The Identity

by Rhonda, February 09, 2024

When we are born into this world, we are a unique creation, masterminded by God himself.  We are created with our own set of DNA.  Our eye color, skin color, and body type are individual to each of us.  Our personalities are unique.  We have likes and dislikes, preferences and pain points.  God's fingerprints are all over every one of us, creating us to be completely individual from any other.

Yet, if you've gone through any sort of trauma recently, you may find yourself wondering, Who am I, really?  Where is my place in this world?  I think it is particularly normal to try to redefine yourself after you've gone through a divorce.  Everything familiar is changing.  So many of us have a significant amount of our identity wrapped up in our marriage.  When all of a sudden, it doesn't exist anymore, you feel like you don't exist anymore.  There's a lot of self help books written specifically around this, advertising the secret to finding yourself and being comfortable in your own skin.  

Thank goodness it is not up to us to define who we are. We are simply who God says we are.  No past defines us.  No opinion molds us.  The only One who can tell us about ourselves is God Himself.  If you don't believe me, have a look at scriptures:

1 Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Colossians 3:12  Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.

Ephesians 2:10  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

1 John 3:1  Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

These are just a few scriptures, and if you want to read more about yourself, the Bible is full of verses such as these.  According to these verses, you're a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, the elect of God, holy and beloved, His workmanship, and His child.  I don't know about you, but that's a far greater identity than I could have ever designed for myself.  God's mercies are great, aren't they?  Can you believe this is how he sees us?  

He sees little old divorced me as holy and beloved.

I used to ask Him God why would you be so kind to me? But, as I've gotten to know Him more and more through this traumatic process of divorce, I've learned it isn't about me.  He is simply that amazing.  His love is that incredible.

He doesn't want you to be more like Mary down the street, who has been married for thirty years, has grandkids, and the perfect Christmas decorations every year.  He doesn't want you to be more like anyone else, because He created you to be you.  The way you laugh?  He created that.  The way you burn dinner (speaking for myself here)?  He didn't design you to be a master chef.  The nights you're tired and end up in bed with a bag of Cheetos (random example, completely)?  He gets it.

He is delighted by you.  Yes, you.

So, even after feeling like you've lost so much in the divorce, just remember that God's definition of you depends on Him.  Not on you, your decisions, your past, or even your future.  Your identity is in Him, and there's nothing to redefine.  Your life may be different and your decisions may be different.  But, nothing can change the truth.  You've been created by the One who loves you more than you can imagine.

That's your identity.

The House

by Rhonda, February 04, 2024

The winter weather finally gave way this week.  We've had some sixty-degree weather arrive in our part of the country, and it makes me want to lay outside in the sun's rays and soak up the happiness.  It feels so wonderful.

Right now, we've moved partially to our place in the city.  I spend the week in the city and the weekends at home in the country.  I like the mix of locations, but eventually I'll have to make the move from one to the other.

When you leave the last home you were married in, it feels like another step in finalizing your divorce.  We've been divorced for over a year now and separated for four years.  But, leaving the last place you were together brings up a lot of emotions and if I'm honest, I feel triggered.  

I know God is calling me to simplify my life.  He wants me to move forward.  He always wants us to move forward.  But, sometimes I struggle so much with looking backwards.  It reminds me of Lot's wife in the Bible.  As God was destroying the city behind her, she was told not to look back.  When she disobeyed God and looked back, she turned to a pillar of salt.

Did you know there's actually a pillar of salt named Lot's Wife near the Dead Sea?  I digress.

God is always moving ahead, wanting us to leave our past behind and follow Him.  There's nothing wrong with me feeling nostalgic about selling my home, but I am not meant to stay here and relive the past over and over.  God always has something new in store, He's not big on rehashing the past.  I guess I shouldn't be either.

I don't want to be as useless as a pillar of salt because I'm always looking backwards.  That would make me, uh, salty.

I want to move ahead into whatever God has in store for me.  Isn't it crazy how difficult it is to let go of the past?  Even if the past isn't good, we still hold onto it for dear life, as if it still has something to offer us.  But, here's the news flash.  It doesn't have anything else for us.  That's why it is the past and not the present.  

