The Countdown

by Rhonda, October 30, 2022

I've watched the video over and over.  It is a video of a missile hitting the business owned by the refugee family that we will be hosting.  It is loud, violent, and incredibly sad.  In an instant, their lifelong work evaporated into smoke, and now they start over with nothing.  I cannot imagine the loss they feel.  I cannot imagine the insecurity all of this uncertainty has created within them.  

They have booked their flights into the United States and they will be here shortly before Christmas. We've begun the countdown. The past two weeks have been an absolute blur of activity while we prepare for their arrival.  I've prayed for God to please show me this is His will, that He's in this, and I've reminded Him that I need his help to do something so bold.  It is difficult to live with those you love, let alone a family you don't know and don't speak the same language.

But God.  He never disappoints me.  Every day there's been a miracle.  I have been so tickled by both his faithfulness and his creativity. 

Every day, something new shows up.  We've had clothes donated and furniture given to us for free.  We've got beds for the children.  We've even had a family volunteer to "adopt" the Ukraine family for Christmas and buy all of their Christmas presents.  I'm blown away.  I wish the Ukrainian family could  see all of the activity happening here while things fall into place for their arrival, but I do give them daily updates.

I've gotten bolder with God.  I have asked him to make bigger things happen and now I am just trusting that He will.  We need to figure out a car situation for them, or some sort of transportation.  I am watching to see what He is going to do.  He's been absolutely showing off these past few weeks, and I wake up every day delighted with what must be coming next.

For example, yesterday, I awoke to a neighbor calling on my cellphone.  She had some old cabinetry in her shed, so she wondered if I might want it for the family.  The crazy thing is that I wanted to put some cabinets in my basement where the family is going to be staying.  I wanted them to be able to snore snacks or perhaps get something to eat in the middle of the night without having to trek up the stairs.  

I immediately woke my daughter up to go with me to look at the new (old) cabinets.  We knew right way it was going to work perfectly for the space we had available.  But, I didn't have a way to move them to my house.  We don't own a truck.  I called my father on his cell to tell him about it, and he said, "I'm ten minutes away with a friend in a truck.  Want us to pick them up for you?"

"Yes!" I said.

And that's how everything has happened since I decided to be bold and follow God's prodding to open my home.  I've only seen God do things like this one other time in my life, and that's when we adopted our children.

Last night, my daughter said to me, "I'm going to bed, but I'm sure you'll wake me up early tomorrow for some other new crazy adventure."

I laughed.  But, her words rang true.  I have no idea what God has in store for us right now.  Every day is a delightful adventure.  I only know it has been a long time since all of us have been this joyful.  I've gotten to know co-workers better as they've reached out.  I've gotten to know my neighbors better.  I had no idea what this would lead to.

Yesterday, I received a message from the father of the Ukraine family.  "My English is not good enough to tell you how I feel," he said, "So I will just say thank you."

I can't wait until they get here.  We've talked about how our two families may not be related but we'll always be family.  God is so good, so faithful, to me.  What a privilege for me to get to help this family.  What a privilege to watch Him work wonderous miracles to make all of this happen.  His love still shocks me.  It is never-ending, and his grace and generosity are unlike anything on this Earth.

What a blast it is to follow Jesus. 

1 Peter 1:8-9  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

The Gap

by Rhonda, October 16, 2022

A family from our community donated an old, beaten up dresser for the children of the Ukranian family we're going to be hosting.  While we were greatly appreciative, we didn't love how the old dresser looked, even though it worked fine. It had scratches in the paint and the top of it had something sticky that had been spilled on it. So, over the past few days, my father and my kids have been sanding down the old dresser and repainting it.  With a fresh coat of paint and some new knobs, the dresser looks as good as new and will fit perfectly into the bedroom for the children.

We couldn't help but stand back and admire it.  "It looks like new," my son said.  I agreed and couldn't help but think about how God makes things new, too.

My daughter said, "Too bad we don't have two dressers.  Then, when they move out and and each kid has their own room, they would each be able to take their own dresser."

I reminded her they're only coming with what they can fit into a suitcase, so she didn't need to worry.  I was sure the kids can share a dresser.

But, God heard her sweet concerns.  

Today, at work, I got a text from her with another picture of an old dresser.  

"Guess what me and Grandpa found for free!" she texted.  

Sure enough, they found a free dresser sitting by the curb.  She is so excited, and she began sanding the second dresser down today to get it ready for a new coat of paint.  I can't help but be thankful to God for hearing her request.  I can honestly say I've never driven around town and seen a free dresser by the curb.  What are the chances?

Sometimes I'm blown away by how much He cares about the littlest things.  With God, there is always a testimony in everything we go through, even the small stuff.    He can turn the most ordinary things into something extraordinary, even a dresser on the side of the road.

He's always faithful to fill in the gaps. He simply asks us to take what we have to work with and do the best we can with it.  The gaps are His responsibility.  In the midst of any of our circumstances, God is faithful to His promises.  He really wants us to love Him and out of that love do the best we can to serve and obey.  He provides the rest.  

