The Driver

by Rhonda, December 17, 2023

I climbed into an Uber on the way to the concert.  It was cold outside, and I was rubbing my hands together to get some heat back into my circulatory system.  The driver in the front of the car had a unique accent as he asked me a few questions.  He asked me where I was from, what concert I was seeing, and how my night was going.  Sometimes when I'm in an Uber, I'm in a chatty mood.  Other times, I'm not.  This night, however, I was feeling chatty.

"Where are you from?" I asked him.


I searched for a great response but struggled.  "Wow," I said, "well, welcome to America."  It was lame at best, but I couldn't come up with anything better.

"Thank you.  This is the greatest country in the world," he said, "and I thank God every day that I am here."

"Is your family all okay, all safe?" I asked him.

"Yes," he said.  "Thanks to God, they are all here, and they are all safe.  Can you believe my country has been at war for over twenty years?  Its is terrible."

He went on to tell me about his personal story, his displacement by the war, and his eventual service with the US Marines.  His story was a heroic one, this unknown Uber driver earning a living while driving tourists. He'd seen atrocities that my eyes have never witnessed, and he'd risked his life to save his family.

I wondered if I could be so brave.

All thanks, he explained to me, belongs to God.  "It was not my bravery, it was God's courage that got us through it."  

Do you ever think about how many unsung heroes are simply walking around, in our midst, and we have no idea they're heroes?  I was so engrossed in his story of his life that I was actually sorry to get out of the Uber.

"May God bless you," he said as I exited the car.  He pulled back onto the road, off to pick up his next passenger.  He had a wife and two children at home to take care of, after all.

Every time I have an interaction like this, I know it isn't an accident or mere coincidence.  God loves to get my attention, and He knows I love hearing people's stories, so that's one of his favorite ways to remind me of His presence.

I think about that Uber driver from time to time.  He was so content.  So grateful, with his country music playing and his pride in America.  I think about the reality check that it gave me, the reminder that my life is a blessed life.  Do I really live in a space of gratitude for it?  Do I express true contentment with my life?  Or are my eyes only focused on what I don't have, and what's coming next?

Through the course of my professional career, I've gotten to be in the orbit of some very wealthy people.  I watch them closely, interested in learning about how they experience life.  But, I have yet to find one that isn't human.  The wealthy have wrinkles like the rest of us.  They have relationship problems like everyone else.  They experience the world as human beings, just like we do.  Aren't we striving for some sort of nirvana that doesn't exist when we're not content with our lives?  No one is leading a perfectly fulfilling life.

I bet most of the wealthy don't have the joy of my Uber driver, jamming out to his country music and living in a place of total gratitude for his savior.  All of the money, accolades, and success brings nothing but momentary excitement.  Only God gives long-lasting joy. 

So, what are we striving towards, really?  What would life look like if we pursued God as much as we pursue money, awards, or recognition?  How would it feel to just be content and grateful for what we have?

Well, for one, a lot of the pressure comes off.  If we're not having to continually strive towards worldly goals, we will spend our mental energy appreciating blessings as they come our way.  There's less stress in our everyday lives.  When we understand what we truly need versus what we want, we'll often find we already have what we need.  We can live in a place of gratitude instead of a place of deficiency.  Paul calls this mindset "great gain".

1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world

But, there's also another big benefit.  We're less selfish.  We're not so worried about getting ahead, and we're more considerate of others when we live in a place of gratitude.  We continue to understand our needs have been met, so this focus on our striving - our struggles - goes away.  We don't have to constantly think about ourselves anymore.  We live more generously, and we're less competitive and more empathetic towards others.

Contentment and gratitude make us more like Christ, whether we're driving an Uber or doing anything else in this world.

And, being more like Christ is always the ultimate goal.

The Trip

by Rhonda, December 09, 2023

I waited for her to pick me up at 2 a.m.  My Mom was going with me to Florida, much to my surprise.  I invited her to come as my companion while I traveled for a business trip, knowing she would say no, knowing she would not be able to leave her house.  We had a brutally early flight, and I figured that alone would be enough for her to turn it down.