Isaiah 43:18-19  The LORD says, “Forget what happened before, and do not think about the past. Look at the new thing I am going to do. It is already happening. Don’t you see it? I will make a road in the desert and rivers in the dry land.

The Bible takes it one step further from simply moving forward from the past.  It actually says we are to forget about it and not think about it.  Can you imagine what life would be like if you never thought about your mistakes from the past?  That thing you cringe about from your past?  You actually don't need to think about it anymore.  You don't need to shame yourself.  You don't need to hate yourself.  You don't need to wish it away.  The Bible actually says forget about it.  (in an Italian accent.)

God is so amazing, isn't He?  He goes to great lengths to separate us from our past mistakes.  His Word reminds us over and over that we are worth so much more to Him than our sin.  He could shame us and He could punish us.  But, He says look at the new thing I'm going to do for you.  He died so that we can forget about our past.  I don't think any of us can fully comprehend the sacrifice He made to allow us to move forward and be with Him in heaven.  

So, if you're feeling stuck in a place that is holding you back from where God is leading you, remember how important it is to move forward.  Letting go is hard, but staying in a place not meant for you anymore is harder.

Keep going.

The Sandwich

by Rhonda, January 29, 2024

It is customary at my job that if we schedule a work meeting over lunch, the company provides lunch.  So, I really don't mind lunch meetings, and this week I got lucky.  It was quite a spread, with all different types of sandwiches, chips, macaroni and cheese, salad, and a whole box of cookies.  For a girl who loves to eat, seeing the counter covered in food is always a welcome sight.

Everything was as good at it looked.  I love chicken salad on a croissant, and this was a good chicken salad.  The fruit was fresh.  The mac and cheese had the perfect cheese sauce.  I also helped myself to some delicious chocolate chip cookies.  

The next day at work, I was excited for lunch because I wanted surf through the work refrigerator to find some leftovers.  I was ready for another beautiful chicken salad sandwich and I already knew I was going to have a gigantic serving of mac and cheese.  I hauled the leftovers out onto the counter and loaded up my plate.

But, do you know what happened?  Those sandwiches that were so amazing the day before had gotten soggy in the refrigerator overnight.  The mac and cheese that I had my heart set upon wasn't nearly as good reheated.  The salad had wilted.  The cookies were all gone.  

My lunch was a bit of a disappointment, much to my, well, disappointment.  Don't get me wrong, I ate it anyway.  But, it definitely wasn't the same experience.

It reminded me of Exodus when Moses rescued the Israelites from harsh slavery under the Egyptians.  They had gone into the wilderness, but unfortunately they didn't have any microwaveable dinners with them.  So, God himself rained manna from the clouds for them to eat every day.  Each and every morning, the Israelites would wake up and gather manna.  But if they stored manna overnight, even just one night, it would rot.  They would have soggy manna sandwiches.

It is fascinating to me that God created such an incredible miracle by raining of manna from the sky, but He didn't preserve the manna overnight.  Why?  Maybe He didn't want the Israelites to get lazy, lying around eating their canned manna.  But, more likely, He was making a point.  He would take care of them every day, each and every day.  He showed them they could depend on Him.  

God really does present each day as a new opportunity, doesn't He?  We are to live on what He gives us.  We can expect Him to show up and see us through.  But, if we try to live off of our own works, our things we've stored up, we are going to end up with soggy sandwiches.  A bad imitation of the real thing.

I think this is why Jesus always said to never worry about tomorrow.  Each and every day is new, and when we worry about tomorrow, we're forgetting one important thing.  God's mercies for tomorrow will be given tomorrow.  The manna rained from the sky every morning, not two days ahead of time.  His mercy is given when it is needed.   

But, the devil plays mind games with us.  He wants us to believe our success is in our own hands and that everything depends on our skills and talents.  The weight of the world is on our shoulders, and it rests on our abilities.  Before long, we start to fear our own failures.  But, fear discounts God.  It removes Him from the equation.  The only way we are victorious over our trials is because of God's strength, not our own. 

