Friday, February 10, 2017

God wrote the end from the beginning

I recently came across this photo from my high school yearbook. I was immediately snatched back to 1974.  The Annual Staff had come into my art class with a mission, to fill pages of the year book. I was  listening attentively to my friend, Candy, to my right, telling her typical funny stories, as Jim Croce broke my tender heart from the radio behind us. I was absent mindedly scraping clay with a tool. The photographer watched me for a moment, then asked to take my picture. I felt  flattered, but awkward. I've never loved the camera aimed at me, so I diverted my eyes, lost in my self-consciousness, for a moment captured forever, a message in a bottle to be discovered years later, when roses, pink roses, would flood my broken heart with healing balm.  

So much during this past year of grief and God's Presence in the midst of it, reminds me that God wrote the end from the beginning. He did it with His story in the Bible. Why am I surprised that He did the same with mine? It is a mystery, one whose revealing brings me surprise joy in the midst of pain.

God wrote the end from the beginning. He loved me before I was born. He knit me together in my mother's womb. (Jeremiah 1:5) He numbered the hairs on my head (Luke 12:7). All my days are written in His book. (Psalms 139:16) God knows me intimately. There's nothing that's hidden that won't be revealed. (Luke 8:17)  

God loved me when I was that young 18-year-old, molding my beloved roses, not knowing then I would go from 18 to 60 years old at warp speed. But when I look back, as we all do, I see His fingerprints all over my life.  

Just before Christmas, I came across a box of letters my mother had saved. I was ecstatic to find THE letter I had forgotten existed. Written on vintage stationery from 1975, I told my biggest fan,  my mother, about an exciting development in my love life. (I put that cherished letter aside until after the busy holidays , and, sadly,  I've not yet been able to find it again.  I'll keep looking.)

In my innocence at nineteen, I told my mother about that beautiful boy who had captured my heart. He didn't know in his own 21-year-old innocence that I had chosen him for my life's partner. In one of our playful conversations when we were "just friends" he unknowingly encouraged my fantasy by saying if we ever got married, we would adopt. It was definitely not my plan to adopt, but I was giddy at the thought that he would  even imagine that we might one day marry.  

Over the next fast 25 years to 2000, 23 years married to that beautiful young man, and three children, the topic of adoption never surfaced again. Not until God utterly stunned me with the foreign thought in March,  2000.

But before that shocking revelation in 2000, other foreshadowing had gone unnoticed, or suppressed.
                                                            *      *      *      *

In the mid 1980s  I remember a moment as clear as a movie clip. I was walking from the kitchen into the living room of the first home we purchased. The radio was background music, all but silenced by my loud imagination.  My ears were suddenly opened to the words as if the volume had been turned up. Tears ran unchecked down my cheeks as I listened to the lyrics for the first time.   

Former member of the band The Police, Sting, was singing a haunting song. Russians. We were still in the throes of the Cold War, and the Russians were the enemy, so I had grown up believing. But now I had tears streaming uncontrollably down my cheeks, moved by Sting's words, "What might save us, me and you, is If theRussians love their children too." I had my two adored young daughters, Kellie, one and Heather, three, napping safely in their rooms. I was  overcome with tears, with crushing compassion for the children. Innocent children. In this case, Russian children.

                                                            *      *      *      *

I  worked for National Geographic on the magazine's supplement maps for most of the 1980s. I recall a day when we were cleaning out offices  and there was a massive book give away. People were grabbing copies of new releases. The only books that captured my imagination were two discarded mid-century books written in Russian, from a researcher's shelf. I couldn't read the words, of course. But I was drawn to the mysterious Cyrillic alphabet and the photos from an unfamiliar world.

                                                            *      *      *      *

More hints came several years later, in the early 1990s. My dear grandmother-in-law handed me a catalog to choose some puzzles as gifts from her to  my children. The one I chose without hesitation held no special memory for me. I might not have been able to tell you much about the building in the puzzle's image, only that I remembered it from a dark auditorium during Art History classes. It was Saint Basil's Cathedral, in Moscow, the capital of the recently dismantled Soviet Union, once again named "Russia." (I chose the image of Saint Basil's Cathedral, with a view the crosses on the spires for the cover of my book, Butthe Greatest of These is Love.)

