Finding Joy

by Rhonda, February 27, 2022

I sat in the airport, leaned back in my chair, and closed my eyes for a minute.  I'd just flown home from a week of working in Nashville.  Upon landing and checking my e-mails, I realized I had a deliverable that was urgent, so instead of driving home from the airport, I booted up the laptop and began to work.  It would be better to knock the work out now, rather than try to work after getting home.  My kids wouldn't handle it well after not seeing me for a week.  

But, before I began, I just needed to rest for a minute.

It was a rough week in Nashville.  Night of working until 10 p.m. at the office, followed by early mornings, were taking their toll.

I finished the deliverable, closed my laptop, and drove home.  I spent a few hours with my kids before I fell into bed and went to sleep.

Before I went to bed, I looked up at the ceiling.  "God, I don't feel like I enjoy my life anymore.  Please teach me how."

It was true.  As I thought back over my life, even without the current workload,  I'm not sure I could ever say I had mastered the art of truly enjoying my life.  So often, I felt as though I was just surviving until the next season.  I drifted off to sleep wondering how everyone else seemed to enjoy life so much, while the days felt so overwhelming to me.

The next morning, I received a text from my Bible study group.  We're working on a secret project for the upcoming retreat.  Can you please send us a photo off of your phone that brings you joy?

Timely.  I flipped through a few photos on my phone but found nothing suitable.  I knew it wasn't a problem with my photos, but a problem with me instead.  Perhaps I need a few days off, I thought, or maybe a spa day.  

As the Lord is always faithful, I shouldn't have been surprised when the message at church today was on - you guessed it - choosing life. 

Deuteronomy 30:19-20   This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

According to this verse, choosing life (and enjoying life) means three things:

1.  Loving the Lord

2.  Obeying His Voice

3.  Holding fast to Him

Loving the Lord.  In my mind, there's no doubt that I love the Lord.  However, love is often an action.  When I am loving the Lord with all my mind (action), my thoughts are on Him.  I'm in a place of a grateful heart.  I am not seeking man's approval, but only God's approval.  I am joyful over the little things He does for me, such as a beautiful sunset.  I spend time with Him.  I study His Word.  I am focused on His holiness.  My thoughts are no longer centered around me and my problems, but instead around Him and His faithfulness.  

We suffer much agony because we try to get from people what only God can give us, which is a sense of worth and value - Joyce Meyer

Obeying His Voice.  There is no peace in life without obedience to God.  If I am going to be obedient to God on the big things, I have to start on the small things.  For me in particular, He's made it clear I need to take more breaks throughout the day.  Go for a walk.  Spend my lunchtime with Him.  These are small things, but even disobedience in small things reaps repercussions.  When God asks us to be obedient to Him, it is rarely something we've already planned into our day.  Instead, we have to be open to hearing His voice and obeying it even when it isn't convenient.

Do we really want to be interrupted in the middle of our busy lives to see God, hear God, and pursue God?  Yes, Jesus we do. -  Lysa TerKeurst 

Holding fast to Him.  Holding fast to God means hanging onto the hand of the Lord when I don't know what's going on in life.  It also means that I don't let go when I get distracted, or tempted, by the world.  There's an overwhelming amount of distraction in our world today.  Simply scrolling through our phones will show numerous options from YouTube to social media to numerous text messages.  None of these things should ever replace the security we have in Christ.  Its His hand I want to hold fast to, no one else's. 

We must stay so intently focused on the King of kings that when distractions come, we are not moved.  For when our eyes are fixed on Him, we exalt Him, and others will be drawn to Him. - Beth Moore (Voices of the Faithful)  

Rather than a day at the spa, I needed a day at church.  I needed to get back to an attitude of gratitude, since joy is a function of thankfulness.  I needed to shift my eyes to the One who is the source of my joy, instead of trying to find joy on my own effort, in the midst of my problems.  

I decided to attempt to find a joyful photo again.  I found a photo of a sunset on my phone and I submitted it to our Bible study leader with the following note:  

I love a beautiful sunset.  God's creativity brings me such joy.