But, once again, when I pray, God shows me in a variety of ways that He hears my prayers.  He had been working in her heart, and despite her need to stay at home and stay safe, she accepted my offer.  I was delighted, surprised, and I prayed this might be some area of healing for the two of us.  Some much-needed light in her sadness.  Mental illness is such a beast, isn't it?

As we boarded the plane, I could sense her fear, but she kept pushing through.  She said she wanted this time with me, because we don't see each other very often anymore.  I was overwhelmed with love for her, knowing she was doing this for me.  something that seems so common, so ordinary, was an act of bravery for her.  An act of love for me.

The week in Florida flew by, and her anxiety stayed under control as long as she didn't leave the condo  We rented an oceanfront location, which was perfect for her.  She wanted to listen to the waves, see the ocean, but not feel pressure to go anywhere or see anyone.  It was disappointing to me, because I wanted to show her the sights and take her out for dinners.  I had hoped she would be so excited when we got to Florida that she would want to engage.  But, I had to remind myself that the trip was a huge step for her, and so I put in my orders to Doordash and spent my evenings by her side.

Much of the time, we didn't say much but just spent time watching her favorite cooking shows with the roar of the ocean waves in the background.  Most nights she went to bed early.  She's changed a lot, and as she ages and fights her battles for mental health, I have to be patient and stop trying to uncover my Mom from the past.  It feels like I'm in a fight I'm slowly losing, watching her disappear a little more each year.

I think some of this is probably normal.  The slow loss of a parent's health, whether mental or physical, is heart wrenching.  I'm finally at an age where my kids are old enough that I can spend significant time with my mother again, and her health isn't there.  Her love for life is gone.  It doesn't feel fair, and I know it saddens her as much as it saddens me. 

But, you know, it doesn't matter if Mom is able to go out to dinner with me.  All that matters is that she knows that I love her.  If I have to modify modify our plans to accommodate her mental health, then so be it.  Bring on the baking shows, I love to bake anyway.

1 Thes 5:14  And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone

I have spent the last two years begging God to heal my mind from the trauma of my son's cancer, my divorce, and our house fire.  He's been so patient with me, slowly allowing me to come along at my speed, healing me while growing me at the same time.  When I think of all that God has done for me, patience with my mother should be a given.  

But, how do you move forward from the past, especially with someone you love so dearly?  I'm still trying to figure it out, but here's what I've come up with so far:

1.  Stop living in the past.  Memories are precious, and we are blessed to have good memories.  But, we can't continually try to recreate the past without missing the blessings of the present.  Ten years ago, you couldn't have kept my mother in the condo because she would have wanted to see everything she could see.  But, now, instead of wishing we could go out to dinner, I can enjoy the quiet and cozy moments I have with her inside.  I miss those moments when I'm wishing for my Mom of the past.  Not to mention, I'm learning lots of new baking skills.

2.  Let yourself grieve the loss.  Letting go of the old doesn't happen without pain.  Sometimes the road from old to new is traumatic.  In fact, I'd say it is traumatic more often than not.  But, God is not going to leave you here in your pain.  He will give you peace in your pain and remind you that He is faithful.  He's with you, always, and He's putting the pieces of your life together, one piece at a time.  My relationship with my Mom has changed, but that doesn't mean it has lost all of its power.  Its just different, and I need time to grieve the old relationship.  Its okay to feel the hurt. 

3.  Let go of the old to embrace the new.  There's nothing harder than saying goodbye to things we love dearly.  My Mom is still here, but she's changed, and I have to say goodbye to her in a way.  But, goodbye means new beginnings and I can still forge ahead with a new relationship, and try to understand who she is now.  I am going to have to move on from the past, because I'm not meant to remain in it any longer.  It is time for a new thing, a new way, and a new vision for the future.

Isaiah 43:19 See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

All I know is Jesus will turn even the most difficult situations into something that will make me stronger.  I can trust Him with my mother as I pray for her.  He is doing a new thing in this sad situation.  Someway, somehow.

I just have to look for it.