Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Prayer is never wasted!

Sometimes we just need a word of encouragement to feel energized again. Prayer is hard work. We don't always see the results we hope for when we expect them. Read this post on my Dare to Share blog: Prodigals: Come Home! May God encourage you. Blessings!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Change is not a Four-Letter Word!

Ask anyone who knows me well. I DO NOT LIKE change!

Just be sure I am perfectly clear:






And did I mention that I don't care for change?

Truth be told, I've often considered it a four-letter-word in the landscape of my life. 

Yet, this very resisted, very despised vehicle of change has been the catalyst for so many blessings from God in our family and in each of our individual lives. We have learned that change, as painful as it can be, is usually fertile ground for growth.

In 2008, my husband and I launched Glass House Ministries. Our primary source of contact has been this blog. At that time of our lives, we had just emerged from some challenging circumstances within our family, circumstances that forced us to grow, both as parents and as Christians. For a few years prior to that, God had been prodding us to deal with certain issues in our family, and we'd buried our heads in the sand, until one day we had to face facts, make decisions, and change the status quo. It was one of the best things we ever did; and coming out of that desert, our hearts were full with the desire to come alongside other hurting parents and other hurting Christians. We'd been wounded by the Christian community along the way, and we'd been disillusioned in our own abilities as parents. We had done a lot of soul-searching. It was our desire to be authentic and genuine people, and to create a place where others could do the same. Our goal was to move beyond empty religion and pious platitudes and to explore what a real life-changing relationship with Jesus might look like. 

At the same time that we founded Glass House Ministries, we also began a prayer ministry. This prayer ministry has grown from its fledgling start as a support for me, as I sought to follow God in my writing efforts, to a weekly prayer ministry, for any who ask for prayer. We have several fellow-prayer-warriors who receive our weekly updates and prayer requests, and our church prays over these requests and others weekly. I like to think of prayer as breathing life into dead places

In 2010, we published Worth Every Tear, a family memoirs, aimed at ministering to families who found themselves impacted by addiction or substance abuse. Our focus and ministry goal was to give support to others whose lives were being turned upside down by substance abuse. We shared helpful resources that we were familiar with, such as Teen Challenge, and we networked others together to share their experiences, as much as we were able. 

Now, six years later, we find ourselves in a new season of our lives. Our children are all grown and married and starting families of their own. We are facing, in the not-so-distant future, retirement. Homeschooling, troubled teens, getting our kids through college ... these are things of the past. Welcoming grandchildren, trying to figure out who we are now, and what God's calling looks like for 2014 ... these are today's concerns. We are seeking God's direction as to how He wants to use us as a couple. And I am seeking His direction as to how He wants to use me  ~ dare I really say this outloud? ~ as an older woman. 

Where has the time gone? How did I get to this juncture of my life? Yet, here I am. Changing again, with Him. 

My heart will always be called to prayer, and the prayer ministry will continue. Providing a safe place for others to be genuine and real will always be part of my heart, but the time for the Glass House Ministries blog has come to an end. I cannot pursue my heart's desire to minister to women and do justice to this blog at the same time. In fact, this blog has been suffering for the better part of this past year, while God has had me at His feet, seeking His will and His desire for my future. 

I resisted what I knew Him to be speaking to my heart for some time. How could I put an end to this blog? It has in so many ways been the first-born of my writing "career." But in the end, I knew I had to be obedient and give it a graceful ending. 

So it is with love that I write this last post. The blog will remain on-line; God is fully able to lead whomever He chooses to its pages. But my energies will be focused on a new venture: Dare to Share, a blog aimed at nurturing women to be all they can be. You can read its first post here: Bare Naked Lady.

