The Sparrow

by Rhonda, July 31, 2022

Party plans were being implemented.  Decorations were strewn across the kitchen counter.  We had upbeat music blaring through the speakers in the kitchen.  My daughter and I were discussing which decorations should go where.  Guests were expected to arrive within a few hours.  My brother was going to have a fantastic birthday, well, a nicely decorated one at least.

I stepped into the front porch to hang the Happy Birthday banner. across the front door  I moved the banner to the left, then the right.  Finally, it appeared to be straight and I returned inside to the kitchen.  I found Leeza sitting on a bar stool, holding a bird in her hands.  

She opened her hands to show me the tiny sparrow.

"He flew into the window, then when he fell to the ground, Zeus picked him up.  I made Zeus drop him as soon as I saw it."

Zeus is our bird-hunting Husky.  We love Zeus, but we really hate his bird-hunting instincts.

The sparrow had his eyes closed, his little body was resting deeply in Leeza's hands.  His beak was open, gasping for air.  

"Do you think we can put him in a cage like we did the baby birds?  We can nurse him back to health."

I stroked the bird's wing with my index finger.

"Honey, he's not going to live longer than ten minutes."

Leeza's eyes filled with tears.

"I'm sorry, hon.  He's taking his lasts breaths."

Leeza held the little bird in her hands while he continued to gasp for air until he died.  A fun party celebration had suddenly turned sad.  I turned off the music.

"The good news is that he didn't suffer long," I tried to console her.

She continued to hold the dead bird in her hands.  "Are you sure?" she asked me.  "Can you see if you feel a heartbeat?"

I touched his little chest.  "He's stopped breathing, and I don't feel anything."

We wrapped up the dead bird.  I suppose perhaps it seems a little silly to be saddened by the death of a tiny sparrow, but I think the passing of any life from this earth is somewhat sacred.  

"Leeza, there's nothing wrong with feeling sad for even the smallest sparrow.  It means you have a tender heart, and that's a good thing."

Even God cares about the sparrows, and why wouldn't he?  They're His creation. 

Matthew 10:29-31 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Even though the tiny sparrow passed in Leeza's hands, He was also in the Father's hands.  How sacred the death of a human life must be to God, if even the life of a sparrow has His attention.  He saw the entire scene, and He was present with Leeza as she cared for the sparrow in its last moments.  His love abounds for all of His creation.

God hates death as much as we do, even the death of a sparrow.  He can't wait for the day when we will face death no longer. 

Revelation 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

I can't imagine what a world with no death would feel like.  How must it be to feel no pain?  To never cry?  One look at the news relays nothing but a world of suffering,  But God is talking about a world without fear.  A world with inherent joy every minute, every moment.  Yes, God is going to take us to world where He's eliminated death and fear.  We will never have to witness suffering again.

I can't wait.  I can't wait to see Him with my own eyes.  His presence will be my constant comfort.  His companionship will be consistently known by me.  I will literally get to walk with my creator.  It is the highest desire of my heart.  

We eventually turned the music back on, but at a lower volume.  We finished decorating for the party.  In a few hours, the guests began to arrive, and the children and dogs ran around the house in happy chaos.  Toys were on the floor of the living room, phones were held in the air, filming memories.  Food lined the counters, and a cake was lit with many candles.  The kids lined up with colorful paper plates, awaiting a piece of cake.

Leeza's spirit were lifted by the house of activity and laughter.  She joined in with the party, talking with her aunts about school and work, and telling stories of her life.  Her aunts laughed with her, and told her she was beautiful, and they began to talk about hair and clothes.  She began to tease with her cousins and uncles, and I knew she was going to be fine.

The sparrow was just a memory by the end of the day, but as the house fell quiet and the guests departed, I couldn't help but remember the little bird in Leeza's hands.  

Thank you Lord for your promises.

