The House

by Rhonda, September 29, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I am not going to miss the mowing,"

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

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

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

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

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

The Elderly Man

by Rhonda, September 24, 2023

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

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

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

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

"Is this seat available?" he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We both nodded.  "We saw."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want to conquer this beast of unforgiveness. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Newbie

by Rhonda, September 05, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Love is what changes us.

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

The Healing

by Rhonda, August 20, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, we are okay.  

Jesus my Savior.  There's nothing like Him.

The Dolphin

by Rhonda, August 11, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Uh, I don't think so," 

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

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

"Alex, look!" 

He slowly put his oar down as the fin approached.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

"Me too."

The Trap

by Rhonda, August 07, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

Doesn't comparison get us every time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And neither are we.

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

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

He's only interested in the heart.  

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

What a nightmare.

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

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

What freedom.

The Battle

by Rhonda, July 21, 2023

I'm watching the sun setting from my office window.  My neighbor's American flag is flying in the horizon.  It is torn, ripped by a series of storms that passed through our state last week.  Yet, the flag still flies as the wind blows.  The sun peeks through the pieces of worn fabric as it sets, creating a beautiful and patriotic view.

Every sunset is different, and I can't help but marvel at God's creativity every time I watch one of his unique masterpieces in the evenings.  The sky becomes art, as He draws on His canvas.  He never paints the same scene twice.  To have a mind like that, can you imagine?

I set my alarm for 15 minutes earlier a few mornings ago and decided it was time to start obeying God.  He asks the smallest things of us, doesn't He?  I made my coffee, stumbled onto my deck, and I spent 15 minutes with him before starting my day.  The time flew by, and I wished it was longer, feeling like a horrible person that it took me this long to be obedient to Him with such a small amount of time.

But then, I had the strangest day.  

Problems at work exploded.  I missed an appointment due to dealing with problems at work.  My kids had issues that were frustrating.  I was tempted by just about everything imaginable to become angry.  I got an unexpected bill in the mail.  Then I was notified I'd been summoned for jury duty.  I was extremely stressed for the majority of the day while problem after problem unfolded.  By the end of the day, I felt numb and slightly bewildered, as if I were coming out of battle.

It was weird, especially considering I got up early to spend time with God so I can work on my anger.  Then, my entire day made me angry.  I thought I would see progress.  This was regress, the exact opposite of progress.  I was going in the wrong direction and I was really angry about it, which was yet another problem.

The next day wasn't much better.  More problems at work resulted in an inappropriate amount of anger from me.  Problems are frustrating, yes, but they shouldn't be infuriating. I don't like it.  I don't want to be that person.  I can't help but think about why I'm so easily triggered.  

Maybe it doesn't matter.  Hurt from the past, pressure in the present, and fear over the future all play a role.  I can cite people, situations, and even things I've done to myself as likely culprits.  I've been through a lot over these past few years, including a divorce, and I just don't know if it is a good use of my mental energy to rehash all of that.

I just need some healing from the Healer.  I guess God already knows that.  He's been showing me over the past few days that the situations can be varied, but my responses are the same.  I'm operating from a place of pain more often than I care to admit.  

And that makes me angry.  Of course.

Last night, I must have gotten less than three hours of sleep.  After I decided not to rehash my triggers, I tossed and turned, rolling over all kinds of scenarios in my mind.  All of them were infuriating.  I wasn't treated right in this situation.  My parents weren't there for me in my childhood.  My divorce still hurts so much.  The list went on and on, and my mind was replaying one bad hit after another.

I wasn't just angry, I was in a pit of anger.  My inner turmoil bubbled over as I prayed for peace and begged for sleep.  But, as soon as I finished praying, I began running another scenario through my mind that made me angry all over again.  I replayed every painful instance of victimhood I could think of.  

Around 2 a.m., I had a thought.  What if my angry flesh sensed it was no longer going to have its way in my life and it was throwing a fit?  What if my flesh was trying to make me uncomfortable so it could drag me into a pit of anger?  What if this was a gigantic tantrum?

Even after this realization, it was hours before it settled down.  But do you know what?  Christ is stronger than this anger, and Chris has already defeated this anger.  I just have to ignore it, I don't have to defeat it.  Short-lived suffering is nothing compared to long-term peace.  I am in it for the long game.