The photo was there all along, I simply had to change my perspective.

The Green Quilt

by Rhonda, February 24, 2022

I finished my green quilt this week.  My quilts take a long time to make, mostly because the quilter (that would be me) is slow and she takes forever to finish a project.

This quilt was special, though.  

A few years ago, our house caught fire and many of my sewing projects were destroyed in the fire.  This was probably a blessing in disguise, because I couldn't possibly finish all of them before I die.  But, there was one project in particular I was sick to lose.  My green quilt.  It was my prized project, full of fabrics in my favorite hues of greens and blues.  I envisioned how beautiful it would look when it was finished.  I'd personally never seen a quilt like it, and I couldn't wait to finish it.  

A few months ago, I finally had the courage to go through a few boxes in my storage room.  After divorce, its difficult to go through old things.  My storage room is full of old photos and memories, so I tend to avoid it because it can throw me back into some serious sadness.  But, on this particular day, I felt strong enough to go through a few things.

In the bottom of a Rubbermaid container, there it was.  My green quilt!  I thought it had been destroyed in the fire.  I was so delighted!  I called out to my daughter, and showed her what I'd found.  She was surprised, too, and excited for me since she remembered all of the hours I'd put into this quilt.

It was only about half finished.  So, I immediately brought it upstairs into my sewing room.  I found the pattern with it, and within a few days, I was fervently working to complete it.

This weekend, I finally finished it.

I still can't believe it was in my storage room the entire time.

You know, God is in the business of restoring what once was lost.  He promises not to just repay, but to work wonders for us.  Look at these verses full of promise:

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—

    the great locust and the young locust,

    the other locusts and the locust swarm[a]—

my great army that I sent among you.

 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,

    and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,

    who has worked wonders for you;

never again will my people be shamed." Joel 2:25-26

He doesn't promise to give us back exactly what was lost, instead He promises to repay us by working wonders.  

I've seen this at work in my own life.  I recall the heartache of a miscarriage and the likelihood that we would never be able to have children.  After I lost one child, I gained two beautiful children who were sitting in an orphanage in Russia, waiting for us to take them home.

I spent ten years out of touch with my youngest brother.  After a terrible motorcycle accident (which he's healed from), he now lives less than an hour from me, and our relationship has been restored after ten years of absence.

After my divorce, my mind could not come out from underneath the depth of depression and anxiety.  However, two years later, my mind has come a long way towards healing and I am fully able to work again.  In fact, I'm in a job now that's better than any job I've ever had.

God really does work wonders to repay what was once lost.  I don't know why it was important to Him to save my quilt.  Its a little thing, but it was really special to me.  

I truly delight in the ways He surprises me, when I least expect it. 

Fear and Divorce

by Rhonda, February 22, 2022

Divorce has many difficult aspects to it, but one of the worst things I battled was fear.  Shortly after the separation, fear was running rampant through my mind and body on a daily basis.  All of my confidence was wrapped up in my marriage, and when it ended, I felt as if the source of my strength left with it.  Things I never thought twice about began to trouble me.  I didn't know if I could be successful at my job and be a single Mom.  I didn't know how I would keep up the house.  I wondered how the water softener downstairs was supposed to work.  I didn't know if the pain in my heart would ever end.

Every morning, I woke to such anxiety and pain that I wasn't sure how I was going to get through it.  My kids were in pain, too, and sometimes when it was particularly unbearable, we spent nights where the three of us slept in the same room together.  It kept us from being alone with our thoughts too long.  Because, when we were alone, fear made its debut.

My son was terrified someone would break into our house at night, and he asked if he could sleep with a baseball bat in his room.  My daughter's sadness hit worst at nighttime.  She dreaded going to bed, fearful of what would lie ahead.  She was certain she was the cause of our divorce.

When I look back on that time, I am honestly amazed at the ferocity of fear that overcame our home.  It was as if someone unleashed it against the three of us, and it hit us like ocean waves crashing into the seashore.  To be honest, we still have to stay diligent to keep it from taking us under, especially at night. 