The Journal

by Rhonda, July 30, 2022

Its a Saturday morning.  How I love the weekend.  They're always full of promise for me.  The calendar is empty, I can fill it with whatever I want.  

This weekend, my brother is having a birthday party at my house, which will be fun.  There will be lots of kids, family, and even pets.  Our family is particularly attached to our dogs, so we bring them to each other's houses when we get together.  We're weird like that.  We also bring food everywhere we go, so everyone is going to show up with a casserole of some sort, I'm sure.

While all of this is wonderful, and I am tremendously blessed to have family nearby, sometimes being a quiet introvert makes things like this challenging.  If I am not in the right frame of mind, it will become very stressful for me.  I'll worry about whether the house is okay, whether the dogs are going to fight, whether I've got enough ice for everyone.  I will be overwhelmed by the noise, and I'll want to retreat to a place of quiet and solace.

I really don't like that aspect of my personality, but its how I function, and I'm learning as I get older to accept and embrace how God created me.  I can tend to be a loner, and I love quiet.  Loud parties can be fun for me for a little while, but it will never be my lifestyle.

So first, before all of the chaos, I am on the back porch.  Cup of coffee in-hand, dogs laying by my side, I just need my morning with Jesus.  I'm watching the birds this morning.  Listening to the quiet.  God's been teaching me lately about the need for mental breaks, as well as physical breaks.  It is hard to feel rested when your mind cannot quit.  

I've been asking Him lately, God, when my mind is overwhelmed and I can't stop thinking about the same problem over and over, how can I quit?  His answer is always the same.  Think of Me.

The problem is when I don't spend time with Him, that's really difficult.  I don't have a lot to think about.  That's why my journal has been necessary for me.  I am a real believer in Dr. Caroline Leaf's Five Step program for anxiety.  I've modified it a bit to work for me, but I've been working to make sure I do all of the steps at least once a day.  I've been filling journals with the things I write down during Five Steps.

When I find myself stuck, unable to give my mind rest, I reach for my journal to reflect on the things I know to be true.  When I look at my journal, I find a few surprises.  I tend to get stuck in the exact same pattern of worry and stress, over and over.  It may be a different problem, but my fears are the same.  Fear of what others think.  Fear of failure.  Fear of making bad decision.

Part of my process during Five Steps is to record my wrong thought patterns, and correct them with God's truths.  It is a helpful process to me, and reflecting back through my journal, I can see God's truth repeating itself to me over and over.  

I am with you.

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.

I will not leave you.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

I love you.

Jeremiah 31:3 The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

Really, the Bible is one gigantic love story to us.  When I think about my life, and the ways God has shown these things to be true, my problems don't seem so important anymore.  He is truly faithful, without wavering.  Whatever I am facing, He will handle.

My job is to keep believing, stay faithful, and yes, enjoy my life.

That's a job I can handle.

The Drive

by Rhonda, July 28, 2022

The alarm went off at 6:00 a.m.  I had an hour and a half commute into work, but I am just not a morning person.  I pulled the covers over my head, trying to ignore the noise.  However, eventually logic won over, and I made the decision to actually put my feet onto the floor and start the day.  Against my own wishes.

The bedroom windows lit up as a streak of lightening flashed across the sky.  Even though I was expecting it, I still jumped at the roaring thunder that followed.  That one was close.  An early morning thunderstorm was in full force, and I wondered how the drive into work was going to go today.  

Nevertheless, I love the rain.  I also especially love a thunderstorm.  While most people may hate driving in a storm, I don't mind.  

I got ready, fixed myself a quick breakfast, and got into the car.  The storm had subsided somewhat, and the rain fell continuously, but not the violent downfall I'd watched an hour earlier.  I enjoyed the overcast skies as I pulled out of my driveway, turning on my wipers.  I left the radio off, listening to the sound of the downfall hitting the car.

