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.