It's been fun. We love you all! 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Worth Every Tear, Epilogue & End Notes

If you're joining us in the middle of this journey, you can find previous chapters here:

Chapter Twenty-Five - Day of Reckoning

Chapter Twenty-Six - Crossing the River Jordan

Chapter Twenty-Seven - A New Reality

Chapter Twenty-Eight - Glimmers of Hope

Chapter Twenty-Nine - Weary Warriors

Chapter Thirty - Thanksgiving Harvest

August 2010
In Hebrews 12:2, Jesus is described as “the Author and Finisher of our faith.” This description resonates deeply with me, likely because I am a writer. I’ve noticed that we writers love to discuss our WIP’s (works in progress), and I like to think of God as the Author of my life, and of myself as His WIP (work in progress). One doesn’t have to read far in the Bible to see that all people are works in progress – we grow as we go.
While writing this book, I came up with several “okay” titles for it. Not overly excited about any of them, I prayed and asked God to help me decide what to call the testimony He had asked me to share. One day as I was reading His Word, I happened upon these words in Psalm 126:5 – “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” I read the verse several times and tears of joy streamed down my face, as I thought of all the tears that had been shed on our journey, and how I’d gladly shed each one all over again, to have my family where it is right now. I remember thinking how it was worth every tear, and in my heart I knew that was the name God had chosen for this book. To have our children reconciled to us and to God would forever and for always be worth every tear we shed to come to that place.
In Worth Every Tear ~ Forever and for Always, I took readers on a journey that covered the lives of my family members through Thanksgiving 2006. As I wrote this epilogue, I thought readers might enjoy an update as to where each of us is now.

“Jim and Debbie” are still happily married and adjusting to a new phase of life that many have called “The Empty Nest.” In our personal experience, it is more like “The Revolving Door.” Having both married and single children . . . and several in college on different schedules . . . we find that we have frequent houseguests, and we love every minute of it. It is a joy to spend time with our grown kids and their spouses . . . or future-spouses. What a blessing it is that they want to spend time with us. We also love to have our grandkids visit. And for those rare times that our house is actually empty, we now have a new puppy, Sugar, a.k.a. “Sugar Bear.” She has been lots of fun. (Our pup, Cookie, spoken of in the pages of this book, passed away in December of 2009.)
In the summer of 2008, just after God helped me formulate the outline for Worth Every Tear, He gave Jim and I a vision for a ministry called Glass House Ministries. The heart of Glass House beats in the following words:

Is your life impossible? Have you finally come to understand that neither you nor anyone else can be perfect? Are you ready to be real? That’s where we found ourselves not so long ago, and we know we aren’t alone. We all live in glass houses. Throwing stones of bitterness and judgment at one another will only result in shattered houses and shattered lives. Misunderstandings, shame, fear, guilt, confusion . . . all these work to keep those hurt by life’s disappointments trapped and silent, isolated and alone; but it doesn’t have to be that way. Real people have real problems and they need a place to go, so we founded Glass House Ministries, a safe place to be real.
We are not counselors, therapists, or attorneys. We do not claim to have "all the answers." We do care. We can listen. We will pray. And we will share our own stories. Ultimately, it is God who has the answers we seek . . . to every imaginable situation we can encounter in this world. We will point people to Him without apology, for it is only through His mercy and grace that our family has been made whole again, and it is our heart to see the same thing happen to the people who come to Glass House Ministries.

Not knowing where else to start, we began a blog, which can be found at or, and God has been developing it into a prayer ministry. We also launched a website, which can be found at, giving us a place to spread the word about both Worth Every Tear and Glass House Ministries. We are watching and waiting to see what else God has in store for the ministry. (Cheri may also be reached at

“Derek and Sara” are still married and have added a daughter to their family. “The twins,” our grandsons, are now four, and our granddaughter is two. The family continues to live in Texas, and we enjoy getting together as often as possible. Jim and I are so thankful that God restored our son to us, and we pray that we will never again take our relationship for granted.
As works in progress, parents are often growing and maturing right alongside their kids – at least that was Jim’s and my experience. Sadly, firstborn children often feel the growing pains as their parents find their parenting grooves, so to speak. Jim and I had lots to work through as young Christians and newlyweds with baggage, and Derek was on the front lines. He was the first to navigate the teen years with us, and our misguided thought that we needed to gain God’s acceptance by our performance caused us to parent from a guilt-driven place, rather than a grace-driven place. Eventually we came to understand that we’d had God’s acceptance all along, but we did a great disservice to our son in our ignorance; we were so concerned with how our family looked from the outside . . . so worried about what others might think . . . that we missed the opportunity we had to validate Derek and help him deal with his hurts and the jumbled feelings that came from being the child of a broken family. God is still knitting the bond between us back together. It is a work in progress, but He is a Master Craftsman, and we know that the finished tapestry will bring glory and honor to His name. 

