Unexpected Blessings

It’s Saturday afternoon and I can hear the neighborhood kids jumping off our deck and onto the rope swings we put up for the grandkids. Our acre in the country offers a lot of room for kids to play and when you put eight or ten kids together with a Great Dane named Maverick (who also believes he is a kid), who knows what will happen? The young couple living in our guest house has two children, ages six and eight who are magnets for the neighborhood kids and our house is often the grand central of play areas for the neighborhood.

A bit later, the joyful shrieks and unending laughter draw me to the window where I have a front row seat for the squirt gun battle of the ages. As the kids tear across my deck and run around the yard, stepping out from behind trees to squirt their unsuspecting victims, I find myself laughing and wondering again where they get all their energy and wishing there was a way to bottle it. I would definitely be a regular customer.

At that moment a gentle sense of God’s joy, peace, and contentment overwhelms me and I recognize again how truly blessed I am. Right here, right now in the midst of the uncertain and difficult times in which we live, God’s unexpected blessings appear just when I need them most – and I am grateful.

God is so good. He’s so good to me.

A Glimpse of Heaven

My mother was an impressive woman and people who met her never forgot her. She was strikingly beautiful, vivacious, graceful, and energetic with a wonderfully wide smile that helped her meet people and make friends easily. She was the quintessential home maker – the prototypical female of the 1950’s (think Donna Reid meets June Cleaver). I was her first-born daughter and she worked hard to instill these feminine traits and value in me.

Then there was my other mother – the one with a drink in her hand. Alcohol would turn this otherwise refined and genteel woman into an obnoxious, impatient, overbearing, irresponsible, and boorish stranger. It was during these times that I became the mother to my three younger siblings.

I remember being so confused by her mood swings. I could not understand them until one day I overheard a neighbor in the grocery store making a remark about my mother’s drinking problem. At nine years old, I just hadn’t made the connection between the empty vodka bottles and her mood swings.

My mother’s bondage to alcohol continued throughout my childhood and on into adulthood until shortly before she became ill with brain cancer. On her death bed she apologized for all that she had put me through as a child. She told me she loved me and had always been proud of me – words I had longed to hear as a child.

God’s unconditional love and forgiveness in my life allowed me to forgive my mother long before her apology. And two days before she died, she came to faith in Jesus and found peace with God. But there’s more to the story. Just days before her death, my mother had a vision – an up close and personal glimpse of heaven.

Toward the end of her battle with brain cancer, when death was imminent, my aunt, my sister and I took turns sitting at my mother’s bedside. We wanted to be with her to the end. On one such night my aunt reported that Mom opened her eyes, looked all around the room, and asked my aunt if she was still alive. My aunt smiled and said, “Yes Charlene, you are still here with us.” With a look of wonder and amazement on her face, my mother turned to my aunt and said, “Oh Patty Ann, I have been to a beautiful place full of brilliant colors and indescribable beauty - things I can’t begin to understand.”

God gave my mother a glimpse of what was waiting for her if she would just surrender her life to Jesus, which she did later the next day.

Some think there is no God. Others believe he has forsaken us and scoffers say he isn’t returning. But the Bible says that God is holding back judgment because he doesn’t want anyone to be left behind. He waits with open arms for anyone, anywhere, anytime who will place their faith and trust in him - even an old, alcoholic woman, who came to faith on her death bed.

God isn't late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn't want anyone lost. He's giving everyone space and time to change. ~ 2 Peter 3:9 (MSG)