The Hurt

by Rhonda, November 01, 2023

I drove home in tears as the rain hit the windshield.  I turned on the headlights and wiped my tears.  The weather perfectly matched my mood, and I felt the anger welling up inside of me.  

It isn't easy when your parents age, and sometimes it feels like it is a slow loss of the people you once knew, the people you loved so dearly as a child.  Today, I am mourning the loss of my Mom.  She's still with me, don't get me wrong.  But, age and traumatic life experiences have robbed her of her ability to think well, make decisions, and find joy in her life.  She's in there somewhere, buried under severe depression, medication and a lot of fear.

How I miss her.  How I need her.

I want her to fight harder.  I want her to somehow find herself again, to do everything possible to take back the life that's slowly been drained from her.  But an aging mind combined with mental illness is a beast, and she can't find her way out of it.    

And of course, I'm angry.  I wouldn't be me if I wasn't angry, after all.

I was thinking tonight about how much fun we used to have together.  When I was growing up, we used to love to go to Sonic.  We would always search the house for loose change to afford a drink and some tater tots at Sonic.  The change would always appear somehow, found in pockets of jackets or at the bottom of her purse.  As soon as we counted enough, we would jump in the minivan, and talk as we sat in the car sharing tater tots and drinking our cherry limeades.  

Those are some of the greatest memories of my Mom.  We laughed a lot together when I was a teenager and I poured my heart out to her over and over.  Now, she rarely has energy for more than a twenty minute conversation.  It isn't her fault, I know it isn't.  But, I miss her so much.

So, tonight I did what I always do, and I took to my journal.  I struggle so much with processing things like this, things that hurt so much.  But, God showed me that I know my Mom's heart even if her actions don't align, even if her illness hides who she really is.  

I wrote this down:

Just remember she has a beautiful heart, and you know this truth.  You can trust that you know her heart even when you can't trust her actions.  Her actions are dictated by fear.  But her heart is not, so remember to never trust anything dictated by fear.  I know it hurts, but you are strong enough to stand on the word of Jesus and look past it.  God's strength is sufficient for this and you can stand on His strength and believe the truth.  You do not have to crumble under things like this anymore because they do not have the power to take you down.  Nope.  Not when you have God.  

These types of realizations are probably not earth shattering for people who possess common sense.  However, it is news to me that I do not have to fall apart dealing with this type of pain and live with anger and bitterness.  I have never, truly understood that I can allow myself to process the hurt and the loss without having it turn into destruction.  Blessed are those who mourn (Matt 5:4), after all, the Bible tells me.  But, allowing myself to mourn and process hurt is different from crumbling into anger, despair, and dysfunction.  

A situation can hurt.  But, I can survive it.

I've never had hurt without needing to rectify the situation, by either taking revenge or exploding or building up a case in my mind against someone.  But to allow myself permission to hurt and let that be okay?  Just allow myself to miss my Mom and acknowledge it hurts without having it become a dark thing in me that makes me angry?

That's new.  

I have to learn how to be sad without anger.  Its been so long since I've allowed that, because there's something about allowing sadness without anger that makes me feel helpless and somehow vulnerable.  If I'm angry, I'm taking action and taking control of the situation.

But this one?  I can't fix it.  I can support her, get her to doctors, get her into therapy, and read her Bible with her.  But, despite my best attempts, I absolutely, positively can't fix it.  

And it hurts.

The Journal #2

by Rhonda, October 25, 2023

Today, my dear readers, I want to give you some encouragement from the pages of my journal.  I want to share with you some of the things I've written down as I went through my divorce. I needed to hear that God loved me over and over.  

So, here's a few words of my journal through my days of crisis, I hope you find it helpful:

Remember God loves you even when you are having a rough day.  Not every day feels completely blessed, and you may have done nothing to cause all of this.  But, don't go backwards.  Continue to move forward.  When we are in love with the past, it is more difficult to go through the pain of obedience.  Did you know obedience to God often causes pain?  It does but His promise to you is that He will heal it if you can hang in there and make it up the hill.

In your pain, you will want to contact people you shouldn't, but reach out to God instead.  When you do this, He is so proud of you.  You must keep moving forward.  Pain endures for the night but joy comes in the morning.  There is joy on the other side of this.  You are making the journey from the past to the future and it hurts.  But staying in love with a dysfunctional past hurts worse.  You are on a path out of the pain.  You are on a path out of the pit.  You cannot go back to your old destructive ways.

God will gather you up in his arms.  You are not alone.  You are not unloved.  You have the heart of the Most High God.  Yes, your heart is connected to God and yes, His spirit lives in you.  He loves you dearly.  He doesn't want you settling for a pain-filled life anymore, my dear.  

God will guide you through all of this.  He loves you dearly.  You are his daughter.  He goes ahead of you and creates favor for you because He loves you so much.  You are confused over a few things, I know.  But God has much in store for you still.  Right now, simply praying "Thy will be done" is sufficient.  You don't need to reason it all out.  Simply "Lord, thy will be done".

