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Entries in Cynthia Ruchti (8)

Tuesday
Nov142017

Holiday Hope for Aging Parents

Including aging parents in our holiday plans can take some extra thought, but as Cynthia Ruchti shows us in this Holiday UPGRADE, it's so worth the time and effort!

"Aging parents—and caring for them—can upgrade the holidays for us," Cynthia says. "And it’s about time."

I (Dawn) like that. I like any time we can upgrade the holidays. We do it with decorations and events, but what about the people in our lives? How do we give a meaningful dose of holiday hope to our aging parents?

Cynthia continues . . .

In many families, Grandma and Grandpa once provided the setting for all the holiday memory-making.

Theirs was the groaning dining room table with a feast and decorations that revealed days’ worth of cooking, baking, preparation.

Theirs was the backyard hill for sledding and snow forts.

The presents under the Christmas tree might have crowded against each other with the grandparents’ generosity and homemade gifts.

But now, a hospital bed might occupy the spot a glittering tree once claimed.

The living room of the grandparents’ home is “decorated” with the trappings of ill health and aging—walkers, commodes, lift chairs. The sounds of Christmas music in the background competes with the sound of the oxygen machine.

Or Grandma and Grandpa are in reasonably good health, but living in a small apartment or an assisted living home.

We can change the setting for holiday gatherings. Christmas at Aunt Cheryl’s this year. Or Thanksgiving dinner at the home of Grandma and Grandpa’s eldest child.

But how do we keep our grip on cherished traditions, include rather than exclude the aging, and find new ways to “Honor thy father and mother” (Exodus 20:12 KJV) when the holidays include tasks of caregiving for aging parents?

And how will doing so upgrade our holiday experiences?

I love how God included the elderly in the original Christmas story.

Luke 1 starts not with the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary, but with Zechariah, an aged priest, who by God’s grace had a son despite his wife’s lifelong barrenness. That son—John—prepared the way for the coming Messiah.

Bookending the story of the birth of Christ are other characters of many yearsSimeon, who blessed the eight-day-old infant Jesus in the temple, and Anna, a prophet described as “very old.” She’d been married only seven years, and at the time of Jesus’s birth was an 84-year-old-widow.

Anna was among the first to Tweet the news about the birth of the Messiah.

(She “tweeted” with whole sentences, though, telling everyone she knew, everyone who had been looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem that He had been born, according to Luke 2:38.)

Zechariah, Simeon, Anna—their ages added to the encompassing picture of the Christmas story.

And so can the elderly in our families, even if their needs require special accommodations during the holidays.

  • Encourage Grandpa or Grandma to pray over the holiday meal, if that’s long been a tradition in your home and they are still able to communicate.
  • If you host the holiday gathering at some place other than their residence, consider bringing something familiar to anchor them in the new scene—a favorite afghan, their heirloom nativity set, Grandma’s good china or silverware.
  • Use double-sided name tents at each place setting to boost Grandma’s or Grandpa’s memory about the names of their loved ones.
  • Unless it’s physically impossible, include them in safe but meaningful ways in the food preparation. Some aging parents/grandparents grow restless and uncomfortable around the holidays because it’s a reminder of traditions in which they can no longer participate. Even if someone else needs to yield the knife, can Grandma arrange the vegetables on the crudité platter? If Grandpa once carved the turkey but can no longer manage the task, can he be given the honor of making the first slice?
  • Reserve time for aging parents to tell their stories.
  • Show consideration for their tolerance for noise and commotion. Plan quiet activities in addition to what was once delightful chaos for them.
  • Consider, too, their nutritional restrictions. Rather than making them bypass their favorite foods, find ways to accommodate an extra bowl of salt-free gravy or seedless blackberry jam for their dinner roll.
  • If aging parents or grandparents are confined by health needs to a nursing home facility, give the gift of your extended presence sometime during the holidays. Unhurried. Reminding them, and the staff, that they are treasured, dearly loved. If they live far away from the family festivities, bring video messages from their children and grandchildren, so they know they were thought of, remembered, cherished.
  • Even if you send Thanksgiving or Christmas greetings only by email and Facebook, take the time to send cards to the aging.

