The Tools

by Rhonda, April 15, 2024

There are days I get buried in it all.  Divorce often (not always) takes two people to contribute, and sometimes I look back at the last twenty years and wish I'd done things differently.  But, my marriage had been difficult for a long time, and near the end I felt like I was losing my mind in the craziness of it all.  He would say the same.  My life now is much more peaceful, I know that, but you also don't just forget twenty years.

I was thinking about when the kids were young the other day.  He and I had taken them camping, and there was a creek (nearly a river) we needed to cross by using stepping stones.  The water was rushing,  and I was ready to turn back towards the safety of the campsite.  My son was probably three years old, my daughter five.  There was no way they could jump between the stones to cross the river, and I just knew they would be swept away by the water if we attempted it.  But, he wanted to keep going.

So, he scooped both kids up, and he jumped across the stones in the river holding both of them like a sack of rocks under each arm.  They were laughing loudly, safe in their Dad's arms while he carried them to the other side.  They got to the other side of the river and then yelled for me to follow, which of course I did, because I couldn't be outdone.  I snapped a picture of it, and I am sure it is floating around in my storage room somewhere in the box of memories that I won't open.  I doubt the kids even remember it.

Life never takes us in the direction we anticipate.  I was at a business conference a few days ago and one of the speakers said, "The most difficult changes in my life have always resulted in my life being better, even though at the time it feels like everything is falling apart."  I've been pondering on that statement, wondering if it is indeed true for me.  I think the answer is yes and no.  God uses all things for good, for those who believe in Him.  But, I could have certainly lived without my son's cancer diagnosis, and a few other events in my life.

There's a new level of healing that occurs when I can look back at the past and be grateful for the experiences, but not feel buried under guilt, shame, or regret.  Its also a new level of spiritual maturity, and if I think about it, spiritual maturity seems to fast-track healing.  When I think about the past and begin to feel buried, the best counter-attack is to pursue my Savior.

I like to pursue Him in a variety of ways, but these are my top 3 ways in a situation like this:

1.  Prayer Journaling:  I spend five minutes writing down my prayers to Him.  I thank Him for things.  I ask Him for things.  I write down realizations I've had and ask Him if I'm on the right track.  I ask for help with my problems.  I set a timer on my phone and when it goes off after five minutes, I put my pen down.  

After five minutes, I set my timer for ten minutes and I write down everything I believe God is saying to me.  I try to always listen to God for twice as long as I talk.  I write down His truths about me, I write down Bible verses that come to mind, and I write down how much He loves me.  Over and over, I write down how much He loves me.

The interesting thing about this exercise is that if I go back through my piles of journals, God seems to tell me the same things over and over (and over) again.  I forget easily and so often, yet when I look back at the pages of my writings, I can see how He reminds me of the same things again and again.  His truths don't change.  He simply has to tell me a lot of times so I will remember.

2.  Exercise:  Even though I complain about it incessantly, I actually do enjoy exercising.  In particular, I enjoy running and listening to worship music.  There's something about pushing your body to do difficult things while listening to praise music that lifts your mind from a state of chaos to a state of praise.  I don't do this one often enough, because the hardest part of exercise is convincing yourself to start.  But, when I do, I never once regret doing it.

3.  Devotions, Podcasts, or Reading:  I am an avid Youtube watcher, and my subscription list is filled with live-streamed church services and devotion channels.  I like these types of study that help me read my Bible, and also understand my Bible.  There's been a lot of situations where I've struggled and I click on a podcast that directly addresses my particular dilemma.  

If my mind is exhausted, I won't watch devotions or podcasts on television.  I'll pick up my Bible or a Christian book instead.  I still love old-school reading where we get to flip the pages and make notes in the margins.  Sometimes I need to turn off all distractions and just curl up with a book that tells me biblical truths.

