God’s Story- Rachel and Alexis Richardson

May 2, 2012

Today you are blessed to hear the God story of Rachel and Alexis Richardson. I have known Rachel for several years and have been amazed at her perseverance through trials and her willingness to follow God, even when it seems scary and doesn’t make sense. In a recent email to me Rachel shared:

“The reality is, as Lexi’s mommy I have taken on a lot of heart ache.  No one knows how long she will be with me or how much she will be able to do.  My ‘job’ as her mommy is not to keep her safe, keep her away from hurt, make her live forever, even teach her to accomplish great things.  My job is to give her opportunity to touch the lives God has planned for her. We are very blessed!  So thankful to have her in my life.”
My life has been touched by hearing their story, and I pray yours will be,too.

Sometimes our lives are touched and changed by profound events.  Sometimes God uses a horrible tragedy to get our attention, bring us closer to him, or teach us an important lesson.  However, there are other times that God’s messages come to us in almost unperceivable ways, in small whispers, or in a cool breeze.  Then there are those times that God’s communication with us may fall upon deaf ears, but if our hearts and minds are open, the message can be carried on the wings of a mosquito. 

In May of 2004, I was finishing up my Junior year of college.  I was working toward a degree in education with a hope and dream of working as a special education teacher.  I had overcome many challenges and learning disabilities and was looking forward to the future.  Unknown to me at the time about an hour away a beautiful 1 lb. 1 oz. little girl was born.  She was only 24 weeks gestation and had received no prenatal medical care.  She clung to life.

Life continued on.  I graduated from college with honors, and I began my teaching career.  The next few years were filled with busyness.  I tried to run from a painful past.  I tried to work hard enough to prove my value and earn the love and respect of others.  I did all the right things but had no real relationship with God.  In fact, I used “service” as a way to escape from true relationships of any form.

In the summer of 2007, I was given the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Ghana West Africa.  A mission trip fit in well with my belief that I needed to serve to be valuable.  It was a life changing trip but not in the ways I expected.  While in Africa, I was bitten by a malaria infected mosquito and became extremely ill.  I made several trips to African hospitals, and I reached a point where I struggled to walk, answer questions, or even function.  The decision was made that I needed to return to the United States as soon as possible in order to receive medical care.

The next two years were a constant struggle of trying to find healing.  Instead of getting better, I became more and more weak, became unable to work, and  was afraid I would lose my ability to care for myself.  I ended up moving in with friends from church and thought my dreams and my future were over.  I was in constant physical pain and no matter how many doctors or specialists I went to, no one knew why.

Perhaps the worst part of those two years was that I felt worthless.  I could no longer do anything to “earn” God’s love or the love and respect of others.  I felt I had no purpose.  I could do nothing.  I could no longer keep myself so busy serving – I finally had to face the reality that was my life.  I was angry!  I discovered I was angry about all of the hurts in my past.  I was angry about my struggles with learning, and I was angered by the fact that I had been molested as a young teen.  I was angry about trauma I had faced in college.  I was angry that I was ill.  There were people all over the world praying that God would give me healing and yet, He didn’t.  I knew that God had the power to heal me, and it only seemed logical that, since I was serving him when I became ill, He should heal me.  However, despite my pleas I remained ill.  I begged and I cried.  I was ready to give up on God.  In fact, I hated God.  Perhaps He was punishing me.  He didn’t really care about the fact that my daily life was a challenge.  He didn’t care about me.  I was angry and attempted to shut everyone out of my life.  I continued going to church and doing what I was supposed to do, but it was all an act.  Deep in my heart – all that was there was anger and hate. 

Two miles away, one Friday night in January 2009 a social worker went to investigate reports of a dirty house.  Nothing could prepare her for what she would find.  When she entered the home, the filth and stench were so horrible she had to excuse herself, leave the small apartment, and vomit in the yard.  The home was covered in cat feces, dirty diapers, and rotting food.  In a back bedroom, was a cat that had obviously been dead for several weeks and was decomposing.  The house smelled of death.  In another back bedroom, lying in a small crib was a 4 year old little girl who had severe disabilities.  She weighed only 20 pounds.  Her physical condition indicated that she had not been cared for in weeks. She was not being fed or receiving medical care.  She did not even have clean clothing to wear.  No one gave her the dignity of brushed hair or a bath.  She was left alone, lying in the crib.  Police were called, and this little girl was immediately taken to the hospital where the doctors said she would have only survived a few more weeks in those conditions. 

