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.