If the Israelites had to worry every day about how they were going to rain manna from the sky, I would imagine that would have been a very stressful existence.  But, God was the one who rained the manna from the sky.  The Israelites used their skills and talents to collect the blessings from God, they were the beneficiaries of His mercy.  The victory over their starvation was won by God, not by their talents.

God is our Savior.  He saves us.  He goes ahead of us.  He ensures our victories.  He doesn't just "help" us.  He is the conqueror of our trials, the victor over problems that should normally defeat us.  He's the reason David conquered Goliath.  He's the reason Moses parted the Red Sea.  We don't have to manifest the miracles.  

We simply have to show up and believe in the One who can defeat our problems.

The Winter Storm

by Rhonda, January 19, 2024

I am looking over the horizon watching a wall of snow heading towards our neighborhood.  It is an amazing sight.  Weather is such a magnificent display sometimes.  It is very cold in our area right now, the weather forecast says it is -25 degrees with the wind chill.  My garage doors actually froze shut over the weekend.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  They froze shut. That's a new level of cold, honey.

My car is in the shop this week.  Actually both my son's car and my car have had issues.  Cold makes a significant impact on our beater cars.  I am driving a loaner vehicle around right now.  When I took my car in for repairs, the woman behind the counter told me they were running short on loaner vehicles.  She said it would be nearly a half hour wait while they waited for the vehicle they were going to give me to be cleaned.  "I have nothing else," she said, "so I have to give you an SUV".  

Some people would be excited by this news, but when you've been labeled a "Curb Killer" in your high school driver's education course, you prefer to drive smaller cars.  I simply thanked her.  I felt slightly annoyed that I had to wait a half hour on the vehicle.  After all, I am a frequently returning customer since my car is always on the fritz. But, I rarely check the weather, so little did I know that a severe winter storm was going to move in.  Frigid temperatures combined with heavy snowfall were going to make getting anywhere a huge challenge this week.

Isn't it crazy that I was lucky enough to have a four-wheel drive vehicle during the exact week we experienced a serious winger storm?  Perhaps my half hour wait on the loaner vehicle wasn't just an inconvenience.  Perhaps it was divine intervention.

I've been thinking a lot about how God takes care of us in so many ways, but so often we don't notice.  I drove through the city in my oversized SUV this week watching the smaller cars slide on ice, some even sliding off the road, and my SUV didn't slide once.  I know I am not simply lucky.  God taking care of me, loving me even when I don't see Him.  Even when I don't notice Him.  He lined this up long before I walked into the repair shop.  

He is so meticulous with his care. 

He is so meticulous with his love.

He gets my struggles.  He knows how crappy my car is.  He intervenes in the most amazing ways, and I just can't help but be enamored by all of the creative ways He loves me.  He makes me laugh, He makes me cry, and He makes me love Him more.

Lamentations 3:22–23  The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

The next day, I was sat work when I got a text from my daughter.  She and my son were stranded on the side of the road.  We have a flat tire, the text said, and we tried to make it home but we couldn't.  We're on the side of the highway.

Panic immediately set in.  I don't know how to change a tire.  When I was married, this was an easy answer.  Call your Dad.  But it isn't that way anymore.  So, my kids were sitting on the side of the road in -20 degree weather, and as I got ready to pick them up, I knew I wasn't going to offer much help on the tire.

I started to look up whether my insurance covered roadside assistance when I received a call from my daughter.  "You won't believe it," she said, "a police officer pulled up behind us and he is changing our tire."  And, sure enough, a kind-hearted officer changed their tire in absolutely frigid temperatures.  

Soon, my kids were on their way again, and they made a beeline to the tire shop to get their tire repaired.  I never had to leave the house.  God took care of my kids, in the form of a kind officer who was willing to help.  

All of this happened within a matter of a few days, and once again, I am in awe of often God does things like this and I completely miss it.  I forget to thank Him, and I go about my life as if these things are no big deal.