I had no idea when I decided to obey God and work on my anger that I would step into the ring of an epic spiritual battle.  My flesh has decided to whine, complain, and fight for control over my life.  It is dangerous and destructive and it has been allowed free reign for far too long.

So, every day has been the same 15 minutes in the morning.  It doesn't seem like much, but it is what God is asking of me right now.  As I get stronger, He may ask for more, but for now it seems this is enough to trigger all kinds of fleshly temper tantrums.  I've hit a nerve and things are certainly welling up.

Tonight, I got a shower, crawled into bed and felt angry over the smallest of things.  It is so defeating.  I set my alarm for 15 minutes earlier tomorrow.  And, I will put my head on the pillow at a reasonable time so I can get up a bit earlier tomorrow.  

I trust Him with this and I believe in His ability to heal me.

The Surprise

by Rhonda, July 16, 2023

Our city goes all out for 4th of July, and the entire sky is lit up with the celebration. We always look forward to our 4th of July parties.  Fireworks, food, and swimming in the backyard pool typically make for a fun gathering.  This year was no exception.  

But, this year, we had some special guests from Ukraine.

I sure do love that family, and I really enjoyed celebrating 4th of July with them this year.  It was probably my favorite 4th of July.  At one point, while my brothers set off yet another gigantic firework, the father of the Ukraine family looked up at the sky and said, "dreams do come true."

The things we take for granted living in this country.

I wonder sometimes what would have happened if I said no to God.  If I refused to act on something I clearly knew he was calling me to do, if I had not filled out the paperwork to sponsor a family from Ukraine.  They would still be stuck in limbo, and I would be wondering what happened if I had actually taken the leap.

I wonder how much I miss out on now, when He asks me to do something outside of my comfort zone and I refuse.  I bet I'm missing out on a lot.  It makes me want to be more obedient, more often.  

My issue is often times I find myself disobedient in the smallest of things.  Like perhaps I don't need to watch YouTube for hours on end.  Or maybe I don't need to buy that impulsive thing.  Or I can be kinder to my kids.  But, after watching the incredible miracle he worked for my family, and the family from Ukraine as he stitched our lives together, I have to wonder.

Am I missing out on more?  

It seems like common sense that God leads us down a path towards a better life.  But, if that's the case, why are we so resistant?  He good plans for our lives and His plans are not to harm us.  The Bible tells us so.  But, do we really believe that?  Do we really believe Him?  Or, is it just that we're resistant to being uncomfortable?

I've been thinking a lot lately about how insignificant this life is compared to eternity.  Yet, I spend so much time worrying about the little things.  I worry about my health, my money, my decisions.  What would happen if I just really believed that God leads me down a path towards a better life if I follow Him?  One decision to follow Him leads to another, which leads to another, and soon obedience becomes a habit.

I bet the disciples had the time of their lives following Jesus.  Yes, of course, I know it there were some very difficult times.  But, they spent the remainder of their lives faithfully preaching the Good News.  They couldn't forget it, and they couldn't lead their lives any other way.  They had the time of their lives following Jesus.  They experienced things we can only imagine, and they never wanted to deviate from the path He taught them.  

I want to be the same.  Yet, I'm so easily derailed.  Even Paul said, I do the things I don't want to do, and I don't do the things I should do.  I can certainly relate.  Paul and I might have been best friends.

I think obedience starts with the small things.  I've been reminded this week that anger is my default emotion as I've found myself getting upset over the smallest of things.  More days than not, I wake up angry.  Every day it is a different reason.  Some days it is over something significant and other days it is over nothing.  But the devil has a heyday with my short fuse. 

God has asked me to start dealing with this first thing in the morning,  He wants me to confront it head on by spending time with him as soon as all of this starts.  But, life is busy.  I get up and I am often late, fervently getting ready for work, trying to get out the door.  I tell myself I'll deal with it on the drive into work, but I'm often distracted and forget about it completely.  The next day is a carbon copy of the prior day.  And the cycle continues until I blow a fuse.

I wonder what I'm missing out on by not being obedient.  Actually, I don't have to wonder.  I'm missing out on peace, contentment, and healing.  All because I won't get up 15 minutes earlier, or because I stayed up late the night before and I'm too tired to focus that early in the morning.

