My Heavenly Father is Smiling with Me-Part 1 by Zack Fugate

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Close your eyes and imagine a time in your childhood when life was sweet. Even if it was for a brief moment, reminisce and consider the sights, sounds, smells, and emotions. Allow yourself to feel that moment again and rest in that warmth.

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”-Psalm 63:1

As a young boy, some of the sweetest memories that I find myself thinking about are the early morning quiet times I experienced with my Grandma Connie. While it was never the case any other day, I couldn’t help myself but wake up at 4:00 in the morning to learn about the Bible and talk to my grandma. She always had a piece of peanut butter toast and a fresh cup of hot chocolate waiting for me because she knew I would be waking up. I would often sit in awe of how she looked out the window. It was as if she was seeing the most beautiful pieces of God’s creation for the first time. Every now and then she would tear up and a single tear would drop on her hand as it rested on the pages of her Bible, and I would watch the tear break apart into the crooks and crevices of her worn hands. I can still hear her whispering to me, “Oh, Zachary, God loves us and he is smiling with us right now. ”

“So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.”-Psalm 63: 2-4

These wonderful morning memories lasted all the way through my junior year of high school. There were times that I would even wake up extremely early during the summer on the days that I needed to mow her lawn, and I would bike all the way across town. It never failed; there was always the Bible, peanut butter toast, and hot chocolate. I have frequently pondered how she knew I was going to be there as I rarely told her I was coming. Nevertheless, everything was always ready and fresh when I arrived. As I get older, I have wondered if she always made it in the hopes that I would show up because she cherished the times as deeply and as warmly as I did. Through that year of my life, my grandmother was a rock in my walk with Christ, and I didn’t think that foundation could ever waiver. Sadly, after the passing of my grandfather and my family moving away, things began to change for my grandmother.

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips…”-Psalm 63:5

After my sister and I went off to college and my parents moved away, my grandmother moved back to her hometown, Rochelle, Illinois. Within a year of moving back home, she met a man and married him shortly thereafter. It turned out that the man she married was an unbeliever, but he was a sly and extremely educated man. I can remember the first few times that we visited and my grandmother talking about his intelligence and exciting background. While we all felt that something was off, she worked hard to convince us that things were good. I was devastated one morning during a visit, when I woke up early and wondered down the stairs excited to visit with my grandma and study the Bible with her again. It had been a long time, so I quickly ventured down the stairs. As I turned the corner into the kitchen, she wasn’t there. My heart sank, I went back upstairs, and I began to tear up. I thought to myself, “How could this be? She was so strong.”

Over the course of the next few years, her husband belittled her faith and called her ignorant. He convinced her that only weak people believe in a God because they weren’t strong enough to find answers themselves. He also had a drinking problem, and he would often lose control and embarrass my grandmother amongst friends. In an effort to isolate her even more, he began to tell her that she didn’t need to call us and visiting was out of the question. Brothers and sisters, my heart broke as my family was growing and my very own grandmother had never even met my son. Things came to a head when my father was visiting her prior to a trip they were taking to Hawaii. My grandma had fallen and cracked her hip and when she went to put her walker in the vehicle as they prepared to head to the airport, he stated to her, “You don’t really think I am going to allow you to embarrass me with that thing do you?” My father almost lost control, but gathered his emotions and hugged his mom, my grandmother, tightly. I wish that I could tell you that the story ended there, but things went downhill from there. What we didn’t know, however, was that God was moving in his steadfast love, and my grandmother was about to find herself resting at the feet of her Savior again.

**Please stay tuned for the second part next week.

Your brother in Christ,
Zack Fugate


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