But, they are a big deal.  We have a big God who goes before us and helps us.

Thank you Lord, for your faithfulness through the storm.

The New Year

by Rhonda, January 15, 2024

Its a New Year, you know I love me some resolutions.  I always set my goals for the year.  I've gotten into this routine on New Years Eve where I write down not only my goals for myself, but also what I believe God is asking of me for this coming year.  I also like to give my years a theme, and I've got a good one this year.

My theme for the year is More in '24!.  Do you like it?  Actually I believe God gave me this theme, which I love, because I love rhymes.  I couldn't have come up with it myself, so I must give credit where credit is due.  Anything this catchy must be divine.

But, what does More in '24! mean?  

I'm glad you asked.  More in '24! is not about buying more, getting more, sleeping more or eating more.  Nope, the theme this year is about making more progress.  More!  In '24!  

OK, I'll stop.

If I can.

2024 is the year of more growth for me.  In 2024, I want more of  the great things accomplished in 2023 (no matter how small).  Any progress in 2023 can, and will be be amplified this year!  Let's have more obedience, more joy and more peace.  More chains breaking away, more bondage thrown to the side, and more love.  More of Jesus, less of me.  More of the father-daughter relationship with the One who created me, and less of dysfunctional relationships.  Let me grow closer to God in 2024 and get rid of anything that comes between Christ and myself. More in '24!

Join me!  God will strengthen us to give us the life we long to have.  We can choose love over self-pride and arrogance.  We can choose God in the quiet space, the alone moments.  We can choose God even when we cannot trust ourselves.  

I want more of this in 2024.

I've been thinking a lot about what this means to put this into practice.  

Dedicated Time  One of the most important things I must do is protect my time with God so I can keep my focus.  Our lives get busy quickly, and for those of us who are single Moms, there's not a lot of downtime.  I've got to be careful to protect my time with my Savior.  Our time together is so important.  It helps my mind to function properly over anxiety.  It keeps me humble, away from the roller coaster of emotions.  It keeps me peaceful and eliminates my desperation for rest.  It is my true "self care", required to keep me healthy and stable.

Obedience  I want to bring my actions and my behavior in line with my beliefs.  I want my life to be completely under God's authority.  This means I have to make hard decisions that my flesh doesn't like.  I have to choose God's ways over my ways.  I have to bring my struggles to Him instead of acting out.  I have to make choices that seem less fun, but are better for me in the long run.  If I don't understand something, I need to think God must have a plan, instead of  I need to make a plan.  I need to live by God's solutions that fit into His plan instead of my solutions that fit into my ego.  I must let Jesus take the wheel, and bring my problems to the One who can actually give me a real solution.  He knows what's best for me, and He's not about to forsake His daughter,

This choice around obedience is the critical piece of More in '24.  This is what breaks the chains and gives true freedom.  This needs to be my top focus, and it becomes easier when I stay consistent with dedicated time.

Forgiveness  I didn't want to put this one on the list, but the Holy Spirit was persistent.  My walk with forgiveness is far from finished.  Forgiveness is such a process, isn't it?  I have many people in my life to forgive and if I refuse to make progress in this area, I will not have More in '24.  I really don't like working on forgiveness.  But, I also don't like being miserable.  I have to forgive my ex-husband for things that happened during our divorce.  I have to forgive my father for rejecting me (honestly this one is harder).  I have to forgive my mother for hurting me, even when I know she's battling mental illness.  

As you can see, I've got a list.  I've had a ball of fury inside of me that is creating bondage in my life.  God tells me over and over that He wants me free of this.  But, this particular mountain has been a struggle for me to climb and it seems like if I'm not seething in anger over these topics, I'm crying over them.  Luckily, God does not ask me to be perfect in this area.  He just asks that I make progress and not sit idle in this space.  So, yes, I must have more forgiveness in '24.  

These are my areas of More.  I'm excited to continue with progress and work towards a more Christlike life.  There's so many good things ahead for us in 2024, and I can't wait to see what God brings into my life in the future.

Happy New Year, and may the Lord bless you abundantly this year.