You can rest and relax tonight.  You are getting tired, so sleep is a good thing.  When you are tired, there's no need to push harder or do more.  Rest you mind, including your thoughts,  Don't try to work through your thoughts,  You are off the clock in all aspects, mind included.  Everything needs to rest in God.  

Don't worry about what others think of you.  Just be present and thoughtful.  Connect.  Listen.  Laugh.  Love.  These things will bring you no regrets and shine your light - the light God has put inside of you.  You are strong enough to handle this and to do this.  

Be open to what God has in store for you.  God loves you.  

The Homeless Man

by Rhonda, October 23, 2023

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be completely free?  Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be free of all of my failures, all of my insecurities, and all of my sin.

Jesus was never thought about a situation and wondered how he looked, or whether he performed in a way that met people's expectations.  His mind was never on himself.  He was never bound by sin, never caught up in His own ego.  He never bragged about himself.  He never lied.  He never gossiped.  He never had a dark secret in the closet.  He never wavered from who He was or what He stood for.  He refused to live in bondage to sin.  

Nothing on this earth could chain Him.  Not money, not power, not reputation.  Nothing.

We tend to think we're bound by God's rules, but think of the bondage we choose on a daily basis when we live a life differently from the example of Jesus.

  • The addictions to drugs and alcohol.
  • The guilt from an affair
  • The drama caused by gossip
  • The web of entanglement caused by lies
  • The guilt after losing your temper
  • The relationships destroyed by abuse
  • The isolation caused by selfishness
God isn't interested in imprisoning us through a life of rules.  He's interested in freeing us from the chain of despair.  He wants us to be unapologetically ourselves, not some cheapened version of who He created us to be.

A few days ago, I was waiting at a bus stop to get on a public bus in the city.  I don't usually ride the bus, so I asked the man in line in front of me about the next stop and the destination I was heading.  He was homeless (our buses are free to ride), and he was hauling all of his possessions in his backpack.

"They open at 6 p.m.," he confirmed to me.  "This bus will take you there."

I looked into his face as he spoke to me and smelled the alcohol on his breath.  He was gritty, and streaks of dirt clouded his face.  His curly hair, once brown, was gray from the dust.  He looked older than he was, but his piercing blue eyes showed kindness along with his youth.  He quickly looked at the floor after he finished talking.  He didn't want to interact with me anymore.  

As the bus pulled up, I made my way to my seat and the woman next to me struck up a conversation.  She was riding the bus as a volunteer, leading a group of elderly blind people.  The blind, she explained to me, are often depressed and lonely.  If they don't know how to get around, they won't leave their homes.  So, someone has to show them.  She gestured to the seats in front of us, and I saw at least six elderly blind people with white canes sitting on the bus.

"We have to practice things like riding the bus," she said, "because I want them to live free."

I asked her if this was her full-time job, but she shook her head.  "No, it is just something I do on the weekends."  Then she smiled as the bus came to a stop.  "I look forward to it all week long, this is my favorite day of the week."

She got up and ushered her guests off of the bus and I could hear her directing them how to walk down the street as I went in the opposite direction.

There couldn't have been a better illustration of freedom versus bondage.  Both the volunteer woman and the homeless man were kind souls.  You know, addiction is such a horrible, horrible disease.  It steals lives, and it destroys families, so I don't want to give any sort of impression that I am looking down on the homeless man.    But, I also know that at some point, something that seemed fun or perhaps provided relief now became the source of bondage that stole everything from him.  Now, he slept on the streets and lived a shell of a life.   

It isn't God's ways that steal our freedom.  

I am really just coming into a better understanding of this.  Perhaps my issues are less dramatic, but every time I refuse to forgive, every time I get angry for no good reason, every time I choose a way that leads me from Jesus, I'm handing over my freedom.  I'm choosing bondage.  I'm the homeless man on the bus, feeding my addiction, riding the bus wherever sin takes me next.

God created us to have free will.  We have the power to stand up and say no to sin.  We get to choose which direction we go, which bus we ride.  And, even more important, we can choose to change directions at any time.  Right now, even, on this very day we can decide that we aren't going to live in bondage anymore.  Just because we chose sin once doesn't mean we have to continue to choose it.  Don't go back to the old ways just because they feel familiar.  God is doing a new thing.

God is completely committed to our freedom.  There is not one single piece of bondage that He wants to remain in our lives.  We are to be a slave to nothing, instead we are to be a son or daughter to Him.  Isn't that an incredible love?  Sin that once mastered us can be defeated.  Nothing is to be lord over us, absolutely nothing, except the love of God.  

What a Savior.

The Journal #1

by Rhonda, October 09, 2023

I would like to thank both of my readers who read this blog on a regular basis.  Although you are likely related to me, it still makes me feel good to know there's an audience out there.  

Today, for my dear readers, I want to give you some encouragement from the pages of my journal.  I wanted to share with you some of the things I've written down as I went through my divorce. I needed to hear that God loved me over and over.  While I wrote these items down for myself, they apply to you, too.  

