My dad had a hard childhood and life, and because he never was given love, he didn't know how to give it. I don’t remember ever feeling loved by him when I was a kid. He commented many times on what a burden we all were, and in order to keep from upsetting him, we had to be quiet as a mouse when he was around. The only emotion I had toward him was fear.
But yet there were times when Dad seemed to love me. If he was in a good mood and things were going his way, he would pat me on the head and give me a cookie or a candy bar. This was the only way he knew how to show love. Years of showing myself love in this way has taken its toll in an accumulation of weight from too many peanut butter cups and sugar cookies. Mmmm….yes, I must really love myself!
One childhood memory in particular has been etched into my memory. It was Christmas, and my sisters and I were having fun decorating Christmas cookies. We were competing to see who could produce the most beautiful cookie. And then Dad came in and hollered at us for making a mess, and sent us to our rooms. I’m sure if Betty Crocker had seen my work of art, it would have been featured on the front page of the Christmas cookbook edition.
Years later when I had children of my own, whenever I baked cookies with them I would bring out tons of colored sugars and sprinkles, and let them make as big a mess as they wanted. And I always made it a point to make a huge fuss over their works of art.
A few years ago at a Christian conference, I was up at the altar during worship time, when I had a vision. I was suddenly standing before God’s throne. I opened up my right hand, and it was full of sprinkles. The sprinkles started going up and circling God’s throne. Then I opened up my left hand, and it was full of colored glitter, and the glitter rose up and circled around God too, until there was a beautiful rainbow of colors decorating God’s throne. Then I realized I was empty handed and had nothing left to give God, when He said “Give me your cookies.” At that point I thought I must be getting hungry, and imagining the whole thing. But He said it again, “Give me your cookies.” I suddenly realized that God was showing me that He loved my art work, and He was decorating His throne with it!
In his old age, Dad moved into a nursing home, where I visited him several times a week. I always stopped at the gift shop first to buy him a molasses cookie (those were his favorite). I wasn't actually allowed to give him any sweets, because he was a diabetic. But day after day he would sit in his tiny, joyless room with nothing to look forward to, so the cookies were our little secret.
One day right after handing him his cookie, the nurse walked in! In a panic, I quickly grabbed the cookie out of his mouth and flung it across the room, which left him looking quite bewildered. After the nurse left I gave it back to him, explaining that he wasn't actually allowed to eat cookies. When I left that day, the nurse came back in, and I looked back to wave goodbye to Dad, and to my chagrin his lap was full of cookie crumbs! Oh dear...
The last time I visited Dad before he passed away, I gave him a hug and kiss. His skin was paper thin, and I noticed for the first time how frail he looked. He had become a skeleton of a man. Where was the monster that had terrified me all those years? He hugged me back and told me he loved me. Never in my life had he said those words to me! Then I asked if I could bring him something the next time, and he said "I don't need anything. All I need is your love." (Wow!)
God had given me a beautiful memory to replace all the bad ones. Not only did he soften Dad’s heart so he could love, but God showed me that HIS all-consuming love had been there all along.
Oh yeah, one more thing. Someday when I'm old and sitting in a nursing home somewhere...for the love of God, LET ME HAVE A COOKIE!
God has been watching over you since you were a child, taking great delight in all your works of art. He still is…
(An excerpt from my soon-to-be-published book, "The Inside Scoop on God.")