As I began to drive down the highway, I remembered why I always like the long commutes into work.  God and I have some very good conversations while I'm driving, and it can end up being a very peaceful time for me.  So, I wasn't surprised when my mind drifted to a few things I need to work on personally.

I still have forgiveness to work on surrounding my divorce.  I have made a lot of strides in this area, but struggles related to it still infiltrate my mind on a daily basis.  Its a very difficult area for me, and I didn't want to think about it too long, to be honest.  I decided to rethink my decision on the radio.

I turned on a Christian podcast, choosing one at random.  I'll let you guess what the topic was.

It was an interesting discussion around forgiveness.  God is so subtle sometimes.

I listened for a while, and it presented forgiveness in a new way to me.  The speaker mentioned forgiveness is a decision, but it doesn't immediately change how you feel.  The emotions and healing take time.  But, eventually, the mind will follow the decision.  

That made me feel a little bit better, since I have my days - okay many days -  where my emotions get the better of me.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

I continued to drive while considering the concept.  Perhaps I'm experiencing the emotions involved with healing, but it doesn't mean I am refusing to forgive.  It means the emotions need time to follow the decision.  Maybe, just maybe, I could be less hard on myself around this topic and give myself some time.  The rain intensified.  The water was so loud I could no longer hear the podcast, so I shut it off.

God, I prayed, I don't want anything coming between you and I.  Including unforgiveness.

That's the thing, isn't it.  Forgiveness isn't really about the other person.  Its about our relationship with God.  Every time we forgive someone, God is proud of us because it displays the heart of Christ.  It also includes the awesome side benefit of bringing peace into our lives.  So often the path to peace involves doing what's hard, but the reward is worth it.

Thirty minutes later, the storm let up.  I could see the dark clouds in the rearview mirror, but I was driving into the light.  

As always, my drives with God are very enlightening.

The Mower

by Rhonda, July 27, 2022

Our yard needs to be mowed.  Being on vacation for a week was wonderful, but we returned to a bit of a jungle for a yard.  We live on several acres, so my son's weekly job is to mow our acreage with our riding mower.  

Today was the first day without rain, so the time was here to finally tackle the yard.  He started up the John Deere mower around 10:00 this morning, and within thirty minutes, he came back inside.  The grass was so tall that he needed to put another attachment onto the mower to pick up the cut grass off the yard.  Otherwise, it was collecting under the mower, causing the mower to slow down and struggle.

The attachment was in Grandpa's shed.

Now, I should forewarn you that Grandpa's shed is a collection of all interesting artifacts he's collected over the years.  He pulls things out of various places that he finds valuable.  One man's trash is well, Grandpa's treasure.  The only problem was the mower attachment to pick up the grass was in the back of Grandpa's shed.

Alex sighed.  "This is going to be terrible getting it out of there."

His sister offered to help him, much to his relief.  They managed to rearrange things and spent the next twenty minutes or so retrieving the attachment from the back of Grandpa's junk collection.  Normally, Grandpa would have helped with this particular project, but he is visiting my brother, so he's out of town.

As Alex brought the attachment out of the shed, he must have dropped the connecting bolt somewhere in the yard.  After looking for it, he came inside and threw himself onto the couch, defeated.

"I can't find the bolt.  Leeza and I have both looked."

"Grandpa has a magnet in the shed," I said.  "Give it a try in the areas you think you dropped it."

Twenty minutes later, Alex threw himself onto the couch again.  "The magnet didn't work.  I'm going to go through his toolbox to see if I can find another bolt."

As I returned to my office to work, I received a text about twenty minutes later from Alex.  "I found a replacement bolt.  I am going to start mowing again."

I congratulated him and watched him make a few passes through the yard with the grass catcher on the back.  It all seemed to be working fine.  But, then, I heard the mower shut off.  I stepped outside, but I didn't see Alex.  As I walked around the yard, I found him, on his knees praying behind the back fence.

"You okay?" I asked.

"The mower stopped working."