So, here we go.  From the pages of my journal to you, I hope you find it helpful:

God loves you so much.  He knows you are struggling, whether it is mentally or physically.  But you can trust Him through the process.  He will lead you, there's no need to force anything.  If something small and meaningless is bothering you, remember that you are far too important to allow something like this to trip you up.  Don't allow small things to cause any further disruption to your life.  After all, you have nothing to be insecure about.  You can rest in God's arms.  

It is time to enjoy the fruits of your hard labor rather than worrying all of them away.  Worrying is a fear-driven response, and remember that fear is nothing but a mirage.  So, why let the mirage of fear steal your joy?  That's the true tragedy, not the thing you fear.  

So, let us be peaceful.  Remember, not everyone always has to agree with you, and its okay if they don't.  You can't require that in order to have peace.  It will steal your joy one hundred percent of the time because no one is agreed with all of the time, not even the Son of God who lived his entire life without sin.  If not everyone agreed with Him, how can you expect everyone to agree with you?  You must give this up.

You are so loved by your Savior.  Your power and confidence grow as a result of following the leading of the Holy Spirit.  God not only loves you, but He is tremendously proud of you.  Look at your progress!  Your family has a joyful future because you are choosing to be obedient to Christ.  You are changing lives around you every time you obey God.  You are a hero.  You are a warrior.  It is quite an undertaking but it is who you are designed to be.  God wants to deliver you from fear, from anything that holds you back from being what He designed you to be.  

You are brave, generous, kind, and you care for others.  God designed you for this, not anxiety, depression and fear.  So much of anxiety and depression is being held back from your divine design.  God is not at all interested in his children living defeated lives.  So, run the race He has set in front of you.  Part of His design for your race is joy. 

Don't get stuck in the past.  Don't back to the old ways because it feels familiar.  God loves you.  He is going to do great things through you.  Don't listen to the naysayers.  They don't know what you know.  They don't have the joy that you have.  They cannot possibly understand what you are called to.  But God knows.  God understands.  And that's all that matters.  When those who should love you doubt you, it hurts.  No one knows this like Jesus.  But, sweet daughter, it doesn't change your calling and it doesn't change your God.  He is the same.  He loves you.  

So, let's go.  Its time to change the world.  

You've always wanted to do it anyway.

The Offense

by Rhonda, October 07, 2023

I woke at 4 a.m.  

Its been happening that way often, night after night.  Sometimes its 3:45, sometimes its 4:15, but it always comes.  I am angry over any offense my mind can muster.  I replay the day that's just finished, reliving things I did wrong.  I roll them over in my mind, cementing my disappointment with myself.  Then, I replay things other people did to me that I don't like.  If I'm not angry at myself, I might as well be angry at others.

I flip on the light and stumble into the kitchen.  I pour myself a bowl of cereal and finish the milk left in the carton.  As I ate the cereal, I pulled out my journal and stared at the pages.  I could think of nothing to write, so in frustration, I pushed the journal away and asked God what was wrong with me.  

As He began to speak truth to my heart, I wrote down what He said to me:  Don't you see Me, always going before you, always providing a way?  I grant you favor - don't doubt my blessings or gifts.  Don't defend a battle I've already won.  You get to rest in my secure and loving arms.  The battles I call you to are far more significant than this.  I don't waste my warriors on meaningless warfare.

Finally, the truth of what was happening.  All of this anger over stupid little events that offended me was meaningless warfare.  It was such a waste of my time (and my sleep!).  I began to take stock of what had happened, and why I'd fallen backwards into a world of being easily offended.  I was either easily offended by things I did, or things that others did.

I know myself well enough to know when I'm angry, I'm usually wrong.  Excessive anger, in my experience, never means I'm right.  I also know when I'm in this place, I'm usually not putting on the armor of God on a daily basis.  

I have things I do, routines that I follow, that keep my mind in a good place and stop me from being easily offended.  I read the Word, I write, I journal, and I exercise.  It may seem strange, but when you battle the mental struggles that I have, you have to find your weapons for battle.  

But, things had been slipping.  I knew it and God knew it.  I'd been strengthened by my time with Him, and I thought I could do things on my own.  I slowly fell away, deciding I didn't need to spend time in the Word, because I was stronger.  I stopped the routines that were keeping me healthy.

And then came the 4 a.m. crazies followed by a bowl of Captain Crunch and prayer of desperation.

I'm nothing if not predictable.  

God is the only one who heals my mind, over and over.

Eph 6:18 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground

When we stray away from God, we lose one of the greatest blessings of our lives.  Our joy.  Don't give your joy away for some stupid reason. Don't throw your pearls before swine.  Don't allow small offenses to take root in your life.  You're far too valuable to the Kingdom to be caught up in meaningless warfare.  

Matt 7:6 Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

God's plans are for you to be free from any ties that bind you, including offenses.  You can stop worrying so much about such things and enjoy being you!  Joyfully, happily you!  You can focus on blessings and happiness instead of perceived shortcomings.  

Jesus forgave the disloyal disciples who offended Him because He knew His father and He was loyal to His father.  His mind was on serving God, not avenging offenses.  Jesus never had to protect his own name.  So, if you're battling small offenses, you can let go and you can free your mind from the offense before deeper roots take hold.  Don't let it take hold of you and don't give it anymore power.    