“Jacob,” now 23, stayed for his full year’s commitment as a student at Teen Challenge, and then he went on to complete the six-month internship. He graduated from the Teen Challenge program in December of 2007 and continues to work for them as staff on weekends, while he attends one of Louisiana’s state universities, which happens to be nearby. He is majoring in business marketing and plans to graduate in February of 2012. He is active in his church and has met there a lovely young woman who he has been dating since February of 2009.

“Amanda,” now 21, is in nursing school and has met and married a wonderful young man, a med student; both will graduate by 2012 and are looking forward to starting their family. We often joke about how they met . . . on a blind date, just like Jim and me. Our son-in-law’s mom and I knew one another from homeschooling, and we instigated their initial meeting.

“Kayla,” the “baby” at 19, attends a state university close to home, where she is pursuing a degree in social work. She plans to work toward a master’s degree in counseling. She too has met a special young man, and both are looking forward to sharing their lives together after they finish college. 

In closing, I want to encourage each reader that God is faithful and He can be trusted. He is weaving a tapestry with our lives . . . writing our stories . . . and if we choose to co-labor with Him, He will bring beauty from ashes. He did it many times within the pages of this book, and He has done it more times than I can count in the entire course of my life.
With that in mind, I’ll end on this note of praise: I tried several times in the past year or two to contact “Marcy,” whose church we left to join the home church. My attempts met with failure, yet I still felt a yearning to reconnect with her. Finally, I committed the issue to prayer, knowing I had done all I could humanly do to make it happen. A month ago, she and I happened upon one another in the grocery store, and we had a sweet reunion as we stood visiting together for thirty or forty minutes. She shared with me that had we “met” any sooner, she would not have been ready, for God hadn’t yet ministered healing to the wounds she bore from Jim’s and my departure from the church.
Psalm 46:10 commands us to “be still and know that He is God.” When I chose to wait on Him, He worked out the timing of Marcy’s and my meeting perfectly. When Marcy and I parted, we exchanged phone numbers, with the plan to get our families together for dinner one evening soon.

Our prayer for anyone who finds him or herself reading this book is that you will be encouraged in whatever situation comes your way, that God is faithful, and He is able. We are all works in progress, and the Master Craftsman knows exactly how to fashion us . . . our lives . . . into the story He wants us to tell.

  1.  UT – University of Texas at Austin

  2.  Alcoholics Anonymous® is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and     hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization, or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.   (Taken from

  3.  For over 50 years, Al-Anon (which includes Alateen for younger members) has been offering hope and help to families and friends of alcoholics. It is estimated that each alcoholic affects the lives of at least four other people . . . alcoholism is truly a family disease. No matter what relationship you have with an alcoholic, whether they are still drinking or not, all who have been affected by someone else’s drinking can find solutions that lead to serenity in the Al-Anon/Alateen fellowship. 
        (Taken from

  4.  Four Spiritual Laws tract:  “Just as there are physical laws that govern the physical universe, so are there spiritual laws that govern your relationship with God.”  (Taken from


  6.  Teen Challenge offers an effective and comprehensive Christian, faith-based solution to life- controlling drug and alcohol problems, with the goal of helping people become mentally sound, emotionally balanced, socially adjusted, physically well, and spiritually alive. (Taken from

  7.  Psalm 46:10 NASB

  8.  Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not look on the stubbornness of this people, or on their wickedness or their sin, lest the land from which You brought us should say, “Because the LORD was not able to bring them to the land which He promised them, and because He hated them, He has brought them out to kill them in the wilderness.” Yet they are Your people and Your inheritance, whom You brought out by Your mighty power and by Your outstretched arm. Deuteronomy 9:27-29 NKJV


10.  For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 NKJV

11.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6&7 NKJV

12.  "I do not believe that dating is sinful," writes Joshua Harris. "I view dating in a similar light as I view fast-food restaurants – it's not wrong to eat there, but something far better is available." In a methodical, practical, and challenging manner, Harris then goes on to describe the "better" way of romance, a way that might spare many heartaches and regrets.