I walked over to the mower.  Sure enough, it would start but it wouldn't go forwards or backwards.  I popped the hood to check the fuel filter, but it looked fairly clean.  That was the end of my knowledge of mowers, so I put the hood back down. 

"I'm sorry.  Do you want to come inside?"

"No.  I need to empty this catcher.  I was just praying for some help is all."

I wished I had more mechanical knowledge.  Situations like these are so hard, especially for a teenage boy who just needs some help.  It was out of my league, so I thought about how to call a lawnmower repair service as I walked back inside.  

I picked up my phone once I got back to my office.  I had a missed call and a voicemail.  I pushed play.  It was from my other brother. 

"This is the sibling lawnmower service.  I hear you have a broken down mower and wondered if you want me to take a look.  Call me back."

I called him back.  "How did you know?"

"Alex texted Grandpa.  Grandpa called me.  I'm home today so I can come over if you want."  

"Alex," I said as I ran into the back yard.  "Help is on the way.  Your uncle is coming over."

Alex broke into a large smile.  "Okay!"

My brother and nephew showed up about twenty minutes later.  We had high hopes they would fix the mower, but they couldn't figure out the problem.  Regardless, they helped Alex push it back into the garage and they helped him put the attachment back into Grandpa's shed (a monumental task).  It was a big encouragement to have help come along, and their humor was welcomed by Alex after a long, hard day.

Sometimes we just have days where nothing goes right.  No matter how hard we try, things seems to fall apart.

But, being willing to be an encouragement to others, even when we can't fix the problem, is pleasing to God.  My brother didn't have to come over to push a big mower around in the heat.  Truth be told, he probably doesn't know a lot more about mowers than I do.  But, he knew Alex was struggling, so he showed up.

Luke 6:38  Give, and you will receive.  Your gift will return to you in full-pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over.  

Sometimes, all God asks us to do is show up and do what we can.  He will do the rest.

Today, I'm thankful for my brother with the big heart.

The Ocean

by Rhonda, July 26, 2022

Last week, I was blessed to enjoy some time on the Florida coast.  We stayed in a condo that was within walking distance to the beach.  It was a fun vacation.  The kids would roll out of bed, put on their swimsuits, and head for the water.  It was their first real experience with the ocean, and they had a wonderful time playing in the water.

My favorite thing to do was to sit on the balcony of condo and watch the waves.  They're really mesmerizing.  One evening, I watched a storm roll in over the ocean, and as the sky turned dark, the waves grew in size.  I snapped lots of photos of the amazing sky over the water. It made me feel so small to look in multiple directions and see nothing but water.  

One morning, I got up early and I brewed a fresh cup of coffee.  I was being as quiet as possible, trying not to wake the kids.  I snuck out onto the balcony with my coffee and journal and stared off into the horizon.  The sunrise over the ocean was absolutely beautiful.  I must have sat there for at least an hour, just watching.  I didn't think about work.  I didn't think about my divorce.  I didn't think about any of my problems.  I just marveled at God's creation.

I felt him whisper I love you even more than this.  I looked in every direction and saw nothing but an infinite amount of water.  How is that even possible, I wondered?  From my vantage point, the ocean went on forever.  But, His love and His grace are even greater.  I don't fully understand a love like that.

I cried for a long time on that balcony.  I suppose that's a normal reaction to God's love.  I think tears are appropriate.  But, I just felt so much gratitude for my Savior.  

I wrote down a lot of things in my journal on the balcony.  The pages are still tear-stained.  One thing I wrote down was "God never agreed to give me up to my problems 24/7.  Never.  He understands the time comes when we need to work through our problems, but we weren't meant to stay focused on them all of the time.  Don't let these things overtake your mind.  You can begin to release strongholds in your mind if you set your mind on heavenly things."  