Think about it.  You need calm more than you need to be angry.

The House

by Rhonda, September 29, 2023

I think the time is coming to sell our house.  You know, things are different now.  We bought this house together, as a married couple.  Now, the upkeep is difficult.  Mowing the yard is a chore when you have several acres.  House repairs were always done by my ex-husband, and the three of us are definitely not talented in this area.  I'm finding that it is becoming too much and I'm needing to simplify my life.

The thought of downsizing and moving someplace new is hard.  This house is the last place we were a family.  I've been asking God for his guidance through this, making sure I'm not stepping ahead of something else He has planned.  But He's slowly been putting all of the pieces together to allow this move to happen.

We will likely move into the city so I can be much closer to work.  We live more of a country life now, and living in a big city will be a huge shift for the three of us.  The kids are ready to move, though.  They talk about it every day.  I get excited, too, but after the excitement the wave of grief seems to take over.

Change can certainly be an unwelcome visitor sometimes.  I think one of the hardest things about divorce is not just the heartbreak and devastation to the family, but the intense amount of change that follows it.  Change isn't easy in the best of circumstances, let alone when life falls apart.  I needed to downsize a long time ago, but there was only so much change my heart could take.

I have to remind myself that I'm not alone in this.  Jesus is always with me, and He's always clearing obstacles for me, going ahead of me.  When I don't feel brave, He is brave for me.  When I don't have strength, He does.  Under His protection, I can move ahead even though I feel so worn and exhausted inside.  

Jesus continues to heal me, day after day, week after week.  He helps me through and He reminds me that He's always been my savior, all along, even when I didn't recognize Him as such.  He's faithful through the worst of times, and He can always be counted upon.  

God uses even the most difficult changes to draw us closer to Him.  He works all things for our good, even the most painful things.  Selling my house is a small change in the grand scheme of things, but it is a big change to me.

I was worried about my son, especially, since he's the youngest one still at home. 

"Mom," he said, "I am excited to move."

"But won't you miss this place?" I asked him.  "We have this beautiful yard, and we have such a nice view."

"I am not going to miss the mowing,"

"Really?  You won't be upset if we move to a place with a small yard, or maybe even no yard?"

"Nope." he said.  "Let's have no yard, that's my vote.  And even when I get married someday, I am going to tell my wife that we aren't going to have a yard."

I started laughing.  I guess we're all worn out keeping this place up, and I am so grateful that I was able to make this move when the kids are ready, and we didn't have to move sooner.

So, now I am house shopping and even condo shopping.  I guess I will try out the city life about six months from now.

Should be interesting, and I have no doubt God has new adventures ahead for me.

The Elderly Man

by Rhonda, September 24, 2023

I boarded my flight on Southwest Airlines out of Washington DC.  If you've ever flown Southwest, you know their seats are not assigned.  They are first come, first serve and the "first come" is determined by your position in the boarding line.  I had an early position in the boarding line, so I was able to grab a window seat on the plane.  The last positions in the line are usually stuck with the middle seats.

A few minutes later, a girl took the aisle seat on my row, leaving only the middle seat between us.  As the last passengers boarded, she turned to me and said, "I think I'm going to move to the middle seat". 

"Sure," I nodded.  "You're very kind."

Soon, I saw her reason for giving up the aisle seat.  An elderly man, hunched over, was walking down the aisle looking for a seat.  He was wearing a blue and red hat that said, "USA" and a T-Shirt with an American flag on it.  He stopped at our row.  

"Is this seat available?" he asked.

Both of us nodded our head yes.  "Praise God!" he exclaimed and threw both hands in the air in victory.  He began to lift his suitcase onto the overhead bin, but it was too heavy for him and his arms started to quiver under the weight as the suitcase began to weave back and forth.  Immediately a tall young man a few rows down got up, and took the bag out of his hands and and put it into the overhead bin for him.

The old man looked up at the young man.  "Thank you," he said sincerely.

Then he sat down next to the two of us.  "I can't believe this seat was available.  Everyone in line told me that I would not get an aisle seat, but would probably have to sit in the middle seat.  I was really hoping for the aisle, though.  The aisle seats are the ones I like the most."

"It must be your lucky day," the girl next to me said.

"Aisle seats really are the best," he said as he got a bottle of Coke out from his backpack.  "You know my bags are probably so heavy because I carry my Coke in them."  

He proceeded to finish off his bottle of Coke.  "I don't know if you saw it, but someone had to help me with my bag."  

We both nodded.  "We saw."

"My wife told me not to pack such a heavy bag but it was already packed, so what can you do?  I think the reason I can't lift it is because of my biceps, " he continued on.  He elbowed the girl next to me with a twinkle in his eye.  "Its because there are none!  There's nothing there."

He laughed such a hearty laugh that we both couldn't help but laugh too.  "Don't laugh," he said between giggles, "getting old really is terrible.  Its not that my biceps are small.  They're just gone!"  And he laughed heartily again, taking a swig of his Coke.