Its a small thing, but at the same time, it is a big thing.  Why on earth is it so difficult for me to be obedient when God is asking something so little of me?  And, it is for my own benefit? One has to question their level of intelligence to be this stupid.  I can do something so big for Him, such as bringing a family here from Ukraine, yet be so disobedient in the small things.  

Disobedience in the small things is perhaps where most of our misery lies.  It is where the battles are won and lost.  Our small decisions every day make all the difference.

So, as I've asked God to show me the next big thing He wants me to do, I anticipated something big.  I thought maybe He would want me to start a nonprofit.  Maybe write a book.  Perhaps lead a Bible study at church.  But, He has asked me to get up 15 minutes earlier every day to deal with my anger.  

I really didn't expect that.  It is such a small thing, and it seems so insignificant and if I'm honest, boring. I'm ready to "do" things for God.  I didn't expect Him to ask me to change for Him.  But, how could I have not seen this coming?  This is God's calling card.  He's always changing us for the better.  He's always forming us into the image of Christ. 

Christ didn't live an angry life.

So, tomorrow, I've set my alarm for 15 minutes earlier.  The only way to heal anger is to seek the Healer himself.  It is time to start the new life of adventure He's calling me to, even though it wasn't what I anticipated.

The Heat

by Rhonda, July 02, 2023

I am recovering from a hysterectomy, which is probably TMI, but we're best friends so I figured you should know.  The fun part is the hot flashes that follow the surgery.  What's even more fun is when the A/C breaks on your car, in the hottest months of summer, and you're also having hot flashes.   I literally think I'm going to catch on fire every time I drive around town.

But I digress.

There's been a few other challenges this week.  Insurance has over-billed me.  Cellphone carriers are not giving me the deal they've advertised  (I knew it was too good to be true).  The A/C broke in the car.  The other vehicle we own is in the shop.   

Did I mention I'm having hot flashes?  The interesting thing about them is you're not just hot, you're also incredibly angry.  I thought I was going to take a baseball bat to my printer earlier this week, just like in the movie Office Space.  Then I realized I was just having a hot flash.

But I digress again.

With my wild mood (and temperature) swings, I can't fully discern if I am overreacting to normal life events.  It is challenging to keep everything in proper perspective.  But even without the broken A/C, hot flashes, and uncooperative printers, life is hard.  It is hard for everyone.  Something always goes wrong and in this broken world, I don't know why I continue to be surprised when things are, well, broken.

But, as I struggle to keep my calm with my cellphone carrier, I am reminded of one thing.  Jesus is with us always, everywhere.  I cannot imagine the annoying things that must have popped up everywhere He went.  People followed Him, disciples argued, and Pharisees plotted His death. Yet, He was never deterred from His mission; to do the will of His father.  His focus was on loving others, and His message of love changed the world.  

I wonder how my focus can be the same.  Even if I do feel like I'm going to catch on fire if we have one more hot day this summer.  This has been on my mind lately, and likely the Holy Spirit is prodding me to get back on the right track.  I know I'm too easily offended.  I know I'm getting upset over small things that don't matter.  I know I shouldn't take a baseball bat to the printer.  

When I consider all that Jesus dealt with, are things within my life really so bad?  For that matter, are they even that important?  Should all of my peace be wrapped up in things of this world?  That's a sure way to live a disappointed life.

Peace is an odd thing, isn't it?  It is given to us by God, yet it is something we have to continually fight to maintain.  

Last week, after my temper flared over the unimportant, a bigger problem surfaced.  It was time for my son's annual MRI.  He's a two-time cancer survivor at age 18, and his annual scans are highly stressful.  While my concerns over the cellphone bill and the printer faded in the midst of something more serious, the mental fatigue from dealing with those issues remained.  

I was battling for calm while sitting in the doctor's office, waiting to hear if his cancer had re-appeared.  I couldn't help but be angry over sitting in the office alone, without a spouse to lean on.  In fact, I was angry over everything.  The doctor was late.  Traffic was difficult.  You name it, I had a complaint about it.

Soon, the doctor appeared and assured us that everything looked good.  There was no new cancer, and my son has healed well from his last surgery.  All of the news was positive, and we were so relieved. My kids and I smiled and hugged each other.  Yet, even after that amazing news, my peace didn't return.  As I drove home, I was still troubled.  My mind was moving onto the next problems awaiting me at home, not even taking the time to thank God for the blessings He'd just bestowed on my family.  

