So many pieces of a enormous puzzle. Every piece has it place, and its purpose. During this season of testing, I have learned so much about God, and the Enemy. God's love is incomprehensible. His mercies are brand new every day! My life is enriched by a new, improved prayer life. Never before have I spent so much time on my knees or on my face, pleading my case, and Roma's, before the throne of God. And God showed up! Another layer of scales have fallen from my eyes. I also have a new, dear Sister, Nancy. We will meet one day, hopefully before Heaven! I have a new peace, that He who is in us is stronger than he who is in the world.

I have no idea what tomorrow holds. None of us do. But today brings great JOY! And I will embrace it!

Thanks for your continued prayers.

To the Glory of God! Amen!

Next post, Building a Palace