God did not tell us to honor our father and mother when it’s convenient.

Or when their needs don’t interfere with our plans.

Or only when they … and we … are young.

What does your family do to honor elderly members during the holidays? In what ways have you discovered that “it’s about time”?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-Hope through award-winning novels, nonfiction, devotionals, and through speaking events for women. Her recent book—As My Parents Age: Reflections on Life, Love, and Change—addresses many challenging and tender aspects of caring for aging parents or grandparents. http://www.cynthiaruchti.com, http://www.hemmedinhope.com

Thursday
Apr132017

Gasp: A Relationship's Last Breath

Cythia Ruchti is a hope-lover, hope giver and hope promoter. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she offers hope for all human relationships (and our ultimate relationship with the Lord).

"Who sits sipping coffee when a dying man or woman lies on the hardwood floor of the coffee shop or the breakroom at the office?" Cynthia says. "Even people with minimal skills know that someone needs to start CPR, call 911, and ask, 'Is there a doctor in the house?'"

At first, I (Dawn) thought this sounded a little like the beginning of a mystery, but knowing Cynthia, I figured it was more likely a powerful life lesson. I was not disappointed!

Cynthia continues . . . 

With relationships—marriage, parent/child, friendships—isn’t that what we too often do?

We sit idly by, caring but not responding.

“That’s for the professionals.” As if that absolves us of the responsibility to act, to do something, even if our skills are amateur at best, even if all we know about CPR is what we’ve seen on TV dramas.

But sometimes the last gasp occurs before the professionals arrive on the scene.

And sometimes the relationship in trouble is our own.

It’s been said that the number one killer of relationships is neglect.

  • How many friendships would still be alive if years, distance, and neglect hadn’t gotten in the way?
  • How many parent/child relationships could be strong and vital, life-giving, if given more attention when they started to fade?
  • How many marriages list “neglect” as one of the reasons for their “failure to thrive”?

Although the following scripture specifically speaks to a community’s forsaking or neglecting their relationship with God, doesn’t it also give a gripping word picture of the way we handle distance in marriage relationships or friendships?

“For our fathers…have forsaken Him and turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD, and have turned their backs. They have also shut the doors of the porch and put out the lamps…” (2 Chronicles 29:6-9 NASB).

What a poignant visual! Leaving a porch light on is an expression of hope. He will come home. She will return. We will be okay. We’ll get through this. It may be long into the night, but we’re going to make it.

In this incident in the Bible, the people had boldly extinguished all evidence of hope. Lights off. We’re done.

After decades of marriage, my husband and I still disagree. Shocking, isn’t it? But even when our disagreements reach what seem to be impossible impasses, neither one of us reaches to shut off the porch light, because hope lingers in our commitment to one another.

Most MARRIED couples can recite the list of relationship CPR (Caring enough to Proactively Resuscitate) instructions:

  1. Maintain frequent date nights, even if you’re empty nesters. Get away from the house and its responsibilities for a while to focus on each other.
  2. Set aside an extended period of time for a getaway at least once a year.
  3. Be intentional about what the other person needs, honoring him (or her) above yourself (See Philippians 2:3. Check out the Phillips version—“Live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you. Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people’s point of view.”)
  4. Learn and respect your mate’s love language.

What would that list look like if our connection WITH GOD is the relationship that’s been neglected, left gasping?

  1. Re-establish a regular time to leave all other concerns behind and focus on listening to Him.
  2. Make it a priority to create an extended time for aloneness with the One you love. A silent retreat. A day-long or week-long sabbatical from other responsibilities. Unplugging. Fasting.
  3. Set your own needs aside to concentrate on what God wants from you—worship, adoration, devotion…
  4. Learn and respect God’s love language—OBEDIENCE (John 14:15).