For the next hour, he proceeded to show us every picture he took of every American monument in Washington DC.  He was fascinated with the history of our country, and I suspect he was probably a veteran.  He must have spent days walking around the city, and he seemed to have enjoyed himself tremendously.  I glanced down as his tennis shoes, which appeared to be new.  I guessed he bought them specifically for this trip.

As he continued to talk to us, he told story after story and his laugh and giggles were infectious.

God, I asked, how does this elderly man have so much joy? He's hunched over, and I know he must be in pain.   

He doesn't carry unforgiveness, the Holy Spirit whispered back to me.  

Ah.  I should have known God had yet another less in in unforgiveness for me, his slowest student in this category.

OK God, but in all fairness, I'm not sure he remembers everyone who wronged him to be able to carry unforgiveness.  

So, I thought about my own personal journey on forgiveness for the remainder of the flight.  As the waitress brought the old man his drink "Coke if you have it," he requested, "And could I possibly have the entire can, but only if you can spare it."  She bought him the entire can, which delighted him.  He read the jokes on the Southwest napkins and laughed out loud, then showed them to the two of us, wanting to know if the jokes on our napkins were the same.  

As the flight came to an end and it was time to de-board the plane, he got up to unload his bag from the overhead bin (which I'm sure were packed with Coca-cola), and the young man once again got up and lifted his bag for him.  "You're such a good guy," the old man said to him.  "Thank you so much."

As we walked off the plane, he stopped and said to both of us, "God bless you girls, it was so nice talking to you."  We said our goodbyes and I couldn't help feeling that I have work to do.  I know my problem areas are unforgiveness and anger, no shocker there.  But, I got to see my goal.  Someday I want to be the crazy happy lady on the plane carrying a bag full of soda and enjoying her life. 

I want to conquer this beast of unforgiveness. 

How do you forgive someone who doesn't deserve it?  Even harder, how do you forgive someone who isn't sorry?  I don't have the power to do it, but Christ does, and He lives in me.  So, I know it is possible and I know God doesn't promise me something without delivering.  Forgiveness is about freedom.  Forgiveness removes the control someone else has over your life.   

Unfortunately, forgiveness doesn't always mean a relationship is restored.  Forgiveness is accepting something for the way it is, and dropping the expectations and anger that it wasn't what you hoped.  In order to forgive, we have to accept the reality of the situation and no longer be bound by expectations.

For me, dropping expectations is the hardest part.  I will convince myself there's a variety of reasons that someone would betray me, including a narrative around how it must somehow be my fault.  I'm so afraid to accept reality and drop my expectations that I will make up any reason I can think of to give myself an alternative.  Then, I live in this state of misery and constant disappointment and frustration.  Why?  Because I refuse to accept the situation as it is, and I continue to set expectations of change.

But, forgiveness requires accepting reality, living in reality, and letting go of the offense.  I have two areas of my life that I have much work in this area.  One is with my father, and another is with my ex-husband.  As I pondered this on the plane ride next to the jolliest person I've ever met, I realized I am still struggling heavily in these spaces.

Accepting reality:  The reality is someone hurt us, or someone is hurting us.  If they did it once, and they are sorry, that is the best possible outcome and forgiveness seems to come easier (at least for this redhead).  But, if they continue to hurt us, and they have no intention of apologizing or changing, then forgiveness becomes very tricky.  But it isn't impossible.

If you're in the second scenario, it is also likely there's years of built-up offenses that have hurt for a long time.  When you live in years of hurt, forgiveness doesn't simply happen.  It is a deep root of entangled emotions and pain that require the Holy Spirit to unwind.  There's a lot of work involved, but the first step is to begin living in reality.  You cannot change this person.  Your pain won't change this person, or it would have already happened.  But the Holy Spirit can heal your hurt and make forgiveness possible.

Living in reality:  Living in reality doesn't mean we live a hopeless life.  But, it does often mean accepting that we cannot change another person and we need to set appropriate, responsible boundaries.  Let me tell you, I've tried to change a lot of people, so if it could be done I would have done it.  But, only God can change a person.  In fact, living in reality frees us from the bondage of needing to control someone else so they will change.  Our moods are not controlled by someone else's behavior.  Our lives are not in someone else's hands.  God is big on freeing his children, and He doesn't want us carrying the weight of things that belong only to Him.  Changing someone is not our responsibility, and if we truly give this up, it means we gain a lot of freedom.  

Letting Go of the Offense:  Letting go is final act, the ultimate freedom.  Letting go takes time, and it means that we trust God to take care of us.  We don't have to continue to exact revenge or make someone apologize.   We trust God to make things right and we move on.  God defends us day and night, and He will always take care of us.  We don't have to take care of ourselves by making things right when someone has dome something wrong to us.  Jesus could have been so terribly offended by Peter's disloyal behavior when he denied knowing Christ.  At the time Jesus needed his disciples the most, they deserted Him.  But, He wasn't going to spend one minute angry when He returned.  He had already let go of the offense and immediately reassured Peter that everything was okay.