Isn't interesting that even with a change in the most serious of circumstances, peace does not reappear?  I guess that's the problem with our peace being dependent upon things of this world.  There's always something to worry about, something to be upset about.  

Do I really want to be the bitter, angry, hot-flashing lady who everyone steers clear from at the family gatherings?

Not particularly.  Quirky, yes.  Bitter and angry, no.

I want to be like the leper who returned to thank Jesus for what He'd done for him (Luke 19), not like the other nine who went on with their lives without returning to say thanks.  I want to be the one who is different.  I want to keep my eyes on Christ.  I want to be grateful for the miracle, not distracted by something insignificant.  

Jesus was too important to allow small, insignificant battles to trip Him up.  And, so are we.  These distractions in our lives do not need to cause any further disruption.  Through the grace of Christ, we get to enjoy the fruits of our hard labor.  Why would we ever choose to worry them away?  That's the true tragedy of allowing ourselves to become easily offended and angered, not the actual offense.

Let us be peaceful.  

Not everything has to go our way.  Not everyone has to agree with us, and its okay if they don't.  We can't require that in order to have peace.  

All we need is Jesus.

The Friend

by Rhonda, June 14, 2023

It was a sunny, hot day and the two of us were relaxing under the umbrella in the shade.  She looked across the pool, her boys playing loudly while splashing one another. We watched the boys, smiling at their antics.  

"Did you see the news on Ukraine today?" she asked me through the translator.

I had not.  I quickly put the search into my phone and saw yet another round of violence, death, and destruction.  She shook her head.  Two extremes presented themselves at once, as often happens in her life now.  Her boys were joyfully playing, peacefully in the swimming pool.  Meanwhile, her homeland was plunged in chaos and darkness.  Any joy she feels is always bittersweet now, mingled with sorrow.

Sometimes all you can do is sit quietly with someone, because there's nothing to say.  We eventually changed the subject and chatted about other things, but her homeland was never far from her mind.  

Our friendship hasn't come easy.  When you don't speak the same language, everything is awkward and difficult.  Misunderstandings abound, and despite our best efforts not to hurt each other's feelings, it can happen when translations don't work correctly.  

But, both she and I have an unspoken pact.  We're willing to work through the awkward.  We're willing to keep trying, keep communicating, because our friendship is worth it.  No matter how hard, we get out our phones, open our translator apps, and we keep talking.  Something rather amazing has happened as a result of our resolve.

We've learned we have a lot in common.  We laugh at the same things.  We are both moms, both lovers of adventure, and both highly sensitive.  It turns out we are fantastic friends, and the translation has become more of a bit of an inconvenience rather than a struggle.  We know each other's hearts, so we don't worry about miscommunications anymore.  We just laugh about them.

Only God could perform such a miracle.  

It must have been ten years ago that I asked God to please surround me with good, Christian girlfriends.  I wanted more than just shallow friendships, I wanted friends that I could share my faith with.  I wanted friends I could battle life with.  I wanted sisters.

God heard my prayers and he sent two good friends into my life that have been with me for years.  I am someone who has many acquaintances, but close friends are few.  So, these friendships are precious to me.  And here God is again, being faithful to a prayer I prayed years ago.

Another sister.  

Of course God knew all along that we would click.  His plans are full of infinite blessings, and discovering each of them is the joy of my life.  

Psalm 68:6 God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

Another friend texted me this week.  How are you? she asked.  I'm recovering from surgery and she sent me a care package, full of thoughtful gifts.  We texted back and forth, and we ended up talking about her upcoming birthday party.  I am so excited for it.

How did this happen to an introvert like me?  I look over the past few years and think about what I've lost in my divorce.  I lost half of my family, as well as some special relationships.  I lost my support system and my sense of safety and security. But, yet here God is, being so faithful.  He sets the lonely in families, even if isn't always blood relatives.  

I am watching him recreate my family, whether through friends, a very special family from Ukraine, or through blood relation that has tightened around me.  My friends have stepped up in a huge way.  Empathetic family members have rallied around me.  It is new, and it is so very precious.  I know it could only be God because it is so miraculous.  

What kind of a God cares this much about my pain?  What kind of a God so thoughtfully replaces what's been lost?  His faithfulness is indescribable.  

