Hope for the Unknown

“Mom, what’s so funny?” I asked as she walked down the hallway to rejoin us. Having exited the bathroom, I anticipated a variety of funny scenarios.

“I’m wearing two pairs of pants! Isn’t that silly?” Her laughter was contagious and I joined in, but all the while thinking, This isn’t funny.

I caught my sister’s eye. Our laughter couldn’t mask our deep concern and growing suspicions.

When Mom began forgetting to take her medicine, we thought it was just old age settling in. When she got lost driving home on a familiar road, we excused it as too dark to see the road signs clearly.

But the day she wore two pair of pants we couldn’t find an excuse. It was something more than silly.

How can someone put on a second pair of pants and not realize it?

The answer to that question wasn’t funny at all. It’s called Alzheimer’s.

A myriad of questions ran through my mind. What caused this? What can be done to stop it?
How long before she doesn’t remember me?

The unknown answer to that last question haunted me. I begged God to be merciful and allow Mom to always remember me. Her condition was the focus of many prayers. Her physical health was in steady decline. Diabetes had left her legally blind and with unpredictable blood sugar levels extremely hard to regulate. Mini strokes required hospital stays, weakening her ability to care for herself. Growing more forgetful and confused necessitated 24 hour care.

I pleaded with God to take her home before she had to experience her biggest fear – a nursing home.

Although my mother was a woman of faith, sometimes anxiety got the best of her. I inherited that tendency. I was anxious about her health and fearful she would forget me.

One day while crying out in prayer, I felt God answer in a surprising way. Forming as thoughts in my mind, I felt as if God said, “You’re praying like you have Alzheimer’s… spiritual Alzheimers.

This realization hit me hard. I had been praying like I’d forgotten all God had done for our family in the past. Reminders of his faithfulness flooded my mind.

I recalled:

…unexpected monetary gifts to match a need
…return of a wayward child
…protection of my in-laws attacked in their home
…depression lifting after months of suffering

…broken relationships restored
…comfort when loved ones died
…emotional and physical healing
…guidance in parenting

As the list grew in my mind so did my resolve to trust God. Recalling his faithfulness infused me with hope.

Alzheimer’s was definitely a journey into the unknown. As I began to trust God, I no longer worried about my mom forgetting me. I found peace despite the temptation to be anxious. Fresh hope even found joy as we walked together into the unknown.

©2017 Cindy Richardson for GateWay of Hope

Cindy Richardson seeks to encourage, challenge and inspire women in their journey of hope through Bible studies, speaking and writing. Cindy weaves God’s truth and shares her faith with kindergartners at St. Joseph Christian School.

Residing in St. Joseph, Missouri with her husband, Tom, she enjoys the friendship of her three grown daughters and loves being Nana to six grandchildren.
For more inspiration, visit cindyrichardson.org.

Hope in Unfailing Love

I imagine he loved me, but I don’t recall those words ever being spoken.

My dad taught me to ride a bike, roller skate and snow ski. He bought a camper and took us on summer vacation for weeks at a time. He taught me to swim in the ocean and how to catch crabs in the bay. I loved my dad, and when he was relaxed, I enjoyed being around him.

He wasn’t relaxed very often.

As a workaholic, my father was very demanding. He had quite a temper and I never knew when his anger would erupt. The sales clerk who moved too slow and the repairman who failed to fix the lawn mower were unlucky recipients of his anger.

So were older siblings when they didn’t complete their chores to his satisfaction. I witnessed my mother enduring his verbal abuse, and I made it my goal to never be the object of his wrath.

I lived most of my childhood trying hard to be perfect. It was exhausting and brought unspoken shame.

I was embarrassed by the way Dad treated people but I would never have whispered those words to another living soul.

Even writing them now seems a small betrayal of our family. But words left unspoken, when truth is at stake, can be devastating. Family secrets can be dangerous.

The truth is, fathers are supposed to treat their families with love and respect. If their anger results in sin, they are to apologize and ask for forgiveness. If they are unable to control themselves, they are to seek help.

Fathers are not expected to be perfect. They are however, designed by God to be an earthly representation of a perfect heavenly Father’s love.

Dads are supposed to build up their families, not tear them down. They are to provide for and protect those they love.

Unfortunately, not all dads understand their role. And many do not rely on God to help them love their families well.

My experiences with my dad affected how I viewed God. One day as I was sitting at a conference, the speaker asked the audience to close their eyes and picture God.

We were asked to think about Bible verses that spoke of his love. Not a single verse came to mind. Instead, a startling image emerged – my dad, standing with a pen and a clipboard, ready to critique my performance.

No wonder I had held God at arm’s length. I believed in his existence, but didn’t believe he cared about the details of my life. I thought he was harsh and demanding, waiting for me to mess up so he could point out my faults.

That weekend I discovered God was nothing like my Dad. I learned he loved me regardless of my performance.