I want my freedom, and I want to trust God to take care of me.  I want to live life like the elderly man on the airplane, minus the Coca-Cola.  

Let's claim what's ours.  A joy-filled life.

The Newbie

by Rhonda, September 05, 2023

We've been talking a lot about obedience lately, the kids and I.  What does it mean to truly be a Christian?  What is the difference between reading and studying, and actually doing what the Bible says?  At what point do you make the leap from being a knowledgeable Christian to an obedient Christian?

Christ was obedient one hundred percent of the time.  He did what God wanted Him to do always, and He never allowed His will to override the will of God.  When I truly think about that, it is astounding!  Can you imagine choosing to forego your own will to choose the will of God all of the time? 

I have trouble getting up fifteen minutes early to spend time with God so I am not an angry person before I have my breakfast sandwich.  If Christianity were a video game, I would be at level "Newbie".

But, it seems to me that while I do qualify as a newbie when compared to Christ, I've still become more obedient as I get older.  It isn't because I am more disciplined.  No, it is because I've seen Christ walk me through some very difficult times and I honestly just love Him.  Obedience to Christ comes from loving Him, not through some sort of crazy discipline on our part.  

Love is what truly changes us, isn't it?  Love is what makes us forego our own wills.

Its 107 degrees today in the Midwest.  One hundred seven.  Our Husky, Zeus, has decided his full-time job is to lay on the air conditioning vents until the temperatures become reasonable again.  I can't blame him and I'm tempted to do the same thing.  

107 degrees feels like you're stepping into a furnace when you step outside.  Getting into your car after coming out of Wal-Mart is risky, particularly if you have leather seats and you're wearing shorts.  It could result in third degree burns to some tender areas. I personally think 107 degrees should be illegal for safety reasons.

Today, the kids and I decided we didn't want to do much of anything and we made our way to the McDonald's drive-thru.  Our plan was to get some food, come home, and exist in a vegetative state inside the house until the heat subsided.

I pulled up to the window and opened my wallet to pay for our order.  I quickly realized that I had left my debit card at home, along with my ID.  Dread swept over me as I realized I had taken both out of my wallet the night before, and they were likely still sitting on my nightstand.  I quickly thumbed through my wallet, panicking because I knew didn't have another card to pay with, and I never carry cash.  

As I made my way through my wallet one last time while the attendant waited impatiently, I saw at the back of my wallet $35 in cash.  Guess how much our total order cost?  


I don't remember putting the money in my wallet, because I never carry cash.  I don't know how long it had been there.  But, I have to tell you, it is stuff like this that makes me fall head-over-heels in love with Jesus.  Why would the creator of the universe care about a trip my family made to McDonald's?  He's just so amazing.  Things like this make Him smile and they tickle me to death.

I know He died on the cross for our sins, but sometimes in my human state I find it hard to personalize such an incredible feat.  But then, the same Savior that died on the cross, made sure I had enough money in the McDonald's drive-thru.  

I don't know what to make of Him sometimes.  He's everything I've ever wanted.  Its this kind of love that helps drive my obedience and loyalty, because I can't rely on my discipline to keep the laws of the old testament.  I'm so glad I don't have to.

Love is what changes us.

1 John 4:16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 

The Healing

by Rhonda, August 20, 2023

I arrived home from Florida sunburned and mosquito-bitten.  I'm not complaining, though, because as a redhead I would expect nothing less from the Sunshine State.  Which, incidentally, could also have been called The Mosquito State.  They have these bugs called no-see-ums, because as it turns out, you don't see them.  But, they see you and they definitely saw me.  I'm still itchy a week after departing from The Sunshine-Mosquito State.

But, again, I am not complaining because I know the numerous bites will fade, eventually the sunburned skin will stop peeling, but the peaceful vibes after a week on the beach will remain.  

Florida, you passive-aggressive state.  I miss you already.

Now, I'm back into my normal work-life routine.  School starts soon for my kids, and the summer is coming to a close.  We had a great summer, and we're dreading the start of the busy season again.  

But there's one thing we're not dreading, which is football season.  We're excited about that.  We've taught our friends from Ukraine all about American football, and luckily they've chosen to be fans of the right NFL team, praise the Lord.  We like to scream at the TV together now, and I'm looking forward to experiencing another football season with them, particularly since they understand the rules better this year.

It seems like life always has something to look forward to, and I can't help but be grateful to God for healing me through some of the hardest times so I can find joy again.  Four years ago, in the midst of divorce, I wouldn't have thought I would ever have the ability to laugh again.  I certainly still go through challenges, but due to God's amazing grace, I am enjoying my life.

I can remember waking up one morning four years ago.  My ex and I had just separated and my anxiety and depression were off the charts.  I would wake up to anxiety all night long, tossing and turning in my misery.  But, this particular morning when I awoke for just a few short minutes I forgot my ex-husband was gone.  For those few minutes, my world was all okay, and I was peaceful.  Then the memories all came barreling back into my mind and I remembered my life was a total disaster.  