These are some of my tools to stop my mind from taking me to the bottom of my grief.  I think it is important for everyone to have their own spiritual tools, and it is important to know yourself well enough to know your favorite ways of working on your personal relationship with God.  Your tools may be unique, because our God made you unique.  

If you find yourself recovering from a very difficult event in your past, it might be worthwhile to write down your list.  I called them tools, but in reality, they're weapons.  They're tools for you to connect with God, but they're also weapons to be used against your enemy.  I love the image of a tool being used to help you connect with God as one function, but the same tool becomes a defense weapon.

So, fill your toolbox and stock your arsenal.  

You aren't meant to be overrun with the past.  You're meant to be powerful in the future.

The Mold

by Rhonda, April 02, 2024

Are you a morning person?  

I've tried to become a morning person, but it has never worked out for me.  I've tried to exercise in the mornings.  It lasts for about three days.  I've tried to wake up early in the mornings, study my Bible, and spend time in prayer.  I always fall asleep in the prayer time of that particular plan.  I've tried to wake up early to meal prep for my day.  It always ends up with lunch purchased somewhere nearby by yours truly.

I felt vindicated when my DNA genetic testing said I typically like to wake up around 7:40 in the morning.  I now have scientific, indisputable proof that I'm not a morning person.  It feels good, not gonna lie.  I am backed up by science when I hit the snooze button at 6 a.m.

A few weeks ago, I got up early to eat some breakfast cereal before I went to work.  I got halfway through my bowl of cereal (which yes, was likely expired) when I realized, much to my horror, there were little things floating around my cereal bowl that appeared to have wings.  I hadn't noticed them because I hadn't fully opened my eyes yet and I wasn't fully aware of my surroundings at that time of the morning.

I was unhappy, to say the least.  

I threw my cereal into the trash and fumed, "God, I'm not sure but I think I just ate a bunch of bugs."  Then I waited for the still small voice of the Holy Spirit to comfort me.

At last the voice came.  "John The Baptist ate bugs."

"John the Baptist ate bugs on purpose," I argued with the creator of the universe.  "ON PURPOSE."

I stomped off to my bathroom to get ready for work.  I can only imagine in the heavenly realm, an angel approaching the Lord and asking, "What's wrong with Rhonda today?" and God answering, "She's upset because she just ate a bowl of bugs."

It was true, I was very upset that I ate a bowl of bugs and I was in a bad mood for the rest of the day.  I'm really not sure why I'm telling you this story, or what it has to do with anything, but I'm still upset about it and feel the need to unburden myself.  

Check your cereal boxes, people.

Anyways, as I was saying, I'm not a morning person.  I had a great uncle who was a farmer.  Every morning he would get up at the crack of dawn and read his Bible in the kitchen.  I can still see him, in his overalls, hunched over the wooden table in the kitchen.  But, if someone walked into the room, he always put away his Bible and greeted you with the warmest welcome.  He was a wonderful person, and I miss him.  

I've often felt really guilty that I can't seem to wake up early and get in a serious devotional time before I start my day.   But, over and over, I come back to my study time (and writing time) in the evenings.  My evenings with God are awesome.  I can talk to him about my day, I can thank him for paving the way before me.  I can calm my mind down before I sleep.

I think sometimes we get into this trap of what a Christian needs to look like.  I don't fit the mold.  A houseful of Ukraine refugees.  Mom of two kids. Divorced.  Eating a bowl of bugs (it happens to the best of us).  Cannot get up early to read the Bible for the life of me.  House is often a mess.  Even the dog doesn't listen and continually breaks out and roams the neighborhood.

But, we only need to read a few stories in the Bible to realize the most devoted Christians probably didn't fit the mold either.

Moses was a murderer.  David was too, along with a whole lot of other crazy stuff fit for a reality TV show.  Solomon seemed to have to try every sinful thing in life to determine whether it had meaning.  (Spoiler alert, he said it was all a chasing of the wind.  Over and over.)      