       While thematically focused on how to build proper male-female relationships, the real message of I Kissed Dating Goodbye is about a maturing relationship with God. Dating – in a traditional sense – is one of the greater obstacles to young men and women growing in Christ as they ought. Dating is broken; it needs to be fixed. (Taken from

13.  Now Samson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines. So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, “I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.”

Then his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?”
And Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well.” Judges 14:1-3 NKJV

14.  “No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
       And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
       You shall condemn.
       This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
       And their righteousness is from Me,”
       Says the LORD. Isaiah 54:17 NKJV

15.  Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 NKJV

16.  “Footprints”

       One night I dreamed a dream.
       I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
       Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
        For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
        One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
        When the last scene of my life shot before me
        I looked back at the footprints in the sand,
        And to my surprise
        I noticed that many times along the path of my life
        There was only one set of footprints.
        I realized that this was at the lowest and saddest times of my life.
        This always bothered me
        And I questioned the Lord
        About my dilemma.
        “Lord, you told me when I decided to follow You,
        You would walk and talk with me all the way.
        But I’m aware that during the most troublesome times of my life
        There is only one set of footprints.
        I just don’t understand why, when I needed you most,
        You would leave me.”
        He whispered, “My precious child,
        I love you and will never leave you,
        Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
        When you saw only one set of footprints,
        It was then that I carried you.”

        ~ © 1964 by Margaret Fishback Powers

       There appears to be three variations of this poem, credited to three different authors. The version above is actually credited to Margaret Fishback Powers, with other versions credited to Mary Stevenson and Carolyn Carty. You can find out more about the different versions, and each author’s claims at

17.  “The Old Rugged Cross”

       On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.


       So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
       Till my trophies at last I lay down;
       I will cling to the old rugged cross,
       And exchange it some day for a crown
       O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

       In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

       To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.

       By George Bennard © 1912

18.  So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the LORD.” 1 Samuel 1:20 NKJV

19.  Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

       Sarah said, "God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me." And she added, "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age." Genesis 21:3-7 NIV

20.  And he said to him, “Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.” Luke 15:27 NKJV

21.  Taken from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, © l935 by Dodd Mead & Co., renewed © 1963 by the Oswald Chambers Publications Assn., Ltd. Used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids,  MI 4950l. All rights reserved.


23.  Taken from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, © l935 by Dodd Mead & Co., renewed © 1963 by the Oswald Chambers Publications Assn., Ltd. Used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids,  MI 4950l. All rights reserved.

24.  4-H has grown into a community of 6 million young people across America learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills. 4-H can be found in every county in every state, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and over 80 countries around the world. The 4-H community also includes 3,500 staff, 518,000 volunteers, and 60 million alumni. 4-H'ers participate in fun, hands-on learning activities, supported by the latest research of land-grant universities, that are focused on three areas called Mission Mandates: Science; Engineering and Technology; Healthy Living; Citizenship.

       The 106 land-grant universities across the country deliver research driven programs through Extension agents in each of the more than 3,000 counties. The 4-H leadership builds on the strength of our state and local professionals in partnership with the National 4-H Headquarters. (Taken from

25.  At 4-H University, Louisiana 4-H’ers compete for best in the state in more than 40 events ranging from plant identification, photography, and computer simulation, to speechmaking and fashion design. In addition, almost 300 students take part in the noncompetitive learning event called Clover College, which includes seven hours of instruction over the three days.

During 4-H U, participants are introduced to aspects of life that college students experience on an everyday basis. Students tour a working dairy, a biomedical center, and athletic facilities. Students also see how college students live during the week, by residing in campus dormitories, eating at campus dining halls, and going through the rigors of scheduling classes. (Taken from


27.  OxyContin is an opioid agonist and a Schedule II controlled substance with an abuse liability similar to morphine.

       Oxycodone can be abused in a manner similar to other opioid agonists, legal or illicit. This should be considered when prescribing or dispensing OxyContin in situations where the physician or pharmacist is concerned about an increased risk of misuse, abuse, or diversion.

       OxyContin tablets are a controlled-release oral formulation of oxycodone hydrochloride indicated for the management of moderate to severe pain when a continuous, around-the-clock analgesic is needed for an extended period of time.

       OxyContin tablets are not intended for use as a prn analgesic.