I can remember begging God that morning to heal my mind.  I'd had a few precious moments of peace that morning and I wanted it back so badly.  I'd asked for Him to heal my heart before, but my mind was so broken.  I couldn't focus, and I couldn't think straight.  I didn't have the ability to control my sadness.  I struggled to get through a day of work, and I certainly couldn't problem-solve.  Sitting through a movie could never happen, there's no way my mind could focus for that long.  I could stare at spreadsheets for hours at work, but I would not understand them.

God promised me He would heal my mind, and He did.  Don't get me wrong, I am still battling some serious issues such as unforgiveness and anger.  But, after that particular day four years ago, I began taking baby steps of obedience.  I knew His healing would come through my obedience.  I had to be very careful not to make my situation worse.  I couldn't add drama into my life in any way.  I had to be very careful with what I put into my mind.  I was discerning with what I watched on television, even what I listened to on the radio.  I was so desperate to keep my mind from being triggered backwards into a spiral of anxiety and fear.

Really, fear was the biggest weapon Satan used against me at that time.  I was afraid of everything, but the biggest thing that haunted me day and night was failure.  What if I lost my job because I couldn't focus and we lost our house?  What if I lost my relationship with my kids, with my family?  What if everyone rejected me the way my ex did?  I was afraid of everything and lived in pain every day, slowly turning into an insecure control freak.  Satan used fear to keep me paralyzed, and it worked for far too long.

But then, God asked me to do the tiniest acts of obedience to bring me out of my fear.  Go to church.  Give up listening to angry music, and stay away from television that triggered me.  Much of what He guided me through was around what I was putting into my mind. Get up at a reasonable time.  Go to bed at a reasonable time.  One by one, He would ask me to do these simple things.  They seemed so small and inconsequential, and really they were just common sense.  You would think I wouldn't have to be told by Him to go to bed on time, but my mind did not work and I couldn't see my way through the smallest of decisions.

Sometimes He would ask me to do things I didn't understand.  He told me to pray for my ex (are you serious, God?).   I would resist at first, but eventually I would give in because I wanted my mind back.  He knew what He was doing far more than I did.  I knew I needed order and not chaos.  I kept telling myself He is the God of order, so if He suggested things to me, they had order and purpose.

Looking back now, I am amazed at the depth of my despair and the reign of fear that once controlled me.  He really is the God of freedom.  So often, we think obedience means that we're somehow controlled or caged.  But, obedience to God frees us.  He saved my mind, I'm telling you.  Just like the man who laid by the pool for thirty years, He healed me.  Even now, He continues to heal me.

Tonight, as I watched Alex play with two boys from Ukraine and I chatted with their Mom through a translator, I realized that we are going to be okay.  Yes, it feels odd to be a family of three now, instead of four.  But, my God can heal anything.  He works all things for our good, and He takes care of us through it all. The good, the bad, and especially the ugly.

Yes, we are okay.  

Jesus my Savior.  There's nothing like Him.

The Dolphin

by Rhonda, August 11, 2023

We went on vacation to beautiful, sunny Florida last week.  It was a peaceful and relaxing time.  We brought our friends from Ukraine with us, and we spent a week hanging out at the beach.  We were all sad to board our flights home, because it was such a fun getaway.  

Don't you just love the waves washing up onto a beach?  The ocean is vast, beautiful and overwhelming.  Listening to the waves at night allows me to fall into the deepest sleep.  One of my favorite things about visiting Florida is the deep sleep I have while I'm there.

We spent an evening kayaking in a cove off the Florida coast.  It was a fun thing to do, but I learned that my son and I are terrible kayak partners.  I'm pretty sure our issues are all his fault, and he's pretty sure they're all my fault, but we do not row well in tandem.  We weren't at the back of the kayak group due to exhaustion, no.  We were at the back because we couldn't get our kayak to row straight due to our lack of ability to row in synchronization.

We were rowing against the current, struggling to keep up with the rest of the group.  It was dark, and we were ready to get home.  We began to bicker as we tried to right our course.

"Alex," I said, "row right, then left."

"I'm already doing that," he replied.

"Uh, I don't think so," 

And the arguments ensued while our guide chuckled at our disagreements.

And then I saw it.  A fin sticking out of the water coming towards us.  

"Alex, look!" 

He slowly put his oar down as the fin approached.

Then, not only did I see it, but I heard it.  The distinct sound of a dolphin breathing.  As we watched, the dolphin swam around our kayak, chasing a fish who was swimming for its life.  

It was incredible to hear the dolphin breathing, watching the outline of him while he chased a small fish around our kayak.  Watching it at night, listening to the dolphin move in the water felt like something out of a movie.  After all of our struggles, and after being in last place, we saw something no one else saw.  A wild dolphin so close we could touch it.

We sat there mesmerized, watching the whole thing while the rest of the group forged ahead.  After a few minutes, the dolphin moved on, and we caught up with the rest of the group.  We told them what had happened, but, I don't think everyone believed us.  Actually, I'm not sure anyone believed us.