At that time, I began a study on David in the old testament.  I have always felt a kinship towards David, as I've long believed he was a fellow redhead.  When I read his desperation in Psalms 142:6-7, I can relate not only to his hair color but to his pain.  

Listen to my cry for I am in desperate need, rescue me from those who pursue me for they are too strong for me.  Set me free from my prison that I may praise your name.  Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.

I, too, was desperate and needed rescuing.  I felt imprisoned by my anxiety, and chained by my depression. 

At the time David wrote that verse, he was living in a cave and was literally being pursued by his enemies.  David may have been in a literal cave, but I was in a figurative one.  My sadness and fear had imprisoned me in a way I'd never experienced.  David's cave represented my personal pit.  

The entire time David was in the cave, he still believed God's promises.  I needed to do the same.  There are many promises to us as believers in the Bible, but God spoke one personally to me during this time.  

If you will do as I ask and let all of this go, you will be richly rewarded.

At the time, I didn't completely understand what it meant to let go of the things that were imprisoning me.  God had to show me through a process that involved me following Him slowly to the most painful places of my heart.  

He led me to grief and sadness that were inside of me long before my divorce, and He showed me how He intended to use His powerful healing in my pain.  To get better, He showed me three things I had to focus on:

  • I could no longer have idols before God, even if that idol was my marriage.  I had to stop trying to find a second savior, a substitute, to make myself feel better.  Instead, it was time to believe my real Savior like I'd never believed Him before.
  • I had to let my ex go, truly let him go, and stop trying to manipulate or control the situation to get him back. I had to move forward, one step at a time.
  • I had to learn, and study, how much God loves me.  I don't know that anyone can fully comprehend it, but I had to try.  Otherwise I would try to look for love in other places, and that would only bring me more pain.
I had been through so much, and I was so broken, that I had to move towards obedience in these areas.  More pain was not something I could handle and I was in a place of desperation to get better. There were times I slipped up, for sure.  But, I kept trying.  I kept telling God I would pick myself back up and I would keep moving forward, but I needed Him every step of the way.

There is light on the other side of all of this.  I pray if you're reading this, you can save your marriage.  But, if you can't, I want you to know that God loves you tremendously.  He will heal, and He will bind up your wounds.   

During this time, I was reading a book with my daughter called "His Revolutionary Love" by Lynn Cowell.  There's an exercise in the book where the reader is asked to fill in the blanks:

God has granted me ______________ and _____________ in place of ______________.

I filled this out as "God has granted me peace and a close relationship with Him in place of losing my husband.  

I wrote that statement in my journal and I reread it whenever I need to remind myself that God never subtracts without adding (even though sometimes He requires you to wait on His timing).  

You are not forgotten.  You are not alone.  

You are a daughter of the Most High, and He doesn't forget His daughters.

The Plaid Shirt

by Rhonda, February 20, 2022

 He showed it to me proudly.  "How do you like my new shirt?"

It was still on the hanger, freshly removed from the Wal-Mart bag.  

It was a shirt he would look good in.  The plaid was green and blue, and it would accentuate his blue eyes.  

"It cost seventeen dollars," he said.  "I only had twenty dollars, but it was worth it.  There were others on clearance, but they didn't look as nice as this one."

My son bought the shirt for one purpose.  To wear to church.  Several years of online schooling, compounded with the year he sat out during his cancer surgery, meant we were no longer stocked up on dress clothes for him.  No, his closet consisted mainly of t-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweat pants.

None of these clothes, he decided, were appropriate for church.

So, with his last twenty dollars, he asked his grandfather to take him to Wal-Mart on a Friday.  He shopped for a new, button-down, plaid shirt to wear to church.  Grandfather and grandson did a good job of picking out his new shirt.  He purchased it just in time to wear to church this weekend.

The night before church, Alex realized he'd left his shirt out on his bed and one of the dogs had laid on it.  Concerned it would be dirty, he washed and dried his new plaid shirt.  The next morning, he was pretty upset when it came out of the dryer a wrinkled mess.  I was running late, so I asked Leeza to help him iron his shirt.  His sister came to his rescue, ironing it until it looked good as new.

