Monday’s Breaking Bread
May God bless you and your loved ones this Christmas. Merry Christmas from us all at Beloved Prodigal.
We have some sad news. Our team member Linda is unable to contribute anymore, due to health concerns. We are so thankful for her contribution – in prayers, encouragement and words. She has agreed to keep her name on our Team Page – as even though she has had to withdraw from writing, she will always remain an important part of Beloved Prodigal, with her prayers and words remaining a blessing to us all.
Today, our new Beloved Prodigal Team member, Debbie, is entrusting a piece of her story to us. Debbie wanted to share this with you all before she begins telling her story:
I am the mother of a prodigal. Or two. I am a daughter of a prodigal. A granddaughter of a prodigal. A sister, an aunt, and friend of prodigals. And, when I am honest and stripped of my pride, I recognize that there have been times, too many in fact, when I too have “left Home.” I wander off from where Jesus has prepared a table before me. I make idols for myself, and of my Self. I lack gratitude and reject the good Gifts God means to give me. I desire my own way. I eat out of the proverbial pig trough of self indulgence.
Oh, how I thank God for His extravagant love that compels Him to lovingly come after us.
We pray that her story will touch your heart this Christmas, just as much as it has ours. May God open the eyes of our hearts to receive the gift He has waiting for us in the words He has given Debbie today.
A little child shall lead them. Isaiah 11:6b
For by grace you have been saved through FAITH. And this is not your own doing; it is the GIFT of God. Ephesians 2:8
During Advent I can’t help but think of Mary. I can only image her terror when an ANGEL of the LORD came to her to reveal her Chosen-ness. She would bear a child who would save the World. What must have raced through her young mind! Did she already know and trust God before Gabriel appeared? Surely she couldn’t grasp the magnitude of her assignment and the necessity of her surrender.
Her fear did not stop her from accepting God’s perfect Gift, a Gift that would drastically alter planet Earth for the next two thousand years, and into eternity. It is impossible to overestimate the enormity of Mary’s yielding her will to God’s perfect Plan.
I wonder if Mary considered asking God to choose someone else.
In March of 2000, when I was 44 years old, God brought me to a radical awareness of Himself. I would call it a dramatic conversion experience, even though I had grown up in the church and “believed” all my life. But when you’re asleep, you don’t know you’re asleep, until you wake up. God was waking me up. God was opening the door of my pale little box of life into a Technicolor world where the Eternal God of the Universe made Himself known, up close and personal, to ant-like me. It was like the scales fell from my eyes, and I could finally see.
It was breath-taking. I had been content in my little safe place. Then, without warning, God whispered His absurdly radical plan to my own terrified heart.
My response was to try to recoil into my previous dark place of unknowing God, to attempt to bar the door of my little dark existence, and decline God’s invitation. But the door had been flung open. I had seen the proverbial Light. It was impossible to retreat back into ignorance.
What God asked of me was humanly impossible. I loved my comfortable life. His Plan threatened to profoundly alter my family. To demolish it. My new, keen awareness of His Presence made His Voice, His command, even more unavoidable. Undeniable. Un-declinable. What had God whispered to my hardened heart? He stunned me with one alarming word. “Adoption.”
This was an invitation I could not possibly accept. Yes, I suddenly realized, in my former comfortable life of complacency, my family had become my god. I was happily married with three extraordinary children, ages eleven, sixteen and eighteen. Being a stay-at-home mom was my most treasured gift in my entire life. I guarded my family fiercely, even against God.
God in His great mercy, wisdom, and love, knew it was a matter of my spiritual Life and Death. My little part in God’s big Plan was one I couldn’t decline. I know this because, unlike Mary, I had tried every way I knew, pleading, “choose someone else.”
The gift God was offering me, like Mary, was a child. God would gradually reveal my Gift was not a baby, but, perhaps even more scary, a seven-year-old boy. God had pre-selected him for our family, apparently. Fear gripped me, as I reasoned a child who had spent years in an Eastern European institution would have enough trauma in his past to cause trauma in my future. But God continued, relentlessly, patiently, irresistibly, whispering “Follow Me” until I was so far down the path I found myself seated beside my husband, who surrendered much more easily than I, on a plane bound for Russia in April of 2002.
I braced myself for a timid, wounded, lost little boy from a Russian orphanage who would require gentle love and encouragement. Imagine our surprise when we met God’s Hand-picked Gift. Bright and shiny Roma was an assertive, fearless, confident little dictator, a beautiful child with a trademark smile and a deep gut laugh who delighted us and everyone who crossed his path. An extremely extroverted lover of people, Roma spread himself around over the years, touching people far and wide. He embraced life and everyone in it. As a strong-willed child, he was regularly a challenge and a grower of my faith, often driving me to my knees in prayer. But my primary and enduring reaction to Roma was delight. Roma delighted me.
When Roma was 19, he decided to experiment with the prodigal route. Extroverted Roma was not averse to risk. His introverted, rule-following mother was. My prayer life suddenly revved into high gear. I knew I had to trust God, even as I pleaded with Him for Roma’s safety and faith transformation. Roma had always been God’s boy, on loan to us. My older son, almost thirteen when Roma invaded our formerly quiet home, accurately verbalized Roma’s role over the next decade and a half: an “Exchange Student from God.”