                                                            *      *      *      *
In the Spring of 1992, Heather, then in the fifth grade, was chosen to be a part of the All County Chorus. She and a friend met at our house to practice their songs. When they agreed to practice for me, I couldn't hold back tears with one of the selections,  Song for a Russian Child. I challenge you, as I mop tears now, to listen with dry eyes. (This is not Heather's chorus singing it, although I'm sure Bruce  recorded it and we've hidden it from ourselves in a safe place. Like my lost letter.)

The night of the performance, I was thankful for the dark auditorium. While I dug deep in my purse for wadded tissues, I noticed no one else in the audience was moved like I was. How could everyone sit quietly and clap stoically, while I was almost out of control with emotion? Where did that sadness come from, I asked myself, as the song ended and lights were bright again.

On that evening of overwhelming compassion, the boy God had chosen for me wouldn't be born for another two and a half years.

                                                            *      *      *      *

God doesn't wind us up and let us go on our own power. Surely that is how I must have thought it worked. I recognized none of His foreshadowing until weeks after He came to me on a March evening in 2000 with a mission I so desperately wanted to decline, when He came to harvest the seeds He had planted throughout my life. 

When I invariably go AWOL. He comes after me. "Remember, Debbie," He whispers, "Remember how perfect MY PLAN is?" I do! His plan brought me Roma. And a sure knowledge of God.  Although we know His plan is always best, we fear what His Plan will ultimately cost us. But the conscious AWARENESS of God is worth the cost. His revelation of Himself is stunning. 

A wise young friend, Megan, gave me this verse yesterday, and as so often happens, it came up mysteriously in my reading this morning.

"The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." Deuteronomy 29:29

I am eternally grateful. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


I'd like to introduce myself to new readers and invite them to join my story. It is actually His Story, told through my life.

I am an artist and a writer. My favorite mediums are words, followed by oils and acrylics. When I am overwhelmed by life, my first response has always been to write about it, to paint it with words.

One day my writing took off in earnest.

On April 22, 2002, I grabbed my journal from my carry-on bag to calm myself after boarding a jet bound for Russia.  I didn't know my frantic scribbling would grow into a real book. My notes grew as life happened. I told so many people about my transformational experience with God, I thought it would be easier if I organized my notes into a little story. I would rather write than talk. 

So, my story made the rounds as a few printed-out manuscripts bound together with binder clamps and transported in manila clasp envelopes. Kind friends and family members would read it, leave me notes of encouragement, and pass it on to others. I was always eager to get them returned filled with the affirming notes, often with a sentiment, "This story must be told!" 

Finally, in 2012, I had the courage to published But the Greatest of These is Love. My editor returned my marked-up manuscript, writing on the last page, "The end--and the beginning." No more appropriate words could have hinted at the stories to come.

And come they did. My blog is mostly the sharing of these continuing stories. Some are funny, many are hair-raisingly beautiful, some, heartbreaking. Stories of real life. Recently I suspected there was another book to be mined from all these stories.

Here is the Amazon link to my book. Read a few reviews. I'd love to have more.

One of the best reviews and summaries I've read was written by a Michigan blogger who I will likely never know in person. But she understood the spirit of this book.

Two popular series are

TheHound of Heaven Winks. God is always present. I simply record the events as they happen, and He makes Himself visible.

And Hope of Restoration. Readers have said this 11 part series could be a short book on its own. (Warning--Robert Frost wrote, "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader." Conversely, if that is true, you might want to grab a tissue, or a towel!)  
Links at the bottom of each will take you easily to the next parts. 

You can even read the introduction and first chapter. All profits have always gone to orphan care. Presently, The Harbor of Saint Petersburgh, is the recipient, to help Russian orphans who have aged out of the system. 

The single most viewed post is It is Finished, with over 2,000 pages views the first day. I'll provide a link to that one, if you read the others first.

My three year old blog has always paralleled my life. When one jarring event transformed my life just over a year ago, I received a private message from a reader, who knew my family only through my writing. She mentioned us by name, as if she knew us, then she wrote, "Just then when I typed Roma's name, God said 'spell it backwards.' Amor. Love. You will write another book, and it will touch more people than the first."