If your human relationships or your connection with God are gasping for air, what CPR measures do you intend to implement?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-hope, an ever-lit porch light hope, through her award-winning novels, novellas, devotions, nonfiction, and through speaking events for women and writers. She and her grade-school sweetheart husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five (to date) grandchildren. Her latest novel is A Fragile Hope (Abingdon Press). In June, Worthy Publishing releases her book of encouragement and reflections called As My Parents Agehttp://www.cynthiaruchti.com/books/a-fragile-hope/.

Graphic: adapted, Click at Morguefile.

Thursday
Dec012016

Building on the Memories

Cynthia Ruchti's novels and novellas brim with hope, and in this Christmas UPGRADE, she writes of the hope we can build into our lives as we "reclaim" the past for a brighter future.

Cynthia asks, “How can we knock off the barnacle-like debris and use what once was ugly or hurtful to build new, God-honoring, family-preserving memories?”

This is one of the most beautiful concepts the Lord has taught me (Dawn) through the years, and Cynthia expresses it in a hope-filled way. Someday, the Lord will make all things new (Revelation 21:5), and we often see His hand of restoration at work today.

Cynthia continues . . .

He sat in the encroaching cold, the collar of his work coat turned against the wind, his right hand wrapped around the handle of an ancient pick, his left holding a brick encrusted with crumbling mortar. The brick was one of hundreds piled next to him.

By the end of the day, he’d cleaned a dozen bricks of barnacle-like debris. By the end of another day, the pile of unusable bricks shrank measurably as the stack of “now what?” grew.

Before they’d tumbled into a messy pile, the bricks had formed the walls of a storage shed on the man’s parents’ farm. When the man was a small boy, the storage shed held garden tools, his father’s grimy work bench, and dark memories of abuse the father had renamed punishment.

The boy had dropped an egg on the way from the chicken coop to the house. An endless round of wallops with his father’s leather strap.

The boy left his jacket at school. More welts.

The boy lingered too long at a friend’s house. The cost was a night alone in the locked shed—no lights, no food, no blanket.

As the barnacles of unkindness and cruelty fell away now with each tap of the pick, the memories crumbled, no longer holding power over him. He owned the house now. The brick storage shed had been torn down.

He was paving the walkway through the garden to the house with the bricks that had once represented pain.

When finished, the project drew tears, not because of the once solid memories, but because of the beauty of a firm, well-lit, soul-pleasing path.

That’s what restoration experts do—take the crumbling, useless, broken, tired, ugly, rotted elements of a home or a life and remake them to create either a better version of what once was, or something entirely new. Like walls of an emotional prison turned into a pathway to freedom.

It wasn’t until I was well into writing Restoring Christmas—a book with the restoration of an old fieldstone farmhouse as its settingthat the full impact of the connection struck me.

Christmas and restoration. Synonymous in so many ways.

  • Jesus came to restore the relationship with God that hadn’t been possible since sin entered the world.
  • The gift of God’s Son restored hope for mankind.
  • Jesus coming in human form restored our faith in God’s indescribable, unfailing-no-matter-how-long-it-takes love.

Do some Christmas memories bite into your soul like a whipping strap bites into fragile skin?

An uncle refuses to come to the holiday celebration if his brother will be there.

A grandparent’s obvious inequality in gift-giving for a favored grandchild sends a wave of discomfort through the whole family—oldest to youngest—every year?

Christmas celebration has lost its luster in light of the medical crisis the family’s facing? The memories won’t be the same in the assisted living center that now substitutes for the family home that once served as the gathering spot?

Unforgiveness is an unwelcome guest at every holiday meal?

How can we knock off the barnacle-like debris and use what once was ugly or hurtful to build new, God-honoring, family-preserving memories?

  • In some instances, the only option is to let it go—the unfairness, the inequity, the resentment. Humanly impossible? Yes. But the Father sent the Son to be the restorer of relationships.
  • Old traditions that spotlight the pain of uncomfortable memories may have to be reworked to become something new. It’s not the same without Grandpa reading the Christmas story? What if the new tradition were hearing the story through the sweet voice of the youngest reader in the family? The Father sent the Son to give us a new story to tell.
  • Uncle Fred refuses to attend the family Christmas? Pray for restoration but pass the potatoes. Christmas isn’t a celebration of earth’s perfect families but of the Son who was sent to make restoration possible because anything of earth isn’t perfect.