Psalm 31:3 You are my rock and my fortress; and for your names sake you lead me and guide me

Eventually, the kids woke up and joined me on the balcony.  We began our day together, and it was a wonderful day with ocean waves and families laughing.  We saw sea turtle nests.  We collected sea shells.  We nursed a few sunburns.  We fell into bed exhausted, but happy.  

I laid in bed that night, listening to the ocean waves.  Thank you, Lord, I whispered,  Your love is such an extravagant gift.  

The Doctor's Office

by Rhonda, July 25, 2022

I received some bad news about my health today.  It isn't life-threatening, and I'll spare you the mundane details, but it will probably require surgery.  All things considered, the news could have been much worse. 

So, I have no idea why I reacted with tremendous sadness, as if the news were much worse.  As I was driving in my car, leaving the doctor's office, I felt God whisper to me "We will face this together".  Up until that moment, I really hadn't let myself register the news.  I simply was going back to work, trying to finish my commitments for the day.  But, then His kind words seeped into my mind, and the wave of tears hasn't really stopped all day.

Single parents can relate.  We don't have a lot of support going through a health issue.  We need to protect our kids, and we're the sole earner of income, so sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves isn't really an option on the table.

But today, God reminded me that He fills the void.  I don't have to go through it alone.

I wrote down some advice to myself today, a reminder to be kind to myself.  Perhaps if you're going through a health issue, too, you'll find it useful:

God will face this with you.  You can take your time grieving it and processing it.  You don't have to pretend this is good news, or that it could have been worse.  God knows you are heartbroken.  He will heal your wounded heart if you give it to Him.  Its okay to cry over this.  Its okay to let yourself really hurt over it.  You can acknowledge this is hard and love yourself while going through it.  God will love you through it, too. 

You live in a human body and its okay to be sad when it fails.  Someday, God is going to give you a new body, and it will be healthy.  He will heal everything that is wrong in heaven -  just you wait and see!  There will be no pain, no more.  God sees your tears, but remember, He's going to make all things new.  That is a promise from God, and He doesn't break his promises.  He views a promise as an unbreakable vow.

He loves you so dearly.  If you don't feel loved through this, remember there's simply not enough love in the world to meet your needs.  This is why you need God.  Its the only way you're going to find enough love.  It won't come from food, social media, your ex, or even your family.  They will try, but they won't be able to meet all of your needs.  Only God can, and it makes the bond between you and Him so very special.

God is literally the only one who understands you.  He is the only one who can heal you.  He loves restoring you.  He loves making things new.  He will restore your broken heart.  He loves that you have chosen Him and He is so proud of you for turning to Him, time and time again.  His love has the power to heal.  

Work to let yourself grieve things that are hard.  Let God provide the love you can't find from this world.  Trust him to make all things new.  

What an amazing force God is.

The Shirt

by Rhonda, July 24, 2022

All of the prayers were answered for Alex last week.  The scan came back with no new cancer.  There's very slight growth on an old tumor, but nothing to worry us in the immediate future.  What a relief.  

With good news in our pockets, we excitedly boarded flights to Florida last week.  A vacation has been on the agenda for a while, and some ocean time was just what I needed.  We spent the first three days in an oceanfront condo, and I slept so hard I awoke each morning not fully certain where I was.  That's a special kind of sleep, and I can safely say I haven't slept that well in years.

The last three days, we decided to brave the insanity of the theme parks in Orlando.  I enjoyed going to Universal Studios much more than I anticipated.  I walked around, looking at the park, with almost a childlike wonder.  It is truly amazing what man can create (even though it pales in comparison to God's creation).  I enjoyed the rides tremendously, and I even tolerated the crowds, allowing myself to slow down and enjoy the day.

Towards the end of the second day, the kids decided to ride a roller coaster with an exceptionally long line.  I declined to go on the ride, since my feet already hurt from a day of walking around.  They left their phones and other loose items with me, and I gave them instructions where to meet me.  The app showed an hourlong wait, so I waited an hour for them to return.

Then I waited another fifteen minutes.