Alright then.

God keeps giving me stories. His Stories. I'll keep writing them down. I couldn't stop writing if I wanted to. It is like taking dictation from an internal Voice that never stops talking to me.

I am thankful! 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Betty White is Golden

Yesterday was Betty White's 95th birthday. Everyone loves Golden Girl, Betty White, for her grace, charm, energy, wit, and beauty. I love her more than ever because of her positive attitude. Betty's old school approach to life and optimism resonates with me. We have little control of outcomes, so we might as well offer hope in our own little corners of the world, and leave the bigger outcomes to God. With so much division and egos flaring fueling hate in all directions, I am joining Betty in declining the hate bait.

Remember the conventional wisdom from years ago: If a child, or adult, had anger problems, experts suggested getting them a punching bag to release their anger so it doesn't build up. But in fact they discovered the opposite happened. The more anger and aggression are indulged, the more anger and aggression grow.  This, like many other educational and psychological experiments that have been proven mistaken, it must be abandoned. We have witnessed when vile hatred is unleashed by everyone doing what is right in their own eyes, with no regard to others who may disagree, it infects everything and everyone around it. It is like a narcotic.

I am going to continued to be a "cockeyed optimist," like my hero Betty. Watch her wisdom shine in the interview with Katie Couric, who tries her darnedest to bait Betty, but Betty wouldn't budge. Hatred destroys the vessel that holds it. Like Betty, I'm not partaking.

Yes, there is deep divid and mammoth problems this country. But I am hanging on to my assurance that God is in control of the mess. He tells me not to allow the bad thoughts to enter my mind. 

Paul, an apostle of Christ, reminds us in Philippians 4:8, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on such things." He probably knew if we humans didn't heed that admonition, we would fill the void with poisonous vitriol. 

I have to have hope! I agree with Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." 

Don't take the hate bait. We have scared the children. 

Betty is positive, Betty is gentle and kind. Betty is beautiful and healthy at 95! Probably because she is a cockeyed optimist. 

Be like Betty. 

Watch Betty rock her interview with Katie Couric here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

This is my son

It has been a year and two weeks since Roma left for Heaven. In that time I have shared many experiences that God has used to comfort me. I have began many new posts that I have not completed. But I am moving ahead, considering all I have shared, I believe it might be time to start that new book that has been revealing itself over the past decade. My first book, But the Greatest of These is Love concluded in 2003, at the year anniversary of Roma's arrival. My editor added "The end and the beginning" at the close of the book. I could not comprehend that the story was truly just beginning. And it hasn't come to on end yet. 

In a effort to bridge that gap from 2003 to 2012 when the book went to the publisher, I shared one story from 2009 at the end that would be a glimpse into our lives over the years, and summed up Roma's personality. It is the story that follows. I hope readers will read But the Greatest of These is Love and the blog posts that followed over the years. I was even instructed in a dream to write it all down. The documented experiences are priceless to me now, and protected against the effects of my fading memory. I am thankful to God for unmistakably telling me to write it all down, and then giving me the words. 

A logical beginning blog post is The Hound of Heaven Winks, when God made me hyper-aware of His presence. The links at the bottom of each will advance the reader to the next post, and cumulatively will serve as my abridged memoir. The unabridged story, I will be working on. Blog posts by definition are short and designed for quick reading. My next effort will be to tell the whole story as I know it, as it has been given to me, as I have lived it, and how I understand it. 

In spite of the grief of losing Roma this side of heaven, I am comforted by the knowledge that he is not gone forever. He just went ahead of me. So like Roma to have to be first. 

This is the ending of my first book. Enjoy, and be inspired to read the whole book and prepare for the second book. All profits have always gone to orphan care.

This is My Son

When I heard his bedroom door slam with force, I stomped to my own room and resisted the urge to do the same. I reminded myself that I was the adult.

As usual, I didn’t see this skirmish coming. It started benignly, with me reminding my fifteen-year-old of his responsibilities.

As usual, Roma replied absently, “I’ll do it later,” while watching TV.