       OxyContin 60 mg, 80 mg, and 160 mg Tablets, or a single dose greater than 40 mg, are for use in opioid-tolerant patients only. A single dose greater than 40 mg, or total daily doses greater than 80 mg, may cause fatal respiratory depression when administered to patients who are not tolerant to the respiratory depressant effects of opioids.

       OxyContin tablets are to be swallowed whole and are not to be broken, chewed, or crushed. Taking broken, chewed, or crushed OxyContin tablets leads to rapid release and absorption of a potentially fatal dose of oxycodone.

       (Taken from



30.  John 3:16 NKJV

31.  Romans 5:8 NKJV; Proverbs 18:24 NKJV

32.  Luke 23:34 NKJV

33.  Lyrics from “My Way.” Recorded December 30, 1968, Hollywood

34.  John 14:16-18 NKJV; John 16:5-15 NKJV

35.  Matthew 20:16b NKJV


37.  Joshua 24:15 NKJV

38.  But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6 NKJV

Teen Challenge

The Louisiana Teen Challenge program played an instrumental part in God’s restoration of “Jacob” to our family; for that, we will be forever indebted to them. Prayerfully, we have elected to donate half of all proceeds realized from sales of Worth Every Tear ~ Forever and for Always to the ministry of Teen Challenge.
Our family found that Teen Challenge provided an affordable faith-based solution to life-controlling problems in our son’s life. Because costs vary from center to center and fees are set by local centers and their Boards of Directors, if you are interested in learning more about whether or not Teen Challenge is the answer for your family, it would be prudent for you to contact your local center for more information. Website links will be provided below.


Teen Challenge is an evangelical Christian recovery program and a network of Christian social and evangelizing work centers. It is a 12-18 month program that serves drug addicts, alcoholics, gang members, prostitutes, and people with life-controlling problems.
Teen Challenge was established in 1958 by David Wilkerson, an Assemblies of God pastor, who left a rural Pennsylvania church to work among teenage gang members and socially-marginalized people in New York City. Teen Challenge was launched from a small office on Staten Island. In 1960, the Teen Challenge headquarters was relocated to a large historical house in Brooklyn, New York. From its humble beginnings, Teen Challenge has grown through the entrepreneurial establishment of independent centers affiliated with either Teen Challenge International USA or Global Teen Challenge. They may be organized as a network of cooperating centers having one central governing board or as stand-alone, autonomous centers.
Currently Teen Challenge International USA is headquartered in Springfield, MO. They charter and grant accreditation, develop curriculum for and refer clients to Teen Challenge centers in the United States. Global Teen Challenge is headquartered in Columbus, GA. By late 2008, Teen Challenge USA had grown to include 231 locations, including residential programs and evangelical outreach centers, in the United States.
Global Teen Challenge helps provide materials and training for centers located outside of the United States. Global Teen Challenge represents more than 1000 centers in 82 countries, and is headed by Jerry Nance, President and C.E.O. Global Teen Challenge is divided into seven regions with a director or representative for each region. The seven regions with their directors and basic residential statistics as of 2009 are below. Global Teen Challenge is also represented by additional non-residential Teen Challenge ministries such as coffee houses and evangelistic centers and efforts.
The regional breakdown with its leaders as of January 2009: Latin America and Caribbean - Duane Henders; 1,250 beds in 102 centers in 17 countries; Europe - Tom Bremmer; 892 beds in 58 centers in 28 countries; Africa - Mike Zello; 1,034 beds in 14 centers in 9 countries; Asia Pacific - Malcolm Smith; 357 beds in 51 centers in 9 countries; Northern Asia - Cindy Williams; 180 beds in eight centers; Eurasia - Kevin Tyler; 11,600 beds in 370 centers in 14 countries; North America - Mike Hodges; 7,536 beds in 223 centers in 2 countries.

(Information for this section was found at:


If you live in the United States and need more information on Teen Challenge programs in this country, you may visit their website:

The mission statement from the site reads as follows: To provide youth, adults and families with an effective and comprehensive Christian faith-based solution to life-controlling drug and alcohol problems in order to become productive members of society. By applying Biblical principles, Teen Challenge endeavors to help people become mentally-sound, emotionally-balanced, socially-adjusted, physically-well, and spiritually-alive.