Finally, at 21, Roma suddenly stopped running, turned around, and, similar to his stubborn mom, only decades younger, he admitted that God was a force he could not resist any longer.
The next seven weeks was a season of unbridled gratitude and joy. Roma had come home. We had no fatted calf, but we heaped love and prayers of Thanksgiving on our once-lost, now-found joy-filled son. Roma had witnessed God’s relentless pursuit as he ran. He returned exhausted and changed by God’s creative, visible, often hair-raising chase.
I thank God for that precious home coming, because, as an exchange student from God, Roma was soon Called Home. Seven weeks after he returned home, on December 6, 2015, Roma touched a live electric cable while at a new job, working on a metal roof, and fell two stories to the sidewalk below. The next morning, he was declared dead.
How I detest the word “Dead.” Dead implies that all life is gone. I know this is not the case. I know God well enough now, because of the gift of Roma, to understand that ours is a brief and temporary separation. Roma got on that Glory Train earlier than I would have wanted. Impulsive Roma always had to be first in line! But Heaven is the ultimate destination of all who love and trust God and have been called according to His good purposes.
Roma fulfilled many good purposes in his abbreviated life. God hard-wired Roma to affect people, to woo them close to his Light. Roma was God’s secret weapon. God sent Roma into people’s lives, many in fact, and God slipped in with him. We thought God wanted us to save a orphan, but God used irresistible Roma, not to save the World, but to save our little corner of it.
I am keenly aware that Roma’s life goes on in an enhance state. Roma is safe from the brokenness of planet earth. Oh Death, where is your sting? Death’s sting is temporary. Roma is not.
God didn’t come to me in March of 2000 to ask me to be a rocket scientist for the Kingdom. He didn’t ask me to go beyond the gifts He had already given me. He asked me to be a mom. Being a mom is my life’s most cherished role. Giving a loving mother a child like Roma was an extravagantly perfect Gift. A child of wonder, sweetness, generosity, humor, (and Roma would want me to add his winning personality, handsome good looks, and beautiful green eyes, etc.) And I will add, a child that challenged me, often, and drove me to my knees, often, and multiplied my faith a thousand fold. The consequence of that treasured gift of Roma was the primary Gift of FAITH.
God gives us each uniquely designed Gifts. He equips us to use the Gifts to His Glory. We should never expect the Journey with God to be easy or safe. It will be neither. It was never meant to be. Mary’s Son warned, “in this life, you will have troubles.” (John 16:33) And my son illustrated that fact flawlessly. Even suffering does its perfecting work, when we lean into God and know Him as a comforting and trustworthy and Holy Father.
I am thankful for the many lessons of Roma. The stories and challenges he brought me. The Joy and AWE when God dramatically showed up. So much of my faith story, my testimony, has Roma’s name written all over it. I love to think, now at Christmas, as always, that my dear outgoing Roma has on ongoing friendship with Jesus. That sacred image gives me chills, and makes me smile. I am confident that Jesus delights in my Roma, too.
I hold fast to the promise that He who began a good work in me, and Roma, and you, and yours, will see it through to perfect completion. (Phil. 1:6)
Precious Savior, What are humans that You are mindful of us? Thank you that you came to broken earth to save broken people. We are an ungrateful and unrepentant mess, worshipping idols we make of ourselves instead of our Creator. And, yet, You find us worthy and capable of radical transformation. Oh, Dear Lord, make it so with us. Open our eyes to your powerful activity in our lives. Don’t let us waste our pain, or wallow in self pity, but accept that blessed assurance that You have begun a good work in us, and You will see it through to perfect completion. We are all prodigals, and You have come after us. You pursue us with a power unequalled in our limited understanding. Teach us to let earthly worries and idols fall away, that You, Lord, are the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the END. You alone are HOLY, not the little idols we make to, and of, ourselves. Thank you Lord. You came as a child, Lord, but you will return as a KING. Teach us to put away childish things, and accept your free Gift. Your promise in your Word, Lord, assures us that when we call upon you and come and pray, You will listen, and if we seek YOU with all our hearts, YOU will be found! This present suffering is not worth comparing to the Glory you will reveal to us. Reveal Yourself to us, Lord, as we become expectant. Father God, please teach us to wait expectantly for your power and strength and wisdom and Glory.In the precious Name above all Names, Jesus. Amen.
Roma was in this particular audience when David Crowder sang this song at Passion 2015. Passion is a Christian conference for 18-25 year olds and their leaders. Knowing Roma, he sang loudly and off key, and his hands were lifted. He was counting down the days until he could return to Atlanta, Georgia, in January 2016. He missed it by three and a half weeks, and had to watch from Heaven. This was one of three of his favorites we used in his sideshow for his Celebration of Life. We have found solace that Earth truly has no sorry that Heaven can’t heal. Roma had many exciting adventures in his short life, and it is easy to grasp the concept that he is off on another big Adventure, this one the best yet.
Roma holding his 2015 Passion ticket
Video, Come as You are starts at the 15 minute mark. Get to know this extravagant Gift from God better. I am so thankful God chose me to be his mother.
May God bless you richly! Merry Christmas!