“Roma, if I had wanted it done later, I would have asked later.” I chose my words and tone deliberately, to sound calm, reasonable, and in charge. “You are done with TV for now. When you have straightened up your room, you can go out and help Dad shovel snow.”

What?” Roma barked at me, his green eyes bulging with hostility. “There is too much snow to shovel! It is like ten feet deep.” Roma’s hyperbole is legendary.
“Roma, I am not arguing with you. If you have any hope to watch TV later, you need to do your chores, now.”

My early resolve to remain calm soon failed, and we ended in full blown verbal combat.

Adolescence has been difficult for Roma. We all suffer when he fights for control. He can be defiant, argumentative, and manipulative when he demands to have his way. When he is less determined to be the boss, he reverts to the little boy I remember who is delightfully witty and charming, with a sweet spirit and a generous heart.

Bruce and I adopted Roma from Russia when he was seven and three-quarters—old enough for a strong personality to set. Until God plucked him from the orphanage for our family, he was pretty much in control of his young life. It has been hard for him to hand the reins to us.

When I felt God’s not-so-subtle call to adopt an older Russian child, I expected a shy, hurt little boy in need of gentle encouragement and acceptance. What God sent us was an assertive, confident little dictator! And God had a bigger surprise for me: I could love an adopted child every bit as much as I love my other three children. Little Roma was so cute and smiley, our older soft-hearted children often let him have his way. I was determined not to spoil him, especially when our son Taylor, twelve at the time of Roma’s adoption, said that until he could think of him as a brother, he was going to consider Roma an “exchange student from God.” Rearing a boy sent from God was a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

A determined mom and a headstrong boy often butt heads. This, like most of our battles, was a power struggle over who gets to be the boss. Once in my room, I fell to my knees and prayed through clinched teeth, “Lord, you sent him to us; pleeease help me deal with him. Please teach me patience and wisdom to mother Roma. And Lord, please give me hope that, in the long run, he will be okay.”
I phoned a close friend that evening who I knew could provide hope. Her sons, age twenty-six and twenty-seven had challenged her similarly in their younger years, but were beginning to show signs of genuine maturity.

“This is so hard,” I confessed. “I am praying that I keep my sanity, what little is left! But I am mostly praying that Roma will grow up to be a functioning member of society.”

My compassionate and wise friend assured me that Roma would not always be fifteen. I ached at the thought that we might suffer another ten years before relief, but hope was hope, and I knew God’s timing wasn’t my timing; otherwise, Roma would be acting like an adult by now!

The next morning, I remembered a dream from the night before … Was it a dream? Bruce and I were talking to Roma outside in intense sunlight. Roma was like a dazzling white statue, yet he was moving and talking like normal. I had to squint to look at him. His essence was bathed in a white, unearthly brilliance. Bruce and I were talking about the bright light but were somehow not amazed by it.

The dream was so vivid; it lingered with me throughout the day. I even asked Bruce, during a break from his and Roma’s marathon snow shoveling, if we had indeed talked to Roma outside the day before, and had he been so bright we could hardly look at him? It almost seemed plausible because a record snowfall had begun days earlier. In the surreal time that we were trapped at home after the blizzard that week, our suburban neighborhood had been transformed into a winter wonderland. Everything was buried under four feet of snow after “once-in-a-hundred-years,” back-to-back blizzards. When the sun reappeared, the whiteness of all that snow was truly blinding. Sunglasses were as essential as snow shovels. Despite the outside brilliance, Bruce’s blank expression told me that no such thing as a conversation with a glowing white Roma had taken place.

That evening, having forgotten about my dream, I was catching up on my Bible reading. I began where I had left off, at Matthew, chapter seventeen, the Transfiguration. “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light … and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” (NIV)

Hairs stood up on my neck and chills raced down my arms.

Now don’t get me wrong—I don’t think for a moment that Roma is Jesus returning! But in the same way that we are all God’s children, Roma is one of God’s boys.
I had prayed for hope. Empowered with divine encouragement, I have lightened up with Roma and try to cut him some slack when he behaves like the adolescent that he is. It is his job as a teenager to test me at every turn, and he takes his business very seriously! Many of his strong-willed leadership “skills” will be assets to him when he grows into them. We need to be on the same team instead of on opposite sides at tug of war.

