Faith in Relationships

To Choose or not to Choose…

“He said it would be hard, but he didn’t know how hard it really would be.” These words came from the mouth of my Mother a few years after Daddy passed away. They had been married more than 50 years and now Mother was learning to live without him. She would have to start a new life apart from her beloved. They had discussed the possibilities of which one would go first, Daddy had decided Mother could handle being alone better than he could. In her words, she told me “he was wrong, he just didn’t know how hard it would be.“ She was struggling to handle his passing.

As it happened, Mother developed Alzheimer Disease. Sometimes a major event will cause the disease to escalate, she was already experiencing signs of forgetfulness in short term memory. With Daddy’s death, I think Mother reasoned that it was easier to forget than grieve when she remembered him. She refused to take any medication. She wanted to forget. And so she did.

Changes in life can be extremely hard. We can either accept the change as a new challenge or withdraw from it all together. Mother made the choice to withdraw before she even reached the middle stages of the disease. I don’t blame her. I might have done the same thing. I can remember asking her to please take her medication and she replied the usual, “I don’t want to.” My response was, “Please, I feel bad when you don’t take it.” She said, “It’s not your fault that I don’t want to take my medicine”. She knew she was making a choice.

God provides changes in our lives as part of the growth process. Whether the change is moving from one location to another, marriage, children, empty nest, grandchildren or death, it is all part of life. God provides opportunities to serve Him in ways we don’t even know and certainly can’t comprehend at the time. The way we approach change depends on us. Ultimately, we make the decision about how to embrace it. We don’t know what will happen or what purposes will be fulfilled. But rest assured God is still in control.

Would things have been different if Mother had made the choice to take her medication in the early stages? Maybe. Perhaps things might have been easier for her family at least for a little while. Alzheimer still would have worked its evil to the end. But even through this, God’s purposes did prevail. A testing of her daughters’ faith gave them a stronger sense of who God is. I saw the presence of the Holy Spirit within her. Even though she didn’t remember my name, she still knew Jesus. She remembered the words to the songs she had learned so many years ago. She remembered the tunes to the songs. And she remembered how to pray. She would pray, “Dear Father” and end by saying, “I love you, I love you. Amen”.

Change that occurs in one life affects others. Alzheimer was a change I did not want. Mother’s change affected me deeply. Change seemed to be taking place on a daily basis. I knew, however, that God was still in control of my Mother’s life and mine. There were many times during these years that God’s Word would give me comfort. “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your Word”(Psalm 1[19:28]).

His Word taught me many things. Chief among them was a verse I had learned years ago and once again had to put into practice: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians [4:13]).

Sandra Hardage is a retired public educator who has had experience in public school, public television, adult education and ended her professional career as the Media, Technology and Distance Learning Coordinator for an education cooperative. She is the founder of My Journey of Faith Ministries and is a regular contributor to My Journey of Faith Magazine. You can read more from Sandra on her My Journey of Faith Blog.

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A Different Heart: The Journey of A Father, Daughter, and God

My entire life I’ve been told that I am just like my father. We argue the same, we think the same, we even feel the same. Since I can remember, my father has continually impacted my decisions, and the way that I have wanted to live my life. Dad always made it very clear to me that he loved me, but above everything he loved God. And though I did not live with him for most of my life, he inserted the call to serve God as often as he could. These teachings about living life for God did not come lighthearted, nor did they come simply. My father is a Roman Catholic, and as it was, that meant that I was destined to be as well. Though I am not well educated in the traditions of Catholicism, I have picked up on certain practices, and I’ve observed their mass and methods fervently. I have always considered it to be an enduring religion, but I never felt called to it.

As I continued into my relationship with God, I was on my own. I did not want to be Catholic, which I know that in a way, however small, disappointed my father. I continued to talk to Dad about my beliefs and my values in God. With these discussions, came our first look at just how different he and I really were. Dad never chastised me for my different beliefs. I was disagreed with, I was joked with, I was questioned, but I was never made to feel stupid. I was never told that I was wrong, or that God did not accept my interpretation on how I could love Him. To a budding Christian then, and now a growing Christian and nineteen year old girl, that was the best thing that my father could have ever and has ever done for me. He accepted that I loved God in a way that was different from him, and showed me his way of loving God. Above all, Dad gave me the courage to fight for what I believed in by showing that even a believer of a devout, strict, certain, and ancient religion could put aside his thoughts on what his daughter should believe, and entertain her path to bringing God glory in a way of her own.