The Season

by Rhonda, January 01, 2024

Christmas season certainly has its challenges, doesn't it?  Divorce makes the holidays feel different.  Even now, despite our tremendous healing, I am sensitive to the changes in our Christmas holiday.  I see it on my kids' faces, too, their hearts desiring the Christmas of the past, with both of their parents together.  

If you're struggling through the holiday season, I am so sorry.  God loves you dearly.  You are his daughter, and He is not going to leave his daughter when she is hurting.  If I might make a suggestion, do your best to be open to what God has for you through this season, even if it does not feel familiar.  God loves seeing you delight in the surprises He has for you, and He will surprise you.  Give it a try and see what happens.  

Stay active through the holidays.  Staying active doesn't mean it isn't going to hurt.  The first time we went riding around the city, looking at holidays lights, with just the three of us, I felt like I couldn't get through it.  But, those first few years are "building years" where you're making new memories and new traditions.  They may not feel great, but staying at home in bed won't feel much better (trust me, I tried it).  Every year as you gain distance from the divorce and create new traditions, you will feel better, but the first few are going to be tough.  Keep going.  The day will come when you're going to enjoy your holidays again, so don't expect perfection during these "rebuild" years.  Let yourself hurt, but don't hide under the covers.

Focus on helping others.  Nothing takes the sting out of the freshly divorced holidays like focusing on something else.  Our Ukraine refugee families (yes, there's more than one now) have saved us every bit as much as we've saved them.  Find someone who needs a place to go on Christmas.  Volunteer at a local soup kitchen.  Do everything you can to remind yourself of your blessings instead of focusing on what you're missing.  The best Christmas of my life was this year, and it wasn't because we somehow managed the perfect meal or the perfect presents.  It was because I had a houseful of Ukraine refugees watching Home Alone.  Different?  Yes.  Better?  Oh, yes.  I've never sensed Christ so absolutely present in my home on the holidays.  I needed to think about something besides my own problems, and helping others is always the solution for self-focus.

Remember who you are, and Whose you are.  Everything hurts more during the holidays, especially divorce.  Divorce is a drastic form of rejection, and over the holidays it doesn't take much to cut deep when dealing with something as severe as this type of rejection.  But, in the midst of finding your way through holidays as a divorced person, remember you are a daughter of the King.  You may not feel like royalty here on Earth, but you are.  You are not a "divorced woman" or a "single mom" in God's eyes.  He doesn't use those words to identify you.  You are His daughter, His beloved child.  So, while you're hurting, don't let the emotion of the holidays steal your memory of who your heavenly Father is.  He is the God of the universe, and these holidays aren't about a perfect family, a perfect memory, or even perfect behavior.  No, the holidays are a celebration of the love of our Savior.  These days are about Him, and His love for His children.  His love defines you, not a perfect holiday or your marital status.

This year, as we started the holidays, I found myself enjoying some of our new traditions.  It turns out we like to go to candlelight services, and this year we brought a couple of Ukranian families with us to experience it.  We created a few new games to share with my side of the family this Christmas.  And, our gift exchange didn't go as planned this year.  By the time we finished hosting parties for refugee families, as well as our own families, the kids and I realized we'd run out of time to buy gifts for each other.  

The kids were mortified by it, sheepishly telling me my gifts weren't going to arrive before Christmas.  I started laughing, and I said I hadn't gotten them anything either. No big deal, I told them, we'll do our gift exchange whenever everyone's Christmas gifts get here.

And so we did.

It never would have happened if I'd been married.  But, we never would have had Ukranians here if I'd been married, we never would have gone to candlelight services, and I most certainly would not have ordered Christmas dinner catered.

But, I did.

Sometimes Plan B is just as good as Plan A, and I'm starting to believe it can be even better.  I know God never wants divorce, but I also know that His plans for my life didn't stop when my marriage failed.  I am not meant to be miserable every holiday season because I am divorced.  Christmas is about Jesus, not about me.  

And for that, I am thankful.