If you live outside the United States and need information on Teen Challenge programs available worldwide, visit one of these two sites:

Their mission, as found in an excerpt from a letter on their website, written by Dr. Jerry Nance, President & CEO, is as follows: Teen Challenge believes in second chances. Our purpose is to facilitate life transformation for the boys, girls, men, and women whose lives have been affected by issues like anger, rebellion, depression, drug use and/or abuse, and other life controlling problems. We believe that by providing our students with a fresh perspective, they will have the opportunity to realize their potential and reach their dreams.

We published our family memoirs in 2010. It is now 2014. Life has moved on. All four of our beautiful children are now married. We currently have four grandchildren, with two more on the way. 

God is always moving forward; never standing still. 

We will be forever grateful for the ministry of Teen Challenge to our family. And we will spend our days sharing His love and faithfulness with anyone who will listen. 

If you've found your way to this blog, it is by the grace and purpose of God. He loves you. He has a plan for your life. That is truth. He died to give you everlasting life. 

I am still seeking His heart for the future direction of this blog, but in the interim, I have been blogging at: A Place of Grace. Come and visit by clicking HERE

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Worth Every Tear, Chapter Thirty

If you're joining us in the middle of this journey, you can find previous chapters here:

Chapter Twenty-Four - The Letter

Chapter Twenty-Five - Day of Reckoning

Chapter Twenty-Six - Crossing the River Jordan

Chapter Twenty-Seven - A New Reality

Chapter Twenty-Eight - Glimmers of Hope

Chapter Twenty-Nine - Weary Warriors

And now, GOD, do it again—
Bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
Will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
Will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

Psalm 126:4-6 The Message

Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.