God is in control of Roma. Jesus was about thirty when he came into his ministry, not fifteen! The only knowledge we have of Jesus as a youth was that he was a determined lad, who didn’t ask his parents’ permission when he stayed behind in Jerusalem when they returned to Nazareth. Mary and Joseph reacted much better than I would have! Jesus was taking care of business, taking charge of his life. Like Roma does.

Roma is not stingy with his apologies. After another clash fueled by cabin fever, he came to me, humbly, like a little boy and confessed, “I just want to say I’m sorry.” His repentant “I’m sorry” always mystifies me, from a confident boy who knows everything about everything. I am encouraged by the character it represents.

“Roma, I wish I could open the top of your head and pour in some of this wisdom I have gained in the years that it has taken me to become a dinosaur. Dad and I expect a lot of you because you are so gifted in so many areas. Before we are ready to let you go, you will be leaving us. We want you to be equipped to make it on your own. Kids leave home and forget the lessons their families try to teach. Many even walk away from their faith in God,” I warned.

Roma’s eyes narrowed as they met mine. “I could never not believe in God, after what He did for me,” he said with that faint Russia accent that most people no longer detect.

I stared at my beautiful, angelic son, stunned. Roma was thankful after all. On some level, he got it.

God has renewed my hope. Even when slammed doors separate us, I still consider Roma one of my favorite surprise blessings.

I am clinging daily to God’s promise, that He who began a good work will see it though, in Roma, and in me.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me hope. And Roma.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Our God is . . . (Day 31)

This is the final post of our Write 31 Days series. If you’ve missed a post or would like to re-read some, you can find each post on the landing page: 31 Days of Miracles. Today's post written by Anna Smit. 
In September, Debbie and Anna sat chatting, time zones apart, but in Spirit joined, as God led us to this beautiful series. As we prayed over our ideas and plans for 31 Days of Miracles, God both closed and opened doors, leading us to who He wanted to share and our writers to the stories He wanted told. We have watched Him recover beautiful memories, grow a vulnerable strength and deepen our trust in Him. What a blessing this month has been to stand in awe and be amazed at our God as He’s worked in and through each one of us, writers and readers alike.
He has revealed Himself as a God who sees us, knows us so intimately and never ever stops pursuing us. A God whose love is powerful, compassionate, tender, gracious, merciful, kind, empowering and an anchor through each and every storm and heart wrenching loss.
Thank you to each one of you who has linked hands with us to pray over and through this series. We have known our God’s Presence each step of the way and feel so privileged to have been entrusted each of the beautiful stories Jesus has written on His people’s hearts. We pray that our God will continue what He has begun here.
LORD we thank You for each and every one of our readers and writers. We thank You for the stories You have written and are continuing to write upon their hearts. LORD we thank You that You are our God who has knit each one of us in our mother’s womb, who is working each and every piece of brokenness within us into Your healing wholeness and whose plan is not to harm us, but to prosper us. We thank You that even now You are sending us out to bring Light and hope into the darkness.
We thank You for the privilege and honor of serving in Your Kingdom, for pouring out the love, joy, faith and hope You have sown within each one of us. May the words You have blessed us with continue to be a blessing to those around us, near and far. Send us and our stories, where You can set captives free, bind up their wounds and lead them in the path of righteousness, of life-giving truth. This we pray in Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.
NOTE: The two graphics above include my answer to and answers some of our writers sent me in response to the question: Who is your God? Special thanks to Wendy L. Simpson (chriswendysimpson. for the stunning artwork. And also a special thank you goes to each one of our contributing writers and faithful readers.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

I Have Plans for You – Yes, YOU (Day 30)