What is an important but previously painful or uncomfortable Christmas memory that you can reclaim from the rubbish heap and watch God turn into this year’s restoration project for your family?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in Hope through her award-winning novels, novellas, devotionals, nonfiction, and through speaking events for women and writers. She and her husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five grandchildren. Her recent novel—Restoring Christmas—shows the parallel between a couple restoring a fieldstone farmhouse for a reticent homeowner and God’s restoration work on human hearts.  You can connect with her through cynthiaruchti.com or hemmedinhope.com.

Thursday
Aug042016

When Faith's Song Goes Silent

When I think of Cynthia Ruchti, I think of hope and wisdom. It's the hallmark of her life and ministry. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she calls us to value the unique song of silence.

“What happens," Cynthia says, "when faith’s song goes silent? Or is missing key notes? Or grates on our nerves because it feels out of tune?”

Oh, how well I (Dawn) remember a whole long year when faith's song felt out of tune. I was miserable and depressed. And I know what Cynthia says is true.

Cynthia continues . . .

Many of us express our faith in song:

  • He’s a Good, Good Father
  • I’m Standing on the Promises of God
  • He’s All I Need
  • How Great Is Our God
  • This Is Amazing Grace
  • Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine

But the heart doesn’t always feel like singing, at least not an upbeat, confident, triumphant song.

Life’s circumstances can threaten to turn our “praise songs that work great for cardio exercises” into a dirge, a lament, or a barely-hanging-on-how-miserable-can-this-get? blues tune.

Every time we open to the book of Psalms in the Bible, we’re reminded it’s not a twenty-first century problem. Listen to the way the psalmist David intertwined the wrestlings of his faith with the truths that held him in their grip:

“Get me out of this net that’s been set for me because you are my protective fortress(Psalm 31:4 CEB).

“I rejoice and celebrate in your faithful love because you saw my suffering—you were intimately acquainted with my deep distress” (Psalm 31:7 CEB).

“Have mercy on me, Lord, because I am depressed. My vision fails because of my grief, As do my spirit and my body ...

"Strength fails me ...

"I’m a joke to all my enemies ... I scare my friends, And whoever sees me in the street Runs away ...

"I am forgotten, like I’m dead, Completely out of my mind ...

"But me? I trust you, Lord! I affirm, ‘You are my God.’ My future is in your hands(Psalm 31:9-15 CEB).

No matter how long the lament, how soul-rattling its lyrics, how far distanced from hope its tune, the song turns from minor key to major when the Truth gets its solo.

When faith’s song seems to have gone silent, for whatever logical or unexplainable reason, we have options:

  • Listen to the fear-inducing noise our rusty, creaking soul makes in the hollow, silent spaces.
  • Listen to the unbelieving or skeptical world that claims silence is a sign of God’s absence, despite reassurances to the contrary in God’s never-silent, never-will-I-leave-you-or-forsake-you Word.
  • Realize that silence is its own song.

My music educator father often said, “Play the rests with as much intensity and focus as you do the notes on the page. Rests are not moments of nothingness. Play the rests.”

When only twenty-two, the hymn writer Robert Robinson penned these faith-gone-silent words in 1757. How true they ring today.

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”

Listen for the significant, pregnant-with-promise moment of silence after that familiar confession in this modern version (video) at the 5:15 mark. It will steal your breath, and steel your resolve to keep listening in the silence.

Do you value the silence or fear it? And if your answer is fear, reflect on the “and”the moment of resting and regrouping—in Psalm 46:10.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

Unlike many other verses in the Bible, these eight words appear without alteration in translation after translation. These words.