Psalm 126:5-6 NKJV

Chapter Thirty—Thanksgiving Harvest

November 23, 2006
Thanksgiving Day had never been sweeter – or less traditional. Jim, Amanda, Kayla, and I, along with Jim’s parents, arrived at Mount Grace around eleven that morning, bearing food to share. Our contributions were pooled with everyone else’s; we had the typical fare – turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie – along with many other non-traditional dishes. There was football on the television, laughter among the revelers, and overeating around the table.
But instead of being at home, we sat in a dining hall surrounded by at least seventy-five others. Some tables were filled to overflowing with families in multiple generations, like our own. Other students enjoyed the company of only one or two family members who had been able to join them for the holiday, while some had no family present at all. Regardless of how much company they enjoyed, all the students shared a camaraderie born of time spent together, in pursuit of a common goal – mental and physical health, and spiritual wholeness.
There were at least forty men in various stages of their stay at Teen Challenge. The strict rules were somewhat relaxed on this special day, and for a short time they could forget where they were and how they got there.
Over the months they would spend in the Teen Challenge program, each would come face to face with the God who called them there. They would wrestle with Him and with themselves. Would He sit on the throne of their life, or would they retain their right to rule? It was a question for each individual, and only he could make the choice. Some would see the program through. Some would leave. Some would be touched by the Master’s hand. Others would turn away.
But for today, all would be thankful.
This Thanksgiving Day, the Sullivan clan had much for which to give thanks. We had our health. We had family, friends, more than enough to eat, and a nice home in which to live. And we had Jacob back. In fact, on our visit earlier in the month, he confessed to the war that had raged within him as the four-month mark of his stay came and went. He’d wanted to leave, but he said the Holy Spirit gave him no peace, until he made a promise to God and to himself to stay the full year he had committed to when he came into the program.
I’d done a happy dance in my head upon hearing his words, and I’d prayed a silent prayer of thanks. Thank You, Father, for answering my prayers. Thank You for fixing the mess I made when I spoke without thinking.
With that hurdle out of the way, I could begin to pray about Jacob’s staying on past the one-year mark, for the internship. His current thoughts were that he wanted no part of it, but I was not discouraged. I was finally coming to understand that God’s answers were right on time, rarely early.   
With such a big buffet of food, we had to work hard not to gorge ourselves. We decided to take a walk, to help wear off our meal and work up more appetite for dessert. One of the other students joined us so Jacob could give his grandparents the Mount Grace Tour. We visited Jacob’s cabin first, and then headed to the greenhouses, where hundreds of poinsettias, grown by the students, were housed and waiting to be sold to earn money earmarked for Teen Challenge’s non-profit ministry.
As Jacob led the way down the hill towards the greenhouses, he glanced back at us, speaking over his shoulder. “Oh, I forgot to tell y’all . . . I’m being baptized at church this Sunday.”
“What?” The word exploded from me like a cannon shot.
Jacob grinned.
Jim’s mom was a bit more eloquent in her response. “I think that’s fantastic, Jacob.”
I was overcome with a joy that bubbled clear through me. “Jacob, this is such good news.” I wiped at happy tears. 
“So how did that come about?”
“Why didn’t you let us know? We could have made plans to stay for the whole weekend.”
“Your sister has to work, so we have to get back.”
Questions flew around our little group, with no pause for response.
Jacob kept smiling and said little, content simply to have shared the news.
The beauty of the poinsettias stole Jacob’s thunder, but I continued to praise God for the miracle that had taken place over the past five months. Our son had returned to us, and he’d given his heart and life to his heavenly Father.
As we turned to walk back to the dining hall, I schemed to find a way to lengthen our stay and attend Jacob’s baptism, but it was a futile task. We had to have Amanda back to work for Saturday.
Once more amongst the throng of students and their visitors, happy chatter buzzed around me as I remembered a conversation I’d had with a six-year-old Jacob.
“Jacob, do you believe Jesus loves you?” I asked him.
“Yup.” He continued trying to stand on his head in the middle of the living room floor.
“Do you want to want to ask Jesus into your heart to be your Savior?”
“I asked you if you want to ask Jesus to be your Savior.”
“I don’t know.” He chortled as he toppled over.
“Jacob, come over here and listen to Mommy.”
He skidded to a stop at my feet, like he was stealing home base. His dancing eyes gazed into my own.
“Now, you learned in Sunday school and AWANA’s about how much Jesus loves you, right?”
“Yeah.” He had his finger up his nose.
I stifled a sigh. “Take your finger out of your nose and look at me.”
He complied, but couldn’t stop wiggling, not even for a second.
I tried to hold his gaze while his head bobbed around. He was a bundle of energy just waiting to explode somewhere.
Determined, I tried again. “Pay attention, son. So you know Jesus loves you and—”
“—He’s sad when we sin, and He wants to help us not to do that.” I smiled.
“Uh-huh . . . .” He was struggling to maintain eye contact.  
“Jacob.” I tried to redirect his attention.
Again, there was that impish grin. “Huh?”
“Do you want to pray and ask Jesus to be your Savior?”
“Uh . . . .” He was trying to stand on his head again.
At that point, four-year-old Amanda had interrupted me to say she wanted to pray, and I’d led my little girl to the Lord. It was a week or two later that Jacob followed suit, in response to my coaxing, and I’d questioned in later years if his experience had been truly fruitful.
Jacob’s rich chuckle – the one which had replaced his childhood chortle – pulled me from my reverie into the happy hubbub around me. He was laughing at one of our “adopted” Teen Challenge sons.