It was also in January of 2009 that I realized something had to change.  I no longer had the energy to be angry at the world and didn’t want to live my life hating everyone and everything.  I began seeking with a true heart, was honest about my anger, and spent hours talking to and praying with those who would patiently listen and gently guide. I got involved in Celebrate Recovery (a Christian 12 step program) and began forgiving, letting go of the past, and trusting in God’s plan.  As I began to let go of the anger, the physical illness improved.  I still lived daily life in constant pain – yet it no longer controlled me. 

Then it happened – God again called me to service.  I was certain I was not hearing right.  Twenty-seven, single, special education teacher, with an unknown chronic illness and God was asking me to become a foster parent!  Surely He didn’t mean me, but for some reason that I can’t explain I began the process of becoming licensed as a foster parent.  I quite honestly believed that once I showed God I was willing to obey – he would let me off the hook.  After all, it was crazy to think I could be a foster parent. 

Over the next year, I went through the lengthy and intrusive process of becoming a foster parent for a child with special needs.  Of course, I wouldn’t adopt a child because that didn’t make any sense!  I was willing to foster but adoption – that just wasn’t logical. However, somehow, over those months, I slowly let go of the anger and found myself wanting a relationship with God.  In fact, a strange thing happened through this process I began to actually trust God.

It was January 2010 that I was finally diagnosed as having Rheumatoid Arthritis.   The malaria parasite had wreaked havoc on my immune system and left me with a chronic disease.  I was 27 and was learning that I had a disease that could eventually cause permanent disability. 

Then the summer of 2010 changed my life forever.  I walked into a small room to meet a potential foster child.  She had spent the last two years living in a children’s hospital, and at the time, I knew very little of her history.  I prayed that I would know if she was meant to be my foster child, and when I saw her – I knew.  I picked Alexis up out of her wheelchair and held her on my lap as she drifted off to sleep.  In August Alexis moved into my home.  I stated many times that she was going to be my foster daughter because adopting didn’t make sense.  Surely God didn’t want me, a single woman, to adopt a little girl.  After all, I wasn’t capable.  I knew very little about the child who was moving into my home, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that God didn’t have foster parent planned for me. 

In December 2011, I became the mother of Alexis Maria Hope Richardson.  The 1 lb. 1 oz. little miracle, who had been neglected for 4 years and institutionalized for two, was adopted by a single mother.  The young woman, who had spent much of her life running from a painful past, hating the world, and angry at God, suddenly found herself a single mother to a 7 year old little miracle. 

Through my struggle with chronic illness God softened my heart, and I learned to forgive the hurts of my past.  I am learning to see myself as God sees me.  I love my daughter more than words.  My sweet Alexis has severe disabilities and is unable to do anything to care for herself.  She doesn’t walk or talk – she can’t even feed herself.  Yet, I love her more than I have ever loved anyone.  I now realize that God doesn’t care what I can do or how good I am at serving.  God loves me because I am his daughter.  I am completely dependent upon God for everything in life, and yet, He loves me more than I can know, just as I love my daughter more than life. I had to learn to accept God’s love before I was able to share that love with my daughter.

You see, God used that little mosquito to break my heart and soften the anger.  That mosquito is how God chose to get my attention and was the door that he created which allowed my daughter into my life. 

My life is not perfect.  I still fight with daily chronic pain from rheumatoid arthritis.  The hurt in my past is still there.  Yet, I am now living life in relationship with God.  I can handle living the rest of my life in physical pain, but the thought of living my life in the hate and anger that used to fill me is almost unbearable.  If that mosquito had not bitten me, I would have never learned to forgive, and to see myself as God sees me.  I would have never moved beyond my painful past – I would have never met my daughter, and she would not have a mommy. 

I thank God for the blessing of the mosquito.

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