Though not personally, I have witnessed what it is like to have a parent or loved one devalue who you are and how you show God’s love. I have seen forced beliefs and legalism tear apart families and distance children from their parents. This clash of swords between religions destroys relationships and builds bitterness, resentment, and worst of all, hate.

As I am molded into the Christian that I am called to be, my father stands by me. Although I am not the Catholic daughter he had initially thought I would be, in the end my Dad showed me how to be the Christian that I am. His open mind and more importantly, his open heart, resonated within my own in a way that has been echoing in my life for some time. When Dad showed his unfailing, limitless, unconditional love to me and my decisions, he showed me the heart of God. And showing others the heart of God has become my goal in life. I discovered the person that I was meant to be, because my father loved God.

Jessica Dickson is a nineteen year old student currently majoring in Early Childhood Education at the University of Central Arkansas. She is a member of Fellowship Bible Church of North Little Rock, where she is actively involved in the College Ministry.

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Changing the journey…God’s grace and mercy when one beginning ends

Confusion, turmoil, frustration or just feeling like something isn’t right is never a good feeling. It definitely isn’t good when you’ve been feeling like this off and on for years, but can’t seem to get out of all the chaos. Some may know the experience, or have a similar story as mine, where you took the wrong path but you thought everything was going to be okay. That your new beginning would have a happy ending, it just had to.

I’m a Christian. It is true that God understands what I’m going through and where my heart is. But not following His will and behaving against Biblical principles is disobedience, even when it involves relationships. I learned this the hard way, but a new beginning from God opened my eyes to his love, forgiveness, and redemption.

I began dating someone six years ago and I found myself very emotionally involved. I was suddenly in love and everything seemed good. Then, a year into our relationship, I became pregnant. I believed that with this new chapter our relationship would become something more…maybe not marriage, but at least more committed to our future together. He took the news well, and was actually even excited. As time went on, I began to see signs that something just didn’t seem right.

Because of this new responsibility, this new beginning for me, I had to grow up. But unfortunately, I was the only one who wanted to change. My boyfriend and I began to struggle to communicate with each other and our relationship was deteriorating…I didn’t understand why this person I had given everything to suddenly did not want the same things that I wanted. He had everything: a loyal, loving girlfriend who wanted to spend her life with him, and a beautiful, healthy baby girl. I was heartbroken, I had come from a broken home, and I wanted desperately to protect this new, tiny person from having the same upbringing as I did. Because of my desperation, I was easily manipulated…I believed whatever my boyfriend said and hoped beyond hope we could do the right thing together.

Unfortunately, this new beginning with a beautiful baby led to a roller-coaster journey that went on for years. I continued to wait for my boyfriend to do the thing he continued to promise he would do, be with our daughter and me as a family. But those promises continued to turn up empty. I prayed often and went to church regularly. He would go at times, and I thought at some point this would all click for him. I thought he would feel the same conviction I felt. I sought God and desperately tried to hear His voice in this. I felt Him knocking on my heart, the same way I felt when I was saved. I felt it at church, while I read my devotionals, during prayer and as I sat in silence. Revelation [3:20] says “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me.” I wanted God. I wanted Him to save me from this. I wanted my empty heart to be filled by Him. I realized that how I felt about my child was just a fraction of how he feels about me. I was so sorry. I was so broken.

I finally decided I was done with all of this madness after years of an on and off again relationship. I was ready to end this journey down the wrong path and begin a new journey down the right one. I wanted my relationship back with my creator; the one who would get me back on the right path, the one that loves me unconditionally. I wanted this not only for me, but also for my daughter. Psalm [46:10] got my attention… “Be still and know that I am God.” It’s so simple. I’ve heard it a million times before, but now it clinched my heart and gave me freedom that I needed. I had to stop the striving and hurt I was going through to have a family with this person. I had to surrender completely and remind myself that the confusion and frustration I felt was not from God.

I know that there is a purpose for my daughter, she is no accident and neither am I or anyone else God creates. God gives us choices in life and hopes that we can listen to Him as we make these choices. Thank God that when we go our own way and mess up that His plans for us are still intact! I am forever grateful for his mercy and grace He has on us.

Breanne Brakhop is a Radiology Technician at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. She currently resides in Little Rock, AR with her four year old daughter.