Unfortunately, given the issues around the wrinkles and the need to iron, we were late to church.  Let me tell you, I hate being late.  I am a type A, on-time personality.  As an accountant, the debits have to equal the credits, and when we're supposed to be somewhere we should be on time.

But, we were late.  As we got out of the car to walk into church on a cold February day, Alex began to complain about the cold.  I was already trying to hurry into church, and his complaints annoyed me.  "Son," I said, "we've been over this so many times.  Wear. A. Coat.  I don't feel sorry for you when you refuse to wear a coat."

We hurried inside to church and sat through the service.  As we left church, he commented on the cold again, so I took the opportunity to belabor my point that God helps those who help themselves, and he has a variety of coats at home to choose from.  "I'm sorry, Mom." he said.

I'm not sure exactly what time this morning I awoke to the Holy Spirit providing some clarification.  You know, God has a way of letting me know when I've missed something with my kids.  Sometime early this morning, I opened my eyes to the realization He didn't wear a coat because he wanted to show his new shirt.


Oh, the tears I've shed over this today.  I'm not sure why it has wrecked me so completely, but I think its because I was in such a hurry to be on time to church that I missed seeing my son's heart.  He wanted to look nice.  He didn't want to wrinkle his shirt.  He bought the shirt not to show off to others, but to show respect to God.  He was willing to brave the cold to do so.  

I, his Mom, who should have been supportive, missed it.  If this were a parenting test, I failed with a zero percent.

As soon as I heard him stirring in his room this morning, I came in to apologize to him.  "Mom," he smiled, "please don't worry about it."  

But, I can't help it.   

I flipped back through an old journal, and my eyes landed on a quote from Ann Voskamp:

Doesn't all the hurry make us hurt?  Slow never killed time.  It's the rushing and racing, the trying to catch up, this is what kills time - ourselves.  

And another:

You can only hear your life sing when you're still.

I don't want to miss a blessing because I'm in a hurry.  I know that Alex is likely to wear his plaid shirt every Sunday for the foreseeable future.  For him, its a show of respect to God.  

For me, it will always be a reminder to stop the hurry.

The Demonic Salad

by Rhonda, February 17, 2022

I've known for a while that I need to take a break.  But, don't we all?  Aren't we all hurried throughout the workweek only to use our weekends to catch up on everything we didn't get done during the week?  In my case, I've been working weekends lately as well, which is not that terribly unusual.  OK, if I'm honest, I've worked a month of weekends.

"Mom," Leeza said. "You need some days off."

"Mom," Alex said, "I'm gonna pull you away from that computer on the weekends."

I gave them a hefty dose of Mom guilt, reminding them that I have to pay the bills around here.  Sometimes, they just have to understand that I can't have every weekend off.

That night, I started scrolling through my favorite podcasts including Joyce Meyer's Talk It Out before I went to sleep.  The subject matter was around taking care of yourself and the importance of taking breaks.  Joyce told a story about how she worked herself into some severe health issues.

What a coincidence.

The next day, I took a few hours off and attended church on Sunday morning.  The pastor discussed the true meaning of a Sabbath.  He went in depth on the topic, discussing the importance of rest. 

It seemed like God was trying to tell me something but I had no idea what it was!  

Two days later, I awoke at 3 a.m.  I knew something wasn't right.  Let me rephrase that.  I knew something was seriously wrong.  I couldn't figure out why my stomach was hurting, and then I remembered.  Earlier that evening I ate a salad that was possibly (certainly) past its expiration date.  I had full-on, wish-I-was-dead, mama-please-save-me, food poisoning.  

I retched.  I upchucked.  I puked.  I pulled all of my muscles in my back from hurling over and over.  I finally grabbed a pillow and a blanket and decided I would die on the bathroom floor, near the toilet, since this seemed to be my destiny.  They would find my lifeless body, and they would shake their heads and say to themselves, She never really even liked salad.