But, I have to tell you, after that encounter, we didn't care if we were in last place and we didn't care if we rowed in tandem.  Our position had allowed us to see something that no one else saw.  Our focus was on what we could see next, not on trying to catch up with everyone else.

You know, we do a lot of angling in life for position.  We want to be first, we want to be the best, and we want to be recognized.  No one ever wants to be in last place.  But, what if last place allows us to see God's blessings in a whole new way?  What if we see something no one else sees when we're not trying to lead the crowd?

Matthew 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last...

I wonder what would happen if we stopped worrying so much about how we rate against others.  Is second place really so terrible?  Is last place the worst thing that could happen to us?  Does God really care about our position?


Instead of trying to be the best, instead of trying to please everyone, maybe we should stop worrying about it.  Instead, what would happen if we focused our goals around loving God and loving others?  According to God, whatever position we land in doesn't really matter.  What matters is whether we loved those in front of us.  Last place might actually have the biggest blessings, depending on how we approach it.  

First place never lasts, anyways.  It always has to be defended.  It comes with a tremendous amount of pressure.  But, if our goal is to love those around us, well that seems to be pretty simple.  It takes the pressure off, and lets us relax and exit the rat race.  We don't have to be perfect.  We just have to love.

By the time Alex and I got to shore, everyone else had already gotten out of their kayaks and they were loading their things into their vehicles, getting ready to go home.  But, Alex and I wanted to stand on the shore and stare out into the water, still amazed by the sight we saw.  The others had already moved onto other things, accomplishing the next items on their task lists.  But, we were still in the moment, reliving our experience.

I turned to my son while we looked at the water.  "They all missed it."

"I'm glad we were last," he said.

"Me too."

The Trap

by Rhonda, August 07, 2023

 "I always feel like I am not good enough," he said.  

We were having drinks downtown with coworkers.  It was a work meeting scheduled for the simple purpose of maintaining relationships between two companies that have mutual interests.  But, the conversation had gone beyond the normal superficial business discussions as our group talked about the new trend to hire Ivy league graduates in our city.

"I grew up without money, I went to a state school."

Others at our table encouraged him that it didn't matter, especially now as a professional with more than a decade under his belt.  His work output was all that mattered.  His ethic, his heart, and his determination were the real differentiators, not a piece of paper.

Still, it was interesting to me.  This was someone with a very successful career, and he was under no threat whatsoever from new employees.  But, he was intimidated by the new grads coming in with the distinguished degrees.  He felt diminished over a piece of paper.

Doesn't comparison get us every time?

I could relate.  I don't have a fancy degree either.  I could also relate to him for another reason.  I always feel like I am not good enough. When I say always, I mean always.  I feel that way every day, and it is one of the first thoughts I have every morning.  Sure, it takes different forms, but the overall theme remains the same.

The truth is there's always going to be someone who can do it better.  Unless you're a gold medal Olympian, you probably aren't going to be the greatest.  Even gold medal Olympians have to defend the medal and eventually someone better will come along.  No one can claim the title of permanently being the greatest at, well, anything.

It may not seem like it, but comparison is basically wanting to be the greatest.  If being the greatest is impossible and there's always going to be someone better, then what's the end goal with comparison?  Nothing productive can come of it.  To quote Solomon, it is a "chasing of the wind".  It is the pursuit of the impossible, an emptiness that will never be fulfilled.

The disciples did some chasing after the wind themselves.  Jesus caught them comparing one another in Luke Chapter 22.

24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

Jesus basically said stop competing and stop comparing.  Instead, start serving and loving others.  He knew the pursuit of greatness would lead the disciples to emptiness.  If there were anything holy about pursuing the top worldly position, Jesus Himself would have pursued it.  However, He sternly warned His disciples, "you are not to be like that".  

And neither are we.

We're not meant to live a life of misery, focused on ourselves and our flaws.  That's the problem with comparison, really.  It keeps us focused on ourselves.  We must always worry about whether someone is doing better than we are.  What if someone surpasses us and our position?  We can't let that happen, so we must focus constantly on staying ahead.  We must maintain whatever kingdom we've built and defend it at all cost.  In the meantime, we wonder why we never feel like we're good enough, yet its all we think about. 

God says we're not meant to live that way.  He says to throw it all aside, and stop worrying about our kingdoms.  Instead, in His eyes, the one who is least is actually the greatest.  God does not care about looks, stature, or wealth.  He is not impressed with your latest promotion, or whether you look younger than your age. 

He's only interested in the heart.  

This is a novel concept when the world is focused on the opposite. Social media means you don't just compete with everyone around you.  You compete with everyone.  You compete with altered images, false impressions, and faked happiness.  You compete with people you don't know, people you do know, and people who don't even truly exist except in Photoshop.

What a nightmare.

In God's economy, the servant's heart is at the top of His list.  The one who selflessly gives to others is the one who catches God's attention.  It really takes the pressure off when you realize God only wants you to love others.  Everything else is so unimportant in His eyes.

I'm so glad God doesn't put all of those expectations onto us.  He loves us so much, and His will for our lives is that we run our own race, and we cheer others on while they run theirs.

What freedom.