I believe those old dressers becoming new again are just as exciting to God as they are to us. Those old dressers were destined for the dumpster, but now they are being sanded down, painted, and have a purpose of serving a family in need.  Sometimes we need to be sanded and given a fresh coat of paint and a new purpose!    We show up with a willing spirit, and it is amazing to see what God will do.  

The only way we can accomplish what God has called us to do is to lean on Him.  He is our ability.  He wants us to lean on Him for everything, even the ability to do the things that He commands us to do.  He doesn't expect us to do these things on our own strength.  No, he provides us the strength to enable us to run the race He's set before us.  

But, so often we (myself included) underestimate God.  We underestimate our value to Him, and how much He loves us.  We don't always see how much He takes care of us.  We do not realize the power He is willing to exert on our behalf, but when we get our heads around that, we will be blown away by the magnitude of love He has for us.  We serve an almighty, powerful God who is willing to use His power to fill our gaps.  

Ask for a dresser, it will be sitting on the side of the road.  Ask for help, He will show up.  Even in the smallest things, He delivers.  His love is faithful.  Our needs matter to Him.  Our suffering matters to Him.  He delights in being our comforter, our provider.  

We were meant to run our race with Him, not with Him cheering on the sidelines or watching from afar.  

The Adventure

by Rhonda, October 04, 2022

Do you remember when I told you that I felt God stirring in my heart for a new adventure? 

I just haven't been able to shake it.  I want to be used by God in new ways, I long for a break from the routine.  I need something that takes the focus off of me, and onto others.  I want to be less, well, selfish and self-focused.

I've been absorbed by the war in Ukraine since it started.  I'm closely tied to that part of the world. My kids were born in Russia, and I've spent a considerable amount of time there.  When the war began, I couldn't stop watching the news.  I would stay up all night, obsessing over the latest developments.  After a while, I had to force myself to stop.  I was becoming sleep-deprived and anxious, all over things that I could not control.

I may have turned off the television, but as we all know, the war has continued.  I'm not in a position to do much, but I do have a home that has extra bedrooms.  There are Ukranians without homes who need somewhere to go, and someone to care.  More than that, they need someone to help.

So, in a step of total bravery (and probably unlike me, if I'm honest), I put myself out there to sponsor a family.  It wasn't easy.  I was afraid of bringing someone in my home that may harm us, or more likely, may simply not align with our values.  I was fearful, so I prayed and asked God to stop any connection that wasn't His will.

It wasn't long before we were connected with a family.  We arranged for the first video call, and let me tell you, all of our fears are completely gone.  For the past week, we've consistently had video calls with the most lovely, sweet, and yes, heartbroken family.  They've lost it all in this war.  Their business was destroyed, their home was destroyed.  But they will tell you, "It is only money.  We are alive and we are together."

They don't speak the language here, and they are unfamiliar with the way of life here.  Yet, they are so excited to come.  They are excited because they need to safe as a family over the next few years, after experiencing nothing but devastation.  They need a place that feels peaceful, that allows them to heal from the trauma of bombs and missiles.  They are, after all, starting over.  

I know I don't have nearly the trauma this sweet family has experienced.  But, I'm starting over, too.  I have finally decided to let go of the past and see what God has ahead of me.  I've filed divorce papers after three years of separation.  I've asked God to help me move forward into what He has planned for me.  I've told him I want to walk along the path He's designed just for me.

Psalm 25:4 Make me know Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths.

When I prayed this prayer, I thought perhaps He might lead me into another relationship.  I don't feel ready for it, and I really have no intention of getting remarried.  But, I decided to be open to whatever God brought into my life next.

I had no clue, and I mean no clue, it would involve a Ukranian family whose lives were destroyed by war.

I met them the same week I filed divorce papers. In fact, I was connected with them the next day.

God wasn't kidding when He told me He had a full life ahead of me if I would stop living in the past.  I know it sounds crazy, but I am so excited.  I wake up thinking about them.  I go to sleep thinking about them.

Ever since meeting this family, our home has changed.  My kids are as excited as I am.  Now, our evenings are filled with plans for making their living space as nice as possible.  Neighbors have donated beds.  Friends have offered clothes.  Co-workers have even offered to help pay for an apartment.  I had no idea our little community would show so much support.  

We spent this evening repainting a dresser someone donated.  "I wonder what the children's favorite colors are," we mused.  We wondered what kind of movies they like, what kind of games they play.  We are learning more about them daily, and we enjoy planning for their arrival tremendously.

My stress levels have gone down dramatically.  What seemed important in the past has faded into the background.  Now, my focus is on the Ukranian family, and ensuring they have what they need in a horrible time of loss.  Somehow, this giving away of myself and my home, has led to a joyful home of my own.

I wonder if this is what God means when he says His path leads to joy in His presence.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

I can't wait to be used by God.  Our adventures are only beginning, I know this now.  As his plan unfolds for our lives, it will be anything but boring.  But, if I'm honest, I think all of us in this house are ready for it.  We're ready to help others and live for something besides ourselves.

Let's do it.