I've seen him set the lonely in families before.  My kids are adopted from Russia, and I watched him work miracles to bring them into our lives.  I know He cares about us when we’re lonely.  I know He feels the hurt when we have lost those close to us.  It matters to Him.  I shouldn’t be so surprised He’s worked hard to replace what’s been lost.

Last night, my kids and I went out to eat at a Thai restaurant that we’d never been to before.  We tried a few new foods, talked about our day, and in the middle of our conversation, my son said, “Mom, I really like our new family.”  

I nodded, because I knew exactly what he meant. “God sets the lonely in families,” I said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately.”

“When He does, I think both are lonely, don’t you think?  Not just one person, but maybe both.”

Just then, our pastor walked by and stopped by the table briefly to say hello.  “Are you taking Mom out to dinner tonight?” 

The kids agreed that yes, they were, and we continued the conversation between the three of us as he joined his wife across the restaurant.  It was the craziest timing, in a new restaurant, just as we were discussing God’s goodness to us.  The pastor who taught us this very lesson about God setting the lonely in families appeared out of nowhere.

The more I thought about the timing of the appearance, the more I was tickled by God's creativity.  He didn't have to do that, but it really made us smile.  God continues to surprise us, delight us, and make us laugh.  I can't wait to see what He has in store next. 

The Dream

by Rhonda, June 07, 2023

I had a dream last night.  

I dreamed I was sitting on a trailer with both of my kids.  It was a small, flat wooden trailer pulled behind a tractor.  The kids and I were riding on this trailer down a worn dirt road.  The trailer hit many bumps as the tractor pulled us along.  I was frustrated because the bumps were large and it felt like all of us were going to fall off.  There were no side rails and nothing to hang onto.  My ex-husband was driving the tractor.

Every time we hit a bump, I became more and more angry.  I could feel my anger welling up inside, and I was criticizing him from the trailer, telling him he needed to be more careful.  I was sure we were all going to fall off.  At the end of the dream, he walked back to the trailer where the three of us were sitting.  He disconnected the tractor from the trailer, and he drove away, saying nothing.  I watched the back of him fade away as the three of us remained on the trailer.  The tractor was gone.  There was no one to lead the way, no one to pull us along, and we were on our own.  

Even though I was in a deep sleep, I felt an immense amount of pain as he faded away.  I guess it could only be described as sorrow, because it was overwhelming distress.  I felt it deep within my chest, threatening to drown me with hopelessness.  I awoke and laid in bed for a while, just processing the incredible amount of sadness I felt.

I don't know why a dream like that would come along four years after we've parted ways.  Grief is a strange thing, isn't it?  After laying in bed for a while, I took my sadness, anger and hopelessness to God.  I probably should have been more reverent with my approach, but I wasn't in the mood for proper manners.  Lord, what do you want me to do with this?  You say to trust you through all of this, but trust is really difficult when all of this pain is present.

I reflected more on the dream.  I tried to find something positive or perhaps a hidden message.  Possibly it was my mind's way of processing some pain, and maybe there was benefit there.  But, no wisdom came from it.  In fact, it simply tempted me to fall into loneliness, anger and depression.  I tried to step back from the emotion of it.  The dream wasn't God trying to tell me something, or trying to get my attention.  It was, in fact, just a dream that wasn't real.  

The problem is the pain was real.  As I sat on my bed, thinking about how detached I felt just like the trailer, I felt God say to me I never waste my children's pain.  Trust me through this.  

I sighed.  

To be honest, I would rather have a divine task list or perhaps an instruction booklet with steps I could take to get rid of all of this sadness.  I like those kinds of things, because it puts me back in control.  I suppose that's the biggest challenge with grief.  I have no control over it.  It comes and goes, and I feel helpless to fix it.   I mean, surely there's a book I can read or steps I can follow.

But, I've walked with God long enough to know He was probably going to tell me to trust Him.  This whole terrible experience has been a gigantic lesson in trust.  No, I wasn't surprised to hear there were no steps for me to take, no message to decode.  He simply acknowledged that yes, I was in pain, He has a handle on it, and I just need to trust Him.

I wonder if He remembers that I am a Type A personality with trust issues?  

Sometimes waking up in the mornings with pain or anger is so difficult.  Turning the attitude around when you’re already neck-deep in sorrow before your feet hit the ground can feel nearly impossible.  But, God is always faithful.