Whenever I get into this rut of feeling less than the ideal Christian, I remember that Christ Himself didn't fit the mold either.  I'm certainly not suggesting he was a sinner like the others listed here.  But, I love knowing that He didn't lead a solemn, boring life.  If any of us had written His story, it wouldn't have been written the way it happened.  

His life was adventurous, compassionate, and I can't help but think He and the disciples had fun from time to time.  Who puts a coin in the mouth of a fish and doesn't have a sense of humor (Matthew 17:24)?  And did Peter roll his eyes when it happened?  Did he laugh?  Surely he did.  No one saw that one coming from the Savior.

So, if you are like me and did not plan on being divorced and leading a life that seems less than a picture-perfect Christian, you might find some solace in knowing the most important Son in history was rejected, too, because He didn't quite fit in.  Its okay.  

All you really have to do is love Jesus and do your best to pattern your life after His.  

He loves you exactly the way you are.

The Good

by Rhonda, March 25, 2024

Yesterday I ate a lot, and I do mean a lot, of potato chips. I paired them with a soda, a cookie, and a brownie.  Sometimes when I get very stressed out, I tend to eat junk food and I've been working on a very stressful project at work.  I loved every minute of my junk food buffet, but there's always a side effect (at least there is when you get older).  Now I don't feel the greatest after downing a truckload of kettle chips.  And I will refuse to get on the scale until I feel better about myself (don't deny it, you do it too.)

I suppose I should go to God with more important things, but today I'm asking him to help me stop my potato chip eating extravaganza.  I'm stressed and I'm tired and I want to eat terrible things and lay on the couch and watch YouTube.  Please don't bother me while I watch my favorite podcasts.  

Any extreme in our lives, except worship of God, is not going to be good.  I struggle with this because I am an all-or-nothing kind of person.  I'm running a marathon or I'm on the couch.  I'm engrossed in a hobby or I want nothing to do with it.  I'm reading ten books or I'm reading no books.  Its difficult for me to find moderation, simply due to the way I'm wired.  I always have to look to Jesus to lead me out of my extremes.

He shows me that I live a life of extremes because I'm a perfectionist.  I'm too hard on myself and I'm unable to enjoy life if it doesn't feel perfect to me.  He is far gentler, far more forgiving of me than I am.  He knew I wasn't going to be perfect when He created me.  Somehow I haven't gotten the memo, though, and I still have some pretty high expectations.  When I fall short, out come the other extremes such as junk food or binge television watching.  Or late night QVC shopping.  OK, let's move on.

Life requires moderation, whether it pertains to eating, finances, hobbies, or basically anything outside of the worship of God Himself.  For some, it comes easy.  For others like myself, finding moderation and balance is a constant battle.

This is why I need Jesus every day.  I am unable to find balance without Him reminding me to see life for what it is, not what it isn't.  Perfection is always looking for flaws and ways to improve someone or something.  But, God doesn't look at life this way.  He sees good even in the imperfect.  His eyes are always looking for good in our hearts.  

2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

He's not looking for the bad.  He's looking for the good so He can give support to them.  Isn't that an amazing way to look at life?  His focus isn't on what's not there, His focus is on what is good, and how He can help those who have good in their hearts.

There's a lot of lessons in that verse for me.  If I looked at life this way more often, I would eat less potato chips.  If I looked at myself this way, and focused on finding ways to better support the good things within me, it would be life-changing.  Have you ever thought about what life would feel like if you looked for the good within you?  If, for just one day, you stopped thinking about the bad and only looked for the good and thought about how to support it?

Maybe we should all give it a try.  If God looks for good in us, He is the one to set the standard.  

We should follow His lead. 

The Simplicity

by Rhonda, March 14, 2024

When Jesus taught lessons in the Bible, He kept them simple.  When He taught principles, He didn't overcomplicate things or make a gigantic list of rules everyone had to follow.  The Bible mentions in several places His followers were amazed by His wisdom.  But, I also think part of the amazement was in the simplicity of His answers.