At one point, I looked up to see four dogs looking down at me.  They didn't make a sound, they just stared at me.  They were clearly concerned, yet perplexed.  I was not supposed to be sleeping on the floor near the toilet and they were unsure how to handle the situation.  (If you want to know why I have four dogs, that's another long story about how I don't have appropriate boundaries in my personal life.)

Lying on the floor, I looked at the ceiling and noticed a cobweb in the corner.  I made a mental note that I needed to clean the cobweb later.  I was looking around the bathroom wondering if there were other cobwebs, when a thought crossed my mind.

God, I can't believe you gave me food poisoning to force me to rest.  

God, in His infinite wisdom, answered me immediately.  I didn't give you food poisoning, but I do work all things for your good, and I will work this for your good.

Touché, Lord.  

Rest was on the agenda.

For the next twenty-four hours, rest wasn't even an option.  It was an absolute requirement.  I couldn't get out of bed for longer than a very short period of time.  Anyone who texted me got a quick response.  I'm sick today.  Can't talk right now.  Taking phone calls was not an option.

I listened to my favorite sermons, podcasts, and got caught up on a few 90's music documentaries between bouts of sleep and sickness.  My kids came in to talk with me about their day periodically.  But mostly, I just quietly rested in the dark, praying for healing of my body and promising God I would take more breaks.

When I recovered, I felt more calm and peaceful.  I realized that my string of busy weeks had caused me to stop taking care of myself, something I need to do in order to stay energized.  I also realized I wasn't leading my family spiritually the way I needed because my priorities were out of alignment.

I wouldn't wish to have food poisoning again, ever, like ever.  However, I am grateful for the reminder I received to slow down and take care of myself.  

But, I have to be honest.  

It will be a while before I have another salad.

Sea of Expectations

by Rhonda, February 15, 2022

Christmas of last year was the worst Christmas of my life.  Fresh off of a separation from my husband, the holidays felt forced.  They weren't going to feel the same, I knew that much, but it didn't stop me from trying. I decorated the house, baked cookies, and played music.  I put forth my best effort, smiling through the tears.  Unfortunately, nothing helped and my effort to "fake it until I made it" didn't work.  I certainly didn't fool my family.

With Christmas staring us in the face in just a few days, the kids and I decided to take a vacation instead. We just couldn't endure a Christmas at home reminding us of what we'd lost.  So, we packed our bags and took a vacation to a secluded condo overlooking a beautiful lake.  

But, as it so often happens, you can't outrun your pain.  I wasn't just overwhelmed by the fresh pain of separation, although that would have been enough.  I was also emotionally raw from a job that was unfulfilling, a relentless feeling of failing my kids, and trying to please everyone that came my way.

I think when divorce happens, there is a need to be everything to everyone.  You want to prove to yourself that you're a good person.  You need to take care of everyone who was hurt or impacted by the decision to split.  I didn't just want to help my kids, I wanted to heal my kids.  But, the harder I tried, the worse I felt.

So, on January 1st, in a condo away from my home, I retrieved a blank journal from my suitcase.  I stepped out onto the balcony early in the morning and I asked God to give me a word for the new year.  I needed to know what He had to say.  I was to the point of collapse, and I begged him to please save me.  Everything was spinning out of control in my life.  I didn't know what to do anymore.  

Below are the words He spoke to me that I wrote down.  I've read them hundreds of time since, and each time they impact my heart in a different way.  They always bring me back to where my focus needs to be. Maybe they speak to you, too:

January 1:

Everything in life has its place.  

You are trying to perform tasks and function in relationships that are out of place. 

With work, only work on tasks assigned for you.  Let tasks meant for others be their tasks.  

With relationships, you are there for guidance and wisdom, not for the intense mending of wounds or for fixing others.  Only I can do that, God.  

You are trying to do everything.  You cannot be everything to everyone.  I have not designed you for this.  You must accept your limitations or you will drown in a sea of expectations.

Your immediate family is your priority.  

When you accept your limitations and find your place, all of the other pieces fall together as they are supposed to.  

Turn things over.  Trust others to do their part.  Most importantly, trust Me to do My part.  