The Driver

by Rhonda, December 17, 2023

I climbed into an Uber on the way to the concert.  It was cold outside, and I was rubbing my hands together to get some heat back into my circulatory system.  The driver in the front of the car had a unique accent as he asked me a few questions.  He asked me where I was from, what concert I was seeing, and how my night was going.  Sometimes when I'm in an Uber, I'm in a chatty mood.  Other times, I'm not.  This night, however, I was feeling chatty.

"Where are you from?" I asked him.


I searched for a great response but struggled.  "Wow," I said, "well, welcome to America."  It was lame at best, but I couldn't come up with anything better.

"Thank you.  This is the greatest country in the world," he said, "and I thank God every day that I am here."

"Is your family all okay, all safe?" I asked him.

"Yes," he said.  "Thanks to God, they are all here, and they are all safe.  Can you believe my country has been at war for over twenty years?  Its is terrible."

He went on to tell me about his personal story, his displacement by the war, and his eventual service with the US Marines.  His story was a heroic one, this unknown Uber driver earning a living while driving tourists. He'd seen atrocities that my eyes have never witnessed, and he'd risked his life to save his family.

I wondered if I could be so brave.

All thanks, he explained to me, belongs to God.  "It was not my bravery, it was God's courage that got us through it."  

Do you ever think about how many unsung heroes are simply walking around, in our midst, and we have no idea they're heroes?  I was so engrossed in his story of his life that I was actually sorry to get out of the Uber.

"May God bless you," he said as I exited the car.  He pulled back onto the road, off to pick up his next passenger.  He had a wife and two children at home to take care of, after all.

Every time I have an interaction like this, I know it isn't an accident or mere coincidence.  God loves to get my attention, and He knows I love hearing people's stories, so that's one of his favorite ways to remind me of His presence.

I think about that Uber driver from time to time.  He was so content.  So grateful, with his country music playing and his pride in America.  I think about the reality check that it gave me, the reminder that my life is a blessed life.  Do I really live in a space of gratitude for it?  Do I express true contentment with my life?  Or are my eyes only focused on what I don't have, and what's coming next?

Through the course of my professional career, I've gotten to be in the orbit of some very wealthy people.  I watch them closely, interested in learning about how they experience life.  But, I have yet to find one that isn't human.  The wealthy have wrinkles like the rest of us.  They have relationship problems like everyone else.  They experience the world as human beings, just like we do.  Aren't we striving for some sort of nirvana that doesn't exist when we're not content with our lives?  No one is leading a perfectly fulfilling life.

I bet most of the wealthy don't have the joy of my Uber driver, jamming out to his country music and living in a place of total gratitude for his savior.  All of the money, accolades, and success brings nothing but momentary excitement.  Only God gives long-lasting joy. 

So, what are we striving towards, really?  What would life look like if we pursued God as much as we pursue money, awards, or recognition?  How would it feel to just be content and grateful for what we have?

Well, for one, a lot of the pressure comes off.  If we're not having to continually strive towards worldly goals, we will spend our mental energy appreciating blessings as they come our way.  There's less stress in our everyday lives.  When we understand what we truly need versus what we want, we'll often find we already have what we need.  We can live in a place of gratitude instead of a place of deficiency.  Paul calls this mindset "great gain".

1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world

But, there's also another big benefit.  We're less selfish.  We're not so worried about getting ahead, and we're more considerate of others when we live in a place of gratitude.  We continue to understand our needs have been met, so this focus on our striving - our struggles - goes away.  We don't have to constantly think about ourselves anymore.  We live more generously, and we're less competitive and more empathetic towards others.

Contentment and gratitude make us more like Christ, whether we're driving an Uber or doing anything else in this world.

And, being more like Christ is always the ultimate goal.

The Trip

by Rhonda, December 09, 2023

I waited for her to pick me up at 2 a.m.  My Mom was going with me to Florida, much to my surprise.  I invited her to come as my companion while I traveled for a business trip, knowing she would say no, knowing she would not be able to leave her house.  We had a brutally early flight, and I figured that alone would be enough for her to turn it down.