I'm currently making my way through Leviticus (painful), and the lists of rules and regulations are dizzying.  Everything was so complicated, and if you ask me, unattainable.  I try to skim through some of the chapters because they're repetitive and difficult.  I can't imagine actually living through it, because simply reading it is exhausting.  There's a lot of discussion around actions that make a person ceremonially unclean, and the amount of time one must remain in an "unclean" state.  If I were part of the Israelites at the time, I probably would have set up a tent in the unclean side of the village and parked there permanently with a pile of bacon (no pork allowed).  There ain't no way this girl was going to make it.  

But, then Jesus changed everything and made it all so much simpler.  He focused on love instead of ceremony.  He taught mercy.  He preached forgiveness.

The world is becoming more complicated.  Politics are complicated.  Relationships are complicated.  Going to the doctor is complicated.  Paying your taxes is complicated.  Figuring out your schedule is complicated.  We may not have all of the rules the Israelites followed in Leviticus, but our lives are no less complicated today.  

The simplicity of Jesus and His message of love is refreshing.  

"Love your neighbor as yourself." 

"You who have not sinned, throw the first stone." 

"The truth will set you free."  

"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life"

He takes the chaos and confusion out of the most complex problems.  I can recall time and time again going to Him in prayer with a problem.  Countless times He simply tells me "Love".  I don't always want to hear that, but He's usually right (He is God, after all).   I am overcomplicating my life and need to love others.  That's His calling card, a simple solution for complicated problems.  But, it makes sense, doesn't it?  Truth is simple.  Lies and deception are what makes things complicated.

If you're struggling with a decision and aren't sure what to do, bring it to God.  He is going to give you an answer that makes sense in its simplicity.  

I can recall agonizing over whether to meet up with an old acquaintance from high school that I really didn't want to see.  I felt guilty for saying no to the invitation, yet I didn't want to say yes.  I took it to God and asked Him what to do?  I didn't want to be rude but I didn't want to be around someone who still wasn't a nice person and had long been out of my life.  

God's answer to me was simple.  Are there spiritual benefits to this meeting?  If there's something to this meeting that brings you closer to God, then attend.  But if there's not, then feel free to politely decline and move on with more important things.

His answer was simple.  I was spending far too much time concentrating on something that ultimately didn't have spiritual consequences.  I was free to move on with my life.  So, I politely declined.

Do you know how long I was embroiled in that crazy decision?   I really have to learn to take things to Him much more quickly.  I will save myself some serious time and suffering.  He untangles problems, and He makes life peaceful.

God is still guiding his children today, all we have to do is ask for His help and look for His answers that will simplify our lives.  He loves us so much.

The Design

by Rhonda, February 26, 2024

I crawled into bed and the minute my head hit the pillow, my eyes were closed.  It had been a long week.  Work hours were challenging.  I had several social events to attend in the evenings after work.  I tried to fit my workouts in somewhere (didn't happen), and I planned to clean my house (also didn't happen).   By the end, I'd either worked or attended social events for fourteen days straight.

This is not good for an introvert.

And, I know better.

My energy is not unlimited, and if I don't take a rest day every week, I will hit the wall.  Hard.  Perhaps others don't have this issue, but God designed me in such a way that I cannot plow through a hectic schedule week after week without a break.

It has taken over four decades for me to understand God had a specific design in mind when He made me.  I love quiet.  I love creativity.  I am unable to socialize on a continuous basis (or sometimes, not at all).  If I choose a hobby, I will study every aspect of the hobby until I master it, so I can't have many hobbies.  I like bright colors.  I love to eat potatoes.  If I make a plan, I will execute the plan, by the book, with everything I have.  As a result, I can't have too many plans.  I also require downtime, and I need an entire day of it every week.  

These things aren't weaknesses, or problems I need to overcome.  They are simply my design.  I don't need to push myself harder when I feel exhausted.  I don't need to compete with my extroverted friends, who cannot understand why I would turn down socializing to be at home.  No, I simply need to follow my design.  