Stillness—or silence—was prescribed by God as a prelude, or an accompaniment, to knowing He is God, and finding our rest and courage in that truth. Is it in part because a whisper sounds loud in the silence?

So I’ll ask again, and prepare myself to answer the questions honestly too.

     Do you value silence?

          Have you heard its song?

               What did it teach you?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope. She’s the award-winning author of more than eighteen books and a frequent speaker for women’s ministry events. She and her husband live in the heart of Wisconsin. Connect with her at cynthiaruchti.com or hemmedinhope; or check out her recent releaseSong of Silence.

Graphic of bench, courtesty of Morguefile.

Thursday
Apr072016

The Nightmare of Lost Agendas

Cynthia Ruchti's prose is heart-healing, filled with hope. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she encourages us to place our hope in God in one of the most practical areas of our lives—our schedules.

"I glared at my computer screen as if it had betrayed me," Cynthia said. "My calendar—ergo, my life—was gone!"

I (Dawn) shudder to think what that might feel like. I live by the calendar! Thankfully, there's some good advice here for people like me. And you?

Cynthia continues . . .

The calendar template showed when I clicked on the icon that nightmarish day. But all the spaces were blank.

I had no record of upcoming doctor and dentist appointments, no notations to remind me to send in a blog post before its due date, no scheduled radio interviews or contact information, no schedule of speaking events two years into the future, no record of events from the past, and NO HOPE of retrieving the information.

I checked the iPhone version and the iPad version, grasping at electronic straws.

     Nothing.

Panic remained off-stage for a while. There’s always a way to retrieve lost information, isn’t there? I’d invested in a hefty backup system.

Looked there.

     Nothing.

I contacted the company that sponsors the calendar.

     “Can’t help you, ma’am.”

I searched my files and piles of paper, thinking I might have printed off the next three months’ worth of calendar pages, at least.

     Nope.

That task—printing off the calendars—was on the To-do list on the now blank calendar.

All my agendas, lost. All opportunities, gone.

With a distressing number of phone calls and apologies to doctors’ offices and event planners, I could piece together bits of the missing information. But I couldn’t retrieve what I couldn’t remember was gone. It was on the calendar so I didn’t have to trust my brain and its sketchy recall abilities.

Days passed with no solution. I had no idea what I might have missed during those disturbingly empty days.

But I began to see what I could gain—a new perspective.

1. “My times are in His Hands” (Psalm 31:15 NIV).

They’re not the indentured servants of an online calendar.

 2. “You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail” (Proverbs 19:21 NLT).

I’d planned and planned and planned, wedging responsibilities between other responsibilities when I saw the slimmest opening. In a moment, my carefully constructed plans were gone. But God’s plans for me hadn’t and wouldn’t change.

3. “People plan their path, but the LORD secures their steps” (Proverbs 16:9 CEB).

I’d considered my calendar written in indelible ink. Instead, it was disappearing ink.

The only plans worthy of permanent ink status are God’s instructions to love, give, serve, and live according to His Spirit.

By a miracle of grace that I still can’t explain, the calendar notations reappeared days later. But not until I’d caught the significance of what it meant to lose my agendas in favor of the ones that mattered most. His.

The lesson was driven deeper when editing a book I’d written about a woman whose plans were upended by job loss and her voice silenced—blanked—by a collection of traumas. She was forced to face many of the same issues I stared at during the nightmare of my lost agendas.

That book—Song of Silence—just released.  

God misses no details.

Take a look at your calendar. Color-coded? Crammed with activity and responsibility?

  • What if all you’ve included were erased and all that remained were God’s directions for your days?
  • What would it look like then?
  • And what can you do to intentionally erase a few unnecessaries before He has to hit DELETE?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope, drawing from more than three decades writing and producing a 15-minute daily radio broadcast. She’s the award-winning author of 18 books and a frequent speaker for women’s ministry events. To purchase Cynthia's newest book, Song of Silence, visit here, or to read about it: here. Check out Cynthia's website for information about her speaking ministry.

Graphic: "Computer Monitor," image courtesy of Teerapun at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.