Clay was thirty-something and loved to clown around with Amanda and Kayla. He was pointing his right index and middle finger, in the shape of a “V,” first at his own eyes, then towards the girls, and then back at his eyes. As he pointed, he said, “Never forget . . . I’m watching you. If any boys bother you, I’ll see it, and I’ll be there on my chopper to take care of business.” He nodded his head, eyes twinkling.
The girls blushed and giggled. They had more “big brothers” than they knew what to do with these days.
Clay did have a chopper back at home. He and Jim had great fun talking motorcycle-ese. At least once a conversation – whenever they talked about owning a motorcycle, or riding one – I heard Jim’s familiar refrain: “That’s what I’m gonna do when I grow up.”
Amused by Clay’s antics with the girls, Jim’s mom laughed so hard she got me started.
Meanwhile, another “adopted” student joined our table. “Did you hear Jacob is getting baptized on Sunday?”
“We certainly did.” I beamed.
He visited with us for several minutes – sharing prayer requests and what was happening in his life – before he moved on to inspect the dessert table. The transparency and humility of these men – their desire to follow and serve God – never ceased to amaze me. In so many ways, our time with the Teen Challenge students, Jacob included, had made a verse from Luke 7 come to life for me. I recited verse 47 to myself from the New American Standard Bible: “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." Lord, I prayed, may the intensity of the faith in this room be contagious.
I gazed at my nineteen-year-old son. Gone were the unruly curls of his childhood. He was no longer an awkward and gangly pre-teen . . . nor was he attempting a headstand, as he had done in my memory moments ago. But there, in his serene face, were the same dancing eyes – full of merriment, quick to forgive . . . and now displaying a depth of warmth and wisdom that comes from life’s experience. I blinked back a mother’s tears, savored the moment, and allowed myself a few seconds to remember his first baptism.
Jacob was eight when six-year-old Amanda asked to be baptized. In my trademark fashion, I “helped” God out by pushing for big brother to join her.
“Did you hear your sister tell Dad and me last night that she wants to get baptized?” I attempted to penetrate Jacob’s television trance.
His eyes had remained glued to the television screen, and he popped his thumb in his mouth. “Uh-huh,” he said around it.
“Do you think you’d like to be baptized too?”
“I don’t know.”
The phone had rung, interrupting further “encouragement” on my part. “Let me know what you decide, okay?” I’d called out as I moved to answer the phone.
Eyes still on the screen, he’d nodded his head.
Later Jacob had decided he “guessed” he wanted to be baptized too, and so he had.
As with his prayer of salvation, I’d questioned over the years if it took.
Back to the present again, I sent a quick prayer heavenward. Lord, thank You so much for helping Jacob make his faith his own. I wish we could be there, but at least when Jacob is baptized Sunday, I’ll know it was his own idea, and not a religious right of passage he went through because it was something expected of him . . . something he was “supposed to do.”
 I reflected for a minute on my own salvation experience. I'd gone to confession and communion many times without having a personal relationship with my Savior, thinking that I was doing something that blessed God. But the truth was that I couldn't please God without faith.38 But how could I have faith – a solid trust – in the very real Person of Jesus Christ if I'd never met Him? For so many years, He had been just another historical figure to me – Someone whom I believed was real but couldn't picture having a relevant impact in my personal life. I'd envied others who had that personal connection, and I didn't understand it . . . until I finally met Him for myself.
But still I had deceived myself to think I could make salvation happen for my son. I thought if I taught Jacob the truth about Jesus . . . if I pushed hard enough . . . if I prayed hard enough . . . if I worked hard enough . . . Jacob would awaken to belief. I'd tried to take over the work that was God's alone. Somehow I'd gone from planting and watering seeds of faith in my child's life to trying to force the harvest that only God could bring. On this day, God brought forth a harvest in my own heart through my son – a harvest of trust in God's faithfulness. I'd learned to let God be God, for only He can know a person's heart.
After a full day, we began our trek home.
A few miles had rolled by when I turned to Jim and said, “You know what?”
Jim reached for my hand. “What?”
“God has changed Jacob’s name, just like I wrote in his letter.”
“Yes, He certainly has.” Jim smiled and squeezed my hand.
I was quiet, recalling the words from the letter: Over the years, I have prayed that – just like Jacob – God would change your spiritual name from Jacob (deceiver) to Israel (Prince with God).  Genesis 32:28 says, “And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.’”  My prayer is that you will look God in the eyes, admit who you are, and let Him change your name, your heart, and your life.
I sighed.
Jim looked my way. “You okay?”
I nodded and said, “I’m so happy about Jacob’s baptism. I just wish we could be there.”
“I wish we could be there too,” he agreed. Then he continued with his customary discernment, “But maybe it’s best this way.”
I looked his way, the question in my eyes. How?
He smiled. “We’ve been helping God do His job for years. This is Jacob’s time – Jacob’s and God’s.”
I thought back over the years . . . all the sowing of spiritual seed into our kids . . . the joys and the sorrows of parenting . . . the many tears along the way. My heart was full. To be where I found myself this day, I could truly say it was worth every tear.
Then I recalled the day’s date: November 23rd. Had she still been alive, this would have been my mother’s 69th birthday. I couldn’t help but smile. What a wonderful birthday present God had given her. She now knew she would spend eternity with her grandson . . . and I was willing to bet she’d be watching his baptism on Sunday.


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