Here you will find freedom.

Welcome to your new chapter.  I am excited to show it to you and walk in it with you.  Here you will have some of the greatest growth, and greatest peace, of your life.  

Walk with me.



Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Am I A Murderer?

by Rhonda, February 13, 2022

There are some passages in the Bible I wish weren't there.  Jesus explaining the fifth commandment in Matthew Chapter 5 is one of those passages:

 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

If it weren't for this troublesome text, the fifth commandment would be an easy one to check off the list.  I haven't yet murdered anyone in my forty-four years on this earth, so check.  Commandment number five is good to go, let's move on.

Yet, Jesus says that anger and bitterness are part of the fifth commandment.  Its a good thing my pencil comes with an eraser, since perhaps I was premature in checking this one off of the list.  Do you ever wish just one of the commandments were easy?  Just one?

Anger is one of the most debilitating emotions we wrestle with.  Left alone long enough, it turns into something even worse, the ugly word I detest.  Bitterness.  

The last thing I want in my life is to become a bitter old lady.

I've seen this play out in my own family.  I can recall my great-grandmother being in a nursing home.  She was in her eighties, but everyone in our family was afraid of this frail, elderly woman.  When we went to visit her, she was angry.  In fact, my grandmother visited her daily, and the two of them often fought when she visited her.  

Great-Grandma would sit and stew whenever she was alone in the nursing home.  She would remember every terrible thing that happened her.  She thought about the things family members said that she didn't like. When we would visit, the deep creases in her face seemed to intensify, and the anger in her eyes shone through her perfunctory greetings.

The minute someone said something she didn't like, she immediately corrected them.  The visits were painful, and we often left as soon as we possibly could.    

I can recall once buying her a birthday gift.  I'd picked out a cross necklace with her birthstone in the middle of it.  But my mother stopped me from giving it to her.  "That will upset her," Mom said.  I never knew why, Great-Grandma was a Christian.  But, I'm sure there was a problem with giving her this particular gift and the family was afraid of dealing with any further anger from her.  Rather than upset her, I simply kept the necklace for myself.

I remember when she died.  There were no tears at her funeral.  Children were running around the church pews chasing one another, several adults sat in the corner playing cards waiting for the service to start.  The only people who showed up were family (she didn't want anyone else invited).  It was the strangest funeral I've ever attended.  

The funeral workers tried to carefully craft a meaningful service.  But, no emotion whatsoever came from the audience.  I wondered during the service if there were fun, touching stories of her from her childhood.  But, those years were long past and no one remembered any of them.  She'd been mean for so long.  I realized halfway through the service that I had no idea who she truly was, and how sad it was for me to lose someone to such bitterness. 

Honestly, she's always haunted me.  What if I become her?  Am I genetically predisposed to her type of anger and bitterness?  What if my funeral feels like a relief to my poor family members?

Without Jesus, I will become her.  

I certainly have my days when I'm mad at everyone.  The kids left their jackets and shoes strung around the house again.  The dogs won't quit barking when I'm trying to have quiet, meditative time.  My ex said something that drug up a hurtful memory.  All of a sudden, there I am.  Great-Grandma in the nursing home, mad because no one ever does enough for me.  I can feel the creases in my face deepening, and the fuse to my red hair has been lit.  

Jesus would even go so far to say a heart like this is murderous. 


While I may have my moments, or even full days, that are like this, I refuse to let it become a lifestyle.  There's two ways Jesus leads me find my way back from anger and bitterness:

1.  A Thankful Heart

2.  Forgiveness

Neither are easy when in the heat of anger.  But, both are necessary.  The first can be immediate, and the second may take more time.  

Anger is a choice that easily becomes second nature, but a grateful heart protects us from negative thinking.  Thankfulness enables us to see the abundance God showers upon us daily.  It takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts them onto God, where they belong,  

Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful and thankful.