He patiently waited for me to ask him to heal the heartache of those early years trying to measure up to unattainable standards. He longed to speak words of love to my soul.

The Bible speaks of God having unfailing love; without error or fault. God’s love is reliable, constant, and everlasting.

Imperfect people will fail. Dreams of perfect relationships will shatter. But God’s love can be there to help pick up the pieces.

God proved his love when he gave his only Son to rescue me from my self-centered love and my sin. There isn’t anything I can do to make God love me more than he already does.

Since God’s love is a gift, there isn’t anything that I can do that will cause him to take away his love.

I don’t have to earn his love, or prove I’m worthy of it. He proved I’m worthy of his love when he exchanged places with me on the cross.

This unfailing love satisfies my need to be known and valued for who I am, not what I think I should be or what someone else wants me to be. God’s love faithfully brings peace and joy when I trust him to work in and through me, that which I cannot work in myself.

God’s unfailing love is also there for me when I am the one in the wrong. When my anger lashes out, it enables me to humble myself and ask for forgiveness, instead of withdrawing in shame.

When I fall short of loving others, and others fall short of loving me, I can put my hope in God’s unfailing love.

©2017 Cindy Richardson for GateWay of Hope

Cindy Richardson seeks to encourage, challenge and inspire women in their journey of hope through Bible studies, speaking and writing. Cindy weaves God’s truth and shares her faith with kindergartners at St. Joseph Christian School. Residing in St. Joseph, Missouri with her husband, Tom, she enjoys the friendship of her three grown daughters and loves being Nana to six grandchildren. For more inspiration, visit cindyrichardson.org.

Love Gifts at Christmas

cindy-richardsonBreathlessly I waited as my brother opened the door to our family room to what I hoped would be Christmas heaven.

Old enough to remember the splendor of the prior Christmas, I expected more of the same. My brother would pass out the presents and we would pile them up around us.

Part of the fun was watching each other open presents; eagerly anticipating what wonderful gift might be in each beautifully wrapped package.

With one swift motion the door opened. Instead of wrapped presents under the tree, my gaze fell on clothes and a few toys laid neatly in piles. Not a single gift was wrapped!

Names were written on masking tape and placed strategically on each item. Disappointment came over me like a wet blanket. Why weren’t the presents wrapped?

It was not the Christmas I expected. Already suspecting that Santa was just fantasy, the lack of wrapping seemed to answer the question I was afraid to ask. If Santa was real, our presents would be wrapped; his elves would never forget to wrap presents.

Perhaps my crestfallen look led to the terse conversation I overheard.

“I told you we should have bought the wrapping paper,” my mother whispered to my father.

“And I told you, wrapping paper is a waste of money,” my father replied.

My childish disappointment at the lack of wrapping almost ruined Christmas that year. I had no idea declining health had led to my father’s job loss and mounting medical bills. The dwindling budget dictated the naked presents.

As I reflect back I realize my parents sacrificed greatly to give us any gifts at all. I now know they were given out of great love for us. Most of the presents were gifts we needed. Unfortunately, they weren’t appreciated as much as the gifts we wanted.

Another Christmas gift was given at great sacrifice. Wrapping himself in love, God became a human being. Entering our world as a baby, Jesus was the gift of God’s presence. Immanuel, God is with us.

Jesus is the gift everyone needs, but not everyone wants.

Joseph didn’t want the gift at first. Disappointed and worried about their reputation, when he found out Mary was pregnant he wanted to break off the engagement.

King Herod didn’t want to acknowledge the gift. Fearful of losing the power of his throne, this wicked king had all the male babies slaughtered.

Religious leaders, anxious to keep their power and prestige, didn’t receive the gift. Instead, they schemed to crucify God’s son.

Looking for a powerful earthly king, the Jews were disappointed in the humble servant leadership Jesus offered. Their unmet expectations led them to reject the gift of God’s Son.

Life can be hard. Broken relationships, financial pressures, and shattered dreams bring unbearable disappointment. Health issues, challenges in parenting, and death of loved ones can lead to discouragement and depression.

Receiving the gift Jesus came to give shifts the focus from what is lacking, to what he provides.

Peace, love, and joy despite life’s unwanted and unexpected circumstances is a gift only God can give. Knowing we would need a Savior, God was happy to give us his One and Only Son.

When I focus on disappointment and unmet expectations, like that Christmas long ago, I miss the love behind the gift. Embracing the love for myself, means I have more love to share. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

©2016 Cindy Richardson for GateWay of Hope

Cindy Richardson seeks to encourage, challenge and inspire women in their journey of hope through Bible studies, speaking and writing. Cindy weaves God’s truth and shares her faith with kindergartners at St. Joseph Christian School.

Residing in St. Joseph, Missouri with her husband, Tom, she enjoys the friendship of her three grown daughters and loves being Nana to six grandchildren.

For more inspiration, visit Cindy’s blog, Hang Onto Possible Endings.