This is the 29th post for our Write 31 Days series 31 Days of Miracles: Who is Our God. Today, Michael Chardavoyne (see below for his bio) shares his story.
It was summer of ‘07; I was your typical teenage punk with an attitude wider than my long board. I was still bitter about being kicked out of school for a fight I didn’t start and never wanted to be involved with in the first places. I didn’t know that the bully that instigated the fight still had such an impassioned vengeance towards me. I didn’t know that on that ordinary, heated summer day, the course of my life would be completely altered.
I was on my skateboard, traversing on a sidewalk next to a main road when my attacker found me. His brawny figure was accompanied by his seemingly ever present posse. They surrounded me in a “U” shape pattern, advancing on me quickly. I tried to back up and use my skateboard as a shield, but as I was backing up, I tripped over the curb falling backwards. They first kicked me and then held me down, preventing me from getting up. The main attacker proceeded to punch my skull, alternating
from his left to right meaty fist, each finger adorned with rings that amplified each hit. He left me in a fetal position, but before he finally exited in his car, he threw a beer bottle at my head. When he left, I pushed my body off the ground not knowing the extent of the damage caused. I was thankfully only a couple of blocks away from my house. I opened up the door with someone in my family frantically exclaiming “Oh, my gosh!”
That’s the last moment I remembered until I was transported to a sterile hospital room with a nurse carrying a Caribbean accent softly saying, “You’re lucky to be alive. You should have been hooked up to a machine like a vegetable or dead.”
The events of the time are so sharply vivid, yet the timing has been covered in a haze of pain and prescription drugs to alleviate said pain. Now I’m left with disjointed pictures to confusingly sort out the time frame. One of those disjointed pictures is a time that has left me as a different person yet it’s one snapshot that I’ve been reticent to share.
I can join with the Apostle Paul and say, “And I know such a man–whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know; God knows.” 2 Corinthians 12:3. Many believe Paul was referring to his own near brush experience with death. I still remember my own. I saw my body laying lifeless as I strangely came out of my body. It felt like I had almost stepped out of time, then I was jettisoned into a type of tunnel that led me to a place that was cloaked in colors I had never before seen. There was a massive, yet shrouded figure in the distance I could not see, but I did see the beauty surrounding this being and I heard his words. “The life you lived was a lie. I am going to make you a new creation. I have plans for you.”
You have to know, at this time in my life, I was a foul mouth skeptic who was uncertain that such events could happen to a person. God literally had to allow something so otherworldly that the
skeptic in me could simply not explain in human terms, yet had to surrender as conceivable since I witnessed it firsthand.
I awoke sometime later, compelled to look at a box of letters written by my deceased dad and my dusty Bible that I had mostly treated as a superstitious dream catcher. In his letters to me, he wrote about his favorite book of the Bible, Revelation. A type of holy curiosity emerged in me after the heavenly encounter, so I opened up the long stowed away Bible to Revelation, pouring over the Scriptures that echoed the encounter I had. Realization struck me as I was reading that I was not directly headed to this majestic place. I was a sinner that fully lived out the livelihood of a sinner.
Words spurred by conviction spilled from my mouth as I repented of my sin and placed my faith in Jesus- the One who personally spoke to me.
It was a miracle yes, that I was alive, but it was an even bigger miracle that I entered into a new life of salvation.
After I was connected with a local church community, a message on forgiveness was preached. That stirring I felt inside of me that I knew to be from God was prompting me to forgive my attacker. Not long after the message was preached I was faced with a redemptive opportunity from God. My attacker showed up at the church I was singing at one night with the choir. After I was finished singing, I saw my attacker. With tears in his eyes he offered me a hug and said “Merry Christmas.”
Even though I’m thankful to be alive to see a glimpse of the plan God has had in my life, I still have repercussions from the incident. Medically speaking, I had a contusion of the brain (bruising of the
brain) that’s made learning more difficult. A miracle divinely came to me in a different form to help remedy this issue. A former teacher was ushered into my life who became an owner of a brain
training center which used state of the art neuroplasicity techniques to change the brain. After the initial testing process, it was found that my long term memory and short term memory were greatly impaired. Even though the training would be a beneficial solution to my problem, we simply did not have the budget for the roughly $15,000 of training. My wife prayed that there would be some solution to this to allow for the opportunity. A year later, the woman felt a tug on her heart from God to offer me the brain training, free of charge.
My wife helped me write this article because I still have issues reliving the experience. Even though I forgave my attacker, I was still diagnosed with PTSD from this trauma (as well as others in my life).
I know that those several experiences were miracles from above because I could not produce them myself. Now, I’m forever changed from that one summer day that brought life to a decayed soul.