I don't need to have more hobbies, I need to understand my limitations around hobbies due to the way I approach learning new things.  I must think carefully about my plans or they will overtake my life.  I will always love potatoes and I still think it is a great idea to try to live on potatoes alone.  God created me with specific traits to accomplish a specific purpose.  What are yours?  

I wonder how life would feel if we stopped beating ourselves up over how we compare to others and instead celebrated God's creativity.  Our unique traits are God's fingerprints, His unique serial number is stamped onto each and every one of us.  He must love His creation.  He was so detailed and careful when He created it.  

Today, I took a walk around the city with my dog.  I couldn't help but notice the wide variety of people we came across.  God loves variety.  God loves diversity.  He shows us this over and over with His creation.  Think of how many species roam our planet.  Look at the varied landscapes.  He is a God of variety, and He sees his creation as good even though it isn't consistent.  It was never meant to be monotonous.

How was He creative with you?  Do you also love potatoes?  Do you like to dance?  Are you creative or analytical?  Are you a planner or more of an adventurous spirit?  He thought of all of these things when He made you.  How special you are for Him to consider every aspect of you.   

He loves you.

He is delighted by you.

This means you can be delighted by you.  You can celebrate the unique ways God created you!  Follow your design without trying to be competitive.  You might be surprised where it will lead you.

The Identity

by Rhonda, February 09, 2024

When we are born into this world, we are a unique creation, masterminded by God himself.  We are created with our own set of DNA.  Our eye color, skin color, and body type are individual to each of us.  Our personalities are unique.  We have likes and dislikes, preferences and pain points.  God's fingerprints are all over every one of us, creating us to be completely individual from any other.

Yet, if you've gone through any sort of trauma recently, you may find yourself wondering, Who am I, really?  Where is my place in this world?  I think it is particularly normal to try to redefine yourself after you've gone through a divorce.  Everything familiar is changing.  So many of us have a significant amount of our identity wrapped up in our marriage.  When all of a sudden, it doesn't exist anymore, you feel like you don't exist anymore.  There's a lot of self help books written specifically around this, advertising the secret to finding yourself and being comfortable in your own skin.  

Thank goodness it is not up to us to define who we are. We are simply who God says we are.  No past defines us.  No opinion molds us.  The only One who can tell us about ourselves is God Himself.  If you don't believe me, have a look at scriptures:

1 Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Colossians 3:12  Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.

Ephesians 2:10  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

1 John 3:1  Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

These are just a few scriptures, and if you want to read more about yourself, the Bible is full of verses such as these.  According to these verses, you're a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, the elect of God, holy and beloved, His workmanship, and His child.  I don't know about you, but that's a far greater identity than I could have ever designed for myself.  God's mercies are great, aren't they?  Can you believe this is how he sees us?  

He sees little old divorced me as holy and beloved.

I used to ask Him God why would you be so kind to me? But, as I've gotten to know Him more and more through this traumatic process of divorce, I've learned it isn't about me.  He is simply that amazing.  His love is that incredible.

He doesn't want you to be more like Mary down the street, who has been married for thirty years, has grandkids, and the perfect Christmas decorations every year.  He doesn't want you to be more like anyone else, because He created you to be you.  The way you laugh?  He created that.  The way you burn dinner (speaking for myself here)?  He didn't design you to be a master chef.  The nights you're tired and end up in bed with a bag of Cheetos (random example, completely)?  He gets it.

He is delighted by you.  Yes, you.

So, even after feeling like you've lost so much in the divorce, just remember that God's definition of you depends on Him.  Not on you, your decisions, your past, or even your future.  Your identity is in Him, and there's nothing to redefine.  Your life may be different and your decisions may be different.  But, nothing can change the truth.  You've been created by the One who loves you more than you can imagine.

That's your identity.