We can choose to be grateful, or we can choose to be bitter.  One leads to freedom, and the other leads to bondage.  Every time I find myself down a road of anger and bitterness, I can look back and see I've been straying from having a grateful heart.    This is illustrated beautifully in Sarah Young's book Jesus Calling:

Ponder all I have done for you and all I am to you.  This will lift you up above your               circumstances.  When you became My follower, I empowered you to rise above the conditions in your life.  Whenever your world is looking dark, brighten your perspective by focusing on Me.  

Our attitude will improve the moment we shift our focus to the God and we'll be lifted above our circumstances. We need to let God use our problems to change us, instead of allowing our problems to teach us the ways of anger and bitterness.  Its time to find a new way to respond to old problems.  Let's be defiant against bitterness, and try to find something good in everything.  God sees a heart searching for Him, and He will reward it.

Once our hearts are in a place of gratefulness, forgiveness becomes more attainable.  Forgiveness doesn't mean reconciliation to someone who is continuing to cause hurt over and over.  No, instead forgiveness is about allowing ourselves to move forward instead of continually looking for restitution.  The person who has hurt you can't possibly make it right anyway.  They either don't have power or the will to do so.  Only God can heal, and allowing God to heal our hurts instead of looking to the perpetrator for healing allows for forgiveness and moving forward.

Unforgiveness causes bitterness, and bitterness impacts everyone around us. When we choose a course that's not God's plan, it affects those who trust and depend on us.

While I definitely have my days that I fall into the pit of anger and bitterness, choosing to climb out and cast down my toxic thoughts over and over is worth the battle.  The devil cannot defeat someone who refuses to give up and continually turns to God for their protection.  When the devil tries to drag me off track and back into the pit, God is always accessible to me.  He's always ready to defend me and bring me back under his wing of protection.

What a beautiful anecdote to bitterness.

Take Courage

in , by Rhonda, February 08, 2022


I am working my way through the "Take Courage" study by Jennifer Rothschild.  I am really enjoying my time through it, and I am learning a lot about Haggai. 

One of the exercises in the study is to look up the times in the Bible that God says He is with us.  When we look up those scriptures, we're supposed to note any other promises He gives at the same time.  

Here's what I wrote down after researching a handful of verses:

God says do not be afraid, for I am with you.  I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.  I will exalt you in the eyes of all of Israel.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  I will rescue you.  I surely am with you always, to the very end of the age.

One of the things that I am learning through this study is that God loves me more than past mistakes.  He loves me more than the marriage that didn't last.  He loves me so much that he desires to protect me, exalt me, and strengthen me.  

Isn't it funny how things work out?  I decided to sign Leeza and I up for this study because Jennifer Rothschild is visually impaired.  I thought perhaps Leeza would get a lot out of this study since she's also legally blind and the disability has been such a struggle in her life.  I imagined our first Bible study together as Mom and daughter.  I would enjoy going through the study with her, leading her to understand and accept her disability better.

Fast forward a few weeks later, and I'm the one torn up in the group because I'm learning about healing after a divorce.  God has a good sense of humor, doesn't he?  

Regardless of my motives, I'm glad the Lord led me to this study.  I'm learning so much!

The Lonely In Families

in , , by Rhonda, February 07, 2022

"I feel forgotten," she said.

I nodded.  She missed a few weeks of our Bible study, but she was back.  The study ended twenty minutes ago, but we were still talking.  

"I would never wish divorce on anyone," I told her.  "But I can tell you I have learned to know the Lord and lean on Him in ways I've never experienced before."

I actually meant it.  Two years ago, those words couldn't have come out of my mouth.  The end of a twenty-year marriage was beyond sad.  It was traumatic.  I was simply trying to survive each and every day, let alone grow my faith.  

Yet, here I was, two years later, consoling another woman going through her version of my trauma.

"My daughter has severe separation anxiety," she said.

I could relate.  There were night, many nights actually, when both my daughter and my son slept with me.  It was the only way to fight off the loneliness.  Looking back now, its kind of sweet.  But at the time, it was simply survival.

A third woman approached us.  "I overheard you talking.  I hope you don't mind, but I am moving in a few months because my husband left me."

I pushed a chair towards her to sit at our round table.  "Please, join us," I said.