As I continued to think about the detached trailer and the symbolism in my life, I made my way to the cellphone store.  I had an appointment there with a technician to deal with an issue on my phone.  As I walked into the store, I saw the long line of people waiting, and I had a seat.  Next to me was an elderly man, and not long after I entered the store, an elderly woman sat beside him on the soft chair.

“I’m worried if I sit in this chair, I won’t be able to get up,” she said to him.  Then she looked over at me and winked.  “Getting older is no fun.”

“I know what you mean,” he replied.  “I’m 82 years old and every day I wake up and I say ‘thank you Lord, I get to have another day’.”

She nodded.  “Yes, I have you beat by two years.  I am 85 and I am just thankful to God every day that I’m still here and I’m still kicking.”

So I sat there, next to two octogenarians, feeling quite guilty about how they wake up every day thanking God they have another day.  I, on the other hand, woke up with quite a different attitude because I had a dream about a tractor.  Sometimes God can be quite obvious when he’s making a point.  But, I can tell you with certainty that I left the cellphone store with a much different attitude then when I entered.  The message was received.

If we really think about it, trusting God is everything.  It isn’t just the difficulty of my divorce that is a lesson in trusting God.  The same lesson has been taught throughout my entire life, up until this point. For someone like me who battles fear and struggles with trust, I have to remind myself  that I can look back and see how faithful He’s been through the thick and the thin.  There's years of evidence that He's trustworthy, if I will just look at it.

As much as I struggle with these lessons, I am so glad that He calls me to trust Him.  What is my alternative?  To trust myself?  That isn’t going to go well. I can speak confidently on that from experience.  

I have no idea why I had a dream about a tractor down a dirt road.  But, it really doesn't matter.  Part of living in faith is trusting God in the good and the bad, in the happiness and the pain.  These emotions will pass, but my God stays faithful forever.

I can't imagine a better savior.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.


The Change

by Rhonda, May 31, 2023

I don’t know where I begin.

The family from Ukraine arrived in the middle of December.  I wish I could tell you their entire story.  I really do.  But they are a private family, and their story is theirs to tell, not mine.

But here’s what I can tell you.  I love them with all of my heart.  I love all four of them.  They lived here for a while and now they’re working and have moved out into their own place.  But, our bond with them is forever.  We text daily, see each other often, and we share life together.  We love them as if they were our blood.  

I always thought I would be helping them.  But, God is showing me the bigger picture once again. He gave me new family and blessed me to the hilt with the most precious people.  It shouldn’t work out this way, I know.  We don’t even fully speak the same language (thank you, Google Translate).  But, God doesn’t follow the rules.  He doesn’t live by logic.  

Following Him on this adventure is one of the best things I’ve ever done.  It has been a blast and some of the biggest joys of my life have involved getting this family here and settled.  Now they are a part of our everyday life, and we are part of theirs.  Getting to see our country through their eyes has been such a fascinating journey for me.  We are blessed here in America, friends.  

I don’t know how He does it.  He worked out every little challenging detail for them to arrive here safely and begin a new life.  He absolutely showed off throughout this entire process, and He delighted me to no end.  

I see Him so differently now.  I don’t know why, but He’s even more personal to me than before.  He partnered with me on this.  He cleared every obstacle for me.  He assimilated an army of friends and neighbors to help.  He used me, but He did all of the hard work.

Picking them up in the airport was surreal.

Having Christmas with them brought me to tears.

Now, His miracles continue, day after day.

And after all of this, I’ve realized something.  I am miserable without generosity.  I am built to help other people.  It brings my soul and my spirit so much joy.  I want to continue to live my life this way.  I have no desire to continue along the selfish path I used to live.

I want to be generous with my time, with my complements, as well as my money.  I want to embark on new adventures with God.  He is the biggest blast!  

And this time, I want to take you with me.  I want to write about it.  In fact, God has told me to write about it.  So, I’ve been spending some time just thinking about my life, and what that means for me.  I suppose in many ways, nothing changes.  I still have my same job.  I have my same obligations.  There’s no overwhelming changes.  

But, what if instead of focusing on the job as a means to get ahead, I look at it as a money-making tool enabling me to lead a more generous life?  What if I changed my outlook on my life completely?

Being a part of this story has changed me forever.  I’m hooked now on God’s adventures and what He might have planned for me next.