The House

by Rhonda, February 04, 2024

The winter weather finally gave way this week.  We've had some sixty-degree weather arrive in our part of the country, and it makes me want to lay outside in the sun's rays and soak up the happiness.  It feels so wonderful.

Right now, we've moved partially to our place in the city.  I spend the week in the city and the weekends at home in the country.  I like the mix of locations, but eventually I'll have to make the move from one to the other.

When you leave the last home you were married in, it feels like another step in finalizing your divorce.  We've been divorced for over a year now and separated for four years.  But, leaving the last place you were together brings up a lot of emotions and if I'm honest, I feel triggered.  

I know God is calling me to simplify my life.  He wants me to move forward.  He always wants us to move forward.  But, sometimes I struggle so much with looking backwards.  It reminds me of Lot's wife in the Bible.  As God was destroying the city behind her, she was told not to look back.  When she disobeyed God and looked back, she turned to a pillar of salt.

Did you know there's actually a pillar of salt named Lot's Wife near the Dead Sea?  I digress.

God is always moving ahead, wanting us to leave our past behind and follow Him.  There's nothing wrong with me feeling nostalgic about selling my home, but I am not meant to stay here and relive the past over and over.  God always has something new in store, He's not big on rehashing the past.  I guess I shouldn't be either.

I don't want to be as useless as a pillar of salt because I'm always looking backwards.  That would make me, uh, salty.

I want to move ahead into whatever God has in store for me.  Isn't it crazy how difficult it is to let go of the past?  Even if the past isn't good, we still hold onto it for dear life, as if it still has something to offer us.  But, here's the news flash.  It doesn't have anything else for us.  That's why it is the past and not the present.  

Isaiah 43:18-19  The LORD says, “Forget what happened before, and do not think about the past. Look at the new thing I am going to do. It is already happening. Don’t you see it? I will make a road in the desert and rivers in the dry land.

The Bible takes it one step further from simply moving forward from the past.  It actually says we are to forget about it and not think about it.  Can you imagine what life would be like if you never thought about your mistakes from the past?  That thing you cringe about from your past?  You actually don't need to think about it anymore.  You don't need to shame yourself.  You don't need to hate yourself.  You don't need to wish it away.  The Bible actually says forget about it.  (in an Italian accent.)

God is so amazing, isn't He?  He goes to great lengths to separate us from our past mistakes.  His Word reminds us over and over that we are worth so much more to Him than our sin.  He could shame us and He could punish us.  But, He says look at the new thing I'm going to do for you.  He died so that we can forget about our past.  I don't think any of us can fully comprehend the sacrifice He made to allow us to move forward and be with Him in heaven.  

So, if you're feeling stuck in a place that is holding you back from where God is leading you, remember how important it is to move forward.  Letting go is hard, but staying in a place not meant for you anymore is harder.

Keep going.

The Sandwich

by Rhonda, January 29, 2024

It is customary at my job that if we schedule a work meeting over lunch, the company provides lunch.  So, I really don't mind lunch meetings, and this week I got lucky.  It was quite a spread, with all different types of sandwiches, chips, macaroni and cheese, salad, and a whole box of cookies.  For a girl who loves to eat, seeing the counter covered in food is always a welcome sight.

Everything was as good at it looked.  I love chicken salad on a croissant, and this was a good chicken salad.  The fruit was fresh.  The mac and cheese had the perfect cheese sauce.  I also helped myself to some delicious chocolate chip cookies.  

The next day at work, I was excited for lunch because I wanted surf through the work refrigerator to find some leftovers.  I was ready for another beautiful chicken salad sandwich and I already knew I was going to have a gigantic serving of mac and cheese.  I hauled the leftovers out onto the counter and loaded up my plate.

But, do you know what happened?  Those sandwiches that were so amazing the day before had gotten soggy in the refrigerator overnight.  The mac and cheese that I had my heart set upon wasn't nearly as good reheated.  The salad had wilted.  The cookies