She proceeded to share her version of my past as well.  The three of us, with our Bibles sitting on the table, formed a bond as we talked about getting through it, the mental health challenges, and the need to work yet be with our children.

I was afraid to join a Bible study because I thought I would be judged due to my marital status.  I decided I would give it a try, not expecting it to be great, but instead looking for any benefits at all.  I'd been reading Purpose Driven Life, and I listened to Pastor Rick Warren's words around the need for fellowship and community.  For the first time in my adult life, I put myself out there in a church setting.  I dropped the "church face" and I went just as I was, with a decision to be real.  I expected it to be painful, but I thought perhaps I could get something out of it.  

Much to my surprise, I've found a wonderful group of non-judgmental women who are honest, real, and yes, hurting.  Each of them are hurting in their own way, and when I leave my weekly Bible study, I almost feel as if I've been to therapy.  The first few sessions were hard as we were getting to know each other.  There were so many awkward pauses and unsure responses.  But now, we have to take turns talking since each of us seems to have so much to say.

I'm grateful to the Lord for such an unexpected gift to this quiet introvert.  

He truly sets the lonely in families.

Disco Music and Birthday Fudge

by Rhonda, February 06, 2022

I asked my seventeen-year old son Alex what he'd like for dinner on Sunday.  He was going to be gone most of the day, but I offered to let him pick the meal.  

"Beef wellington and birthday fudge."

I nodded.  You know, I set myself up by asking.  He's never been a cheap kid to feed.  He ordered lobster off a restaurant menu when he was in grade school.  Now, he's taking a culinary class.  If he finds any recipes that sound complicated or expensive, he wants to try them.

"Have you ever tried beef wellington?"

"No, but I've always wanted to eat beef wellington."

Uh-huh.  This is what I get for checking out Gordon Ramsey's cookbook from the library.  

Not one to be threatened by a challenge, I accepted.  I searched for the right cut of meat.  I ordered the right mushrooms from the grocery store.  I decided Gordon Ramsey and I would create this amazing dish together....if only Gordon were here for a little coaching.  

Three hours, two Youtube tutorials, and two sweaty girls later (my daughter Leeza and myself) and we started to think we might pull off dinner.  Gordon Ramsey Juniors is what everyone can call us.

"You know what we need," I said to Leeza.  "We need some funk music to help us finish."

So, while grooving to seventies disco music (don't judge us), Leeza and I diligently finished the Wellington.  As we rolled out the puff pastry, which is the most difficult and delicate part of the operation, I paused and prayed, "Lord, bless this puff pastry.  Please let it roll onto the beef as its supposed to."

One miracle later, the Wellington was in the oven.

"You know what we should serve as as side dish?" I said.  "Our potatoes out of the garden.  Do you want to peel them?"

"Sure!" she replied.  I'm so glad she's always up for helping me in the kitchen.  But, we didn't consider how difficult the tiny potatoes are to peel from the garden.  For some unknown reason, our potatoes didn't grow to full-size.  

"I hate peeling these little potatoes," she said as one went flying across the kitchen while the disco music blared.  "They're hard to hold onto to.  My hand is going to be permanently stuck in a potato peeling position by the end of the day."

But, Leeza is not a quitter and twenty minutes later, we had a pile of peeled tiny potatoes.  

In the end, the Wellington was fantastic.  The meticulous potato peeling paid off, even if Leeza's hands remain deformed.  As I sat at the dinner table watching my delighted son, I couldn't help but to feel so grateful.  

Then, an interesting thought dropped into my mind.  I wondered what it would have been like to have Christ sit at your table.  He loved a good feast.  It must have been incredible to sit at dinner, listening to him teach.  

Would He have liked Wellington and birthday fudge?  What would I say if He were here?  What questions would I ask?  

I finished dinner and we cleaned up the kitchen.  Perhaps its crazy to miss Christ sitting at your table, but I did.


And, I have to tell you, I am looking forward to the day I get to sit at His table, face to face.  

Who knows, maybe there will even be birthday fudge.