But, once again, when I pray, God shows me in a variety of ways that He hears my prayers.  He had been working in her heart, and despite her need to stay at home and stay safe, she accepted my offer.  I was delighted, surprised, and I prayed this might be some area of healing for the two of us.  Some much-needed light in her sadness.  Mental illness is such a beast, isn't it?

As we boarded the plane, I could sense her fear, but she kept pushing through.  She said she wanted this time with me, because we don't see each other very often anymore.  I was overwhelmed with love for her, knowing she was doing this for me.  something that seems so common, so ordinary, was an act of bravery for her.  An act of love for me.

The week in Florida flew by, and her anxiety stayed under control as long as she didn't leave the condo  We rented an oceanfront location, which was perfect for her.  She wanted to listen to the waves, see the ocean, but not feel pressure to go anywhere or see anyone.  It was disappointing to me, because I wanted to show her the sights and take her out for dinners.  I had hoped she would be so excited when we got to Florida that she would want to engage.  But, I had to remind myself that the trip was a huge step for her, and so I put in my orders to Doordash and spent my evenings by her side.

Much of the time, we didn't say much but just spent time watching her favorite cooking shows with the roar of the ocean waves in the background.  Most nights she went to bed early.  She's changed a lot, and as she ages and fights her battles for mental health, I have to be patient and stop trying to uncover my Mom from the past.  It feels like I'm in a fight I'm slowly losing, watching her disappear a little more each year.

I think some of this is probably normal.  The slow loss of a parent's health, whether mental or physical, is heart wrenching.  I'm finally at an age where my kids are old enough that I can spend significant time with my mother again, and her health isn't there.  Her love for life is gone.  It doesn't feel fair, and I know it saddens her as much as it saddens me. 

But, you know, it doesn't matter if Mom is able to go out to dinner with me.  All that matters is that she knows that I love her.  If I have to modify modify our plans to accommodate her mental health, then so be it.  Bring on the baking shows, I love to bake anyway.

1 Thes 5:14  And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone

I have spent the last two years begging God to heal my mind from the trauma of my son's cancer, my divorce, and our house fire.  He's been so patient with me, slowly allowing me to come along at my speed, healing me while growing me at the same time.  When I think of all that God has done for me, patience with my mother should be a given.  

But, how do you move forward from the past, especially with someone you love so dearly?  I'm still trying to figure it out, but here's what I've come up with so far:

1.  Stop living in the past.  Memories are precious, and we are blessed to have good memories.  But, we can't continually try to recreate the past without missing the blessings of the present.  Ten years ago, you couldn't have kept my mother in the condo because she would have wanted to see everything she could see.  But, now, instead of wishing we could go out to dinner, I can enjoy the quiet and cozy moments I have with her inside.  I miss those moments when I'm wishing for my Mom of the past.  Not to mention, I'm learning lots of new baking skills.

2.  Let yourself grieve the loss.  Letting go of the old doesn't happen without pain.  Sometimes the road from old to new is traumatic.  In fact, I'd say it is traumatic more often than not.  But, God is not going to leave you here in your pain.  He will give you peace in your pain and remind you that He is faithful.  He's with you, always, and He's putting the pieces of your life together, one piece at a time.  My relationship with my Mom has changed, but that doesn't mean it has lost all of its power.  Its just different, and I need time to grieve the old relationship.  Its okay to feel the hurt. 

3.  Let go of the old to embrace the new.  There's nothing harder than saying goodbye to things we love dearly.  My Mom is still here, but she's changed, and I have to say goodbye to her in a way.  But, goodbye means new beginnings and I can still forge ahead with a new relationship, and try to understand who she is now.  I am going to have to move on from the past, because I'm not meant to remain in it any longer.  It is time for a new thing, a new way, and a new vision for the future.

Isaiah 43:19 See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

All I know is Jesus will turn even the most difficult situations into something that will make me stronger.  I can trust Him with my mother as I pray for her.  He is doing a new thing in this sad situation.  Someway, somehow.

I just have to look for it.

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.