Michael and Sarah Chardavoyne have been married for three years now. A year after they were married, Sarah’s health took a turn for the worse. Michael sought to do whatever he could through prayer and action to restore her health. They chronicle their journey of longing for the miraculous at

Friday, October 28, 2016

We'll Be Okay-God Is With Us, Even Now

This is the 29th post for our Write 31 Days series 31 Days of Miracles: Who is Our God. Today, Richard Leakey (see below for his bio) shares his story.
My Dad was an amazing man; unconditional love, humility and such a learner. He wasn’t perfect but he was real and genuine. The pile of humanity is me and my brothers wrestling once again with the man we could test our strength against. So many people told us stories when he passed. "I was in a tight spot. I didn’t know what to do. Your Dad turned up and prayed for me. God broke in."
The photo above is Mum and Dad when he was deep into Alzheimer’s. Words can’t capture the horror of this disease that gradually strips away all you knew and leaves a shell. It’s like death by a thousand cuts. A hundred goodbyes when the person is still in the room. 

Teaching and realising the man who mentored you didn’t understand what you’d just said, watching the man who loved family shuffle out of the room because his brain couldn’t keep up. Despite this if I had one word to describe this season I would say beautiful.

One of those moments was giving back Dad's allotment. We think he first had his own vegetable plot aged ten. More than sixty years later we stood in a small plot of land he had hired from the local council on his retirement and realised he had not managed to grow anything that year. Alzheimer’s sufferers have a typical behaviour called phasing. Simple tasks that were tacit, no longer have a brain connection to go with them. The brain tries desperately to understand what’s next. The person just stands and stalls. Getting dressed can take an hour. Dad phased his way through a whole growing season and did very little.

I flew home to help Mum close up the plot. None of us were looking forward to this.
Dad was at a stage where he could no longer follow abstract concepts but we felt it was at least important to talk to him about what we were doing. This usually involved a long and frustrating sentence by sentence wrestle. Not that morning. With Alzheimer’s there are golden moments when the person is suddenly back in the room with you. As Mum, Dad and I sat round the breakfast table to talk he was suddenly with us. Not the Dad we knew and loved but the man from a year earlier who understood. He was able to agree it was time to stop. What a relief, an unnecessary grace.

Emptying the garden shed of his tools, giving away plants and pots was deeply painful. I stood on the threshold of his second hand hut and wept. Returning the key to the simple lock rendered Mum and the co-renter speechless. How is God able to turn beauty into ashes in this place of defeat and loss?
He did though. My best solution was to create a couple of raised beds in the small garden of my parents’ house so Dad could at least potter in the soil. God's was to give Dad a bigger allotment, friends and a place of ministry.

Unbeknownst to us just around the corner from Dad’s plot was a small charity Grow for Giving that had a double plot. Their vision is to accompany people with Dementia and Alzheimer’s and give them a therapeutic activity. As we gave back the keys God had prepared a solution for us and we discovered it almost simultaneously. Dad could be part of a community for hours every day. Where he was cared for and understood. Until he became too sick to leave the house he was able to go several times a week to garden.

Psalm 145 v 17 say the Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all he does. Experiencing that kindness in such a dark place was amazing. As I look back onto that season it feels like so many things have been realigned about who God is. In the midst of suffering he met us. Deep inside there was a sigh of relief, we’ll be OK. God is with us.

Richard Leakey was raised in the UK in a Christian home. His father was a pastor in the Anglican church. At 16, he got a calling in missions. He got a degree in agriculture and he and his wife Elaine joined YWAM. They’ve been in Switzerland with YWAM for seventeen years. Richard is now also seeing a dream come alive in different parts of Africa, helping subsistence farmers.
Five years ago, his father was diagnosed with Alzheimers. He died last summer in his parent’s living room. Here is the ministry that helped his father with gardening & memory care: Steps to Senior Care.
If you'd like to hear more of Richard's story, visit the inspiring Re-Story podcast Mary DeMuth did with him in June this year.