Then, I waited another twenty minutes.

I started to panic, pacing near the ride, knowing there was no way I could find them in the crowds.  Since my daughter is visually impaired, and my son doesn't think clearly when he's tired, my mind began to rehearse a difficult scene.  What if they were disoriented after they got off the ride and went the wrong way?  What if they forgot where I told them to meet me?  

I asked the attendant if he'd seen them.  No, was the reply.

My heart was pounding.  I started to truly wonder how I was going to find them.  I berated myself for stupidly taking their phones.  I didn't want them to fall out on the ride, but now they had no way to contact me.  I prayed.  Lord, please let us find each other.  

Soon, a man walked by me and I looked at his shirt.  It had a large cross on the front.  The cross was a capital "T" and the remaining letters filled to the right of the cross.  r-u-s-t.  Trust.  I looked at him, and he nodded at me.  "Enjoy your day," he said.  "I like your shirt," I responded back.

He disappeared into the crowd.

I decided to check the souvenir store one last time.  If they weren't there, I was headed to guest services to see if I could have them paged.  I worried about that, too, because they might have found that confusing as well.  So, this Mom was incredibly relieved to see two familiar faces walk through the door of the gift shop as I was exiting to guest services.  

"The line was forever!" Alex said.

"We also stopped to buy a picture," Leeza showed me.

I picked it up with shaky hands.  "Mom, are you okay?"

"Well, I've been freaking out for the last thirty minutes."

They had no idea how long they'd been gone and they felt terrible for standing in line to purchase a photo while their mother was increasing the count of gray hairs on her head.  

But, when it was over, I was reminded of God's presence.  In the moment when I was sure I was going to have a heart attack, I was not alone.  God took the time to use a random stranger's t-shirt to remind me that He is always with me, and He had all of my circumstances under his control.  All I need to do was, well, trust.  Just like the shirt said.

He is so faithful.

The Root

by Rhonda, July 11, 2022

I've been studying about something called the root of rejection.  The premise is rejection happens to all of us.  Sometimes when we're very young, rejection is particularly painful, and we internalize the rejection.  For some, the pain of rejection is so deep that it drives people pleasing and perfectionism.  After all, if we're perfect, then it should ensure that no one ever rejects us again.

Except the world will reject us again.  

The new rejection causes more pain.  So, we try harder to be perfect.  We fail, and become angry when we can't be as perfect as we should be.  

Then, we act out in our anger.

We become rejected again.

So, we try harder to be perfect.

The cycle continues over, and over.  Soon, the root of rejection is so ingrained in us that it drives a whole new level of perfectionism.  The hurt of rejection becomes so deep, we seek acceptance in anyone and anything.  That's when life really goes off the rails.

When we absolutely need acceptance from someone as a result of this cycle, we're actually deifying the person we are seeking.  The need for acceptance consistently from another human being will always end in us getting hurt and rejected again.  The only real acceptance we need is Christ's.

And we have it.

Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

I can recall several situations of severe rejection in my life as a child and teenager.  These incidents, even if they're small, really stay with you.  A child who experiences rejection doesn't understand the rejection isn't their fault.  They automatically believe something is wrong with them, and they begin to internalize all of that pain.

Even as an adult, the rejection of divorce is devastating.  But, its particularly devastating if you already have a root of rejection in your life.  I think that's a big part of why some people can move on more quickly from divorce than others.  The root of rejection is powerful if carried over from childhood, and particularly devastating when it is reinforced by those close to you, whom you have trusted.

The root of rejection is really a root of pain.  It is a root of punishing yourself for someone else's problems.  It manifests in the form of self hatred for not meeting absolutely impossible expectations.  Its a consistent setup for failure. 

Even Jesus was rejected by the world.  We know there wasn't anything wrong with Him.  Yet, we blame ourselves deeply when we're rejected by the world.  

To put an end to this harmful line of thinking, our goal can never be to elevate ourselves by pleasing others.  Our goal must always be to live out God's will for our lives.  

God has promised us favor, yet we tend to still seek acceptance from the world.  We're looking for acceptance when we already have it in Christ.  We need to believe Christ accepts us.  His love for us has the ability to heal all of this, if we can truly believe we are fully loved and accepted by the God of the universe.  

We need to focus on the acceptance we have, rather than the acceptance we perceive we need from the world.  We can never get this anyway, it is an unobtainable goal.  

We are not perfect.  

Thank goodness we have a God who is.

The Scan

by Rhonda, July 10, 2022

I have a stressful week ahead.  Sometimes when things get like this, my mind explodes in worry.  I worry about finances.  I worry about work.  But, this week, my stress levels are up for a particular reason.

Its time for my son's cancer scan.

Parents of cancer kids can probably relate.  There's absolutely no peace before a scan.  There's also a weird phenomenon where I begin to look for any signs the cancer has returned.  Typically something completely minor can become a reason for me to believe he's on the verge of a complete relapse.  A cough?  He's dying.  A headache?  We need to go to the emergency room.

So, I am doing my best to keep my crazy under control.

I've got a few other stressful events this week.  Sometimes when things pile up, one on top of another, you can be sure the devil is setting his snare.  I know it won't take much for me to get to the point where I'm convinced I have so many problems I can't think straight.  

Today, I cried out to God, telling Him I've got to have some relief from my anxiety.  I am tired of losing my peace to all of these events that just keep stacking up on me, over and over.  I want peace in the storm.  But, I feel like I am just holding on through it.  I need to find a way to change my focus.  

Jesus has something to say about this:

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

My focus can't remain on my problems.  For a time, yes, I need to talk to God and understand what He wants me to do.  However, once I've taken these things to the Lord, I have to begin to trust Him.  I'm learning to set time aside to talk to the Lord and deal with these things.  

The pressure I'm feeling is actually God's, not mine.  He's promised to take care of me.  

Psalm 55:22  Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.

If God tells us to give our burdens to Him, then our problems are actually His.  He will guide us through them, leading us to the best solution.  We can bring them directly to Him.  He has all of the answers.  When we do this, yes, it is possible to be in a place of trust.  

It is possible to be in a place of peace.  He delivers on His promises if we can just believe Him.  We might even experience some joy in this season of our lives.  Crazy, but true.  This week could be viewed as a week for God to show His power.  I could look forward to seeing what He's going to do, and how He's going to show up for me.  I can be excited to see the creative ways that God is going to display His love for me.  I could be expecting miracles.  

Perhaps this is why Paul said to consider it pure joy when you go through trials. 

Perspective is a powerful thing.  Perspective fueled by trust is life-changing.

We can trust God and His heart.

The Valley

by Rhonda, July 06, 2022

I get nervous every time I have to show leadership.  I have several events this week that require me to show a tremendous amount of leadership.  Everything will go fine, but it won't keep me from worrying.  Do you ever get tired of battling dread?  Do you ever get tired of being insecure?  Isn't it stressful questioning your decisions, replaying all of your faults?  When I don't stay close to God, every day is a replay of my greatest misses - my greatest failures as an individual.

But, the truth is, God works his greatest miracles in my weaknesses.  He is the God of hills and valleys.  When I struggle, He will work his greatest victories.  Dread never takes into account the Christ of our valleys.  Dread is based on a miscalculation.

Replaying your faults is a waste of your time and energy.  It feeds the beast of dread.  We can defeat this beast with Christ.  

When we start to realize how much God loves us, we can start to accept ourselves as God has created us, instead of hating ourselves for what we perceive as faults.  The truth is, God is proud of you.  He cherishes each day with you.  He looks forward to days with you.  He is real, and His love for you is the most powerful force in the universe.  You were created because God loves you.  

Our power to defeat any adversary lies in love, whether that is love for God or love for others.  Jesus' power came from love.  Most never experience the true power of love because we are caught up in people pleasing and sin.  But, we have the capacity to experience total power and victory through Christ, through living a life of love.  We should always keep moving towards this goal.

Can you imagine the transformation in our lives if we truly, truly knew how loved we are?  You wouldn't believe your own strength.  God's love provides an endless source for us, an ability to truly live a life of love.  But, our life follows our focus.  If our focus is on money and wealth, then our focus will be on how to obtain money and wealth.  But, God is love.  If our life is focused on God, then our lives will be focused on love.

We cannot imagine the depth of love God has for us.  I dare you to put yourself out there and truly love without fear of getting hurt.  What if we honestly let our light shine?  What if we weren't afraid?  We would only become stronger.  We would lose all insecurities because we no longer have to live for our own gain - needing everyone around us to pat us on the back and constantly tell us they love us.  It is no longer needed to have anyone's approval, because we have the only approval that matters.

Instead, we would be free to enjoy life.  Love frees, and God wants us to live a life of freedom.  He loves us so much.  He's ready to break our chains.

Let's do it.

The Disappointing Fourth

by Rhonda, July 04, 2022

Fourth of July around our house is a big deal.  Other members of my family host Christmas and Thanksgiving, but I usually host the 4th.  We have fireworks, games, and lots of food.  We decorate cakes in red, white, and blue and we hang flags everywhere we can hang a flag.  Our entire city celebrates this way, with parades and fireworks that go on for days.

So, it was a bummer when I got a call on Friday night from my son.  "I'm not feeling well."

One Covid test later confirmed our fears.  He was positive.   I especially hate it when my family members are ill, but when it happens to a kid who has battled cancer twice, it requires some special handling.

Of course, he wasn't upset that he has Covid.  He was upset to miss the 4th of July party.

I sent out a mass text with the news.  My father mentioned he'd been feeling dizzy lately.  Another test confirmed the second member of our family with Covid.

The 4th of July party wasn't meant to be, so today's been an exceptionally quiet 4th.  My son has been sleeping most of the day, so we've been quiet (except for the fireworks going off all around us).  I haven't felt well, either, and I'm hoping I'm not in for the same fate.  Thank goodness for my daughter who has taken care of both of us today.  

I'm frustrated.  I'm worried - really worried - about my son.  I'm worried I am sick, too, and I can't take time off of work this week.  I'm concerned about my father.  I pout while I hear everyone else having a great time on the 4th.  They're all setting off fireworks, while we are under our blankets trying to sleep and keep up with our cold medicine.  Slowly, today my thoughts began to spiral downwards, towards a pit of self pity and anxiety.

Lord, please help me to see the good in this.  

The good Lord gave me an answer he gives me often.  


An attitude of gratitude ends anxiety.  I need to be grateful my party is cancelled, especially since I don't feel great today.  I need to stay close to the Lord during my times of struggle.  Today gave me the opportunity to do just that.  Instead of decorating cupcakes, I livestreamed a church service I missed yesterday.  I can be mad that I'm not lighting fireworks, or I can be grateful that we have warm beds to rest in, and medication to help us get better.  God always takes care of me, so if I have Covid, then I know he'll manage my commitments.  I don't need to dwell on it.  I can trust Him.  I can choose to be grateful.

1 Thes 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Today, while I stayed in bed, I watched a sermon about the apostle Paul.  He gave thanks in the worst of circumstances, while chained in prison.  Yet, he never asked that people pray for his comfort. Instead, he always asked that God would give him opportunities to spread the gospel.

Sometimes God knows how to drive a point home.

If you're struggling like me, both mentally and physically, I am so sorry.  You need to care for yourself, and the best way to do that is to stay close to God during your time of struggle.  He has meaning and purpose in all things, and every time we draw close to him during our struggles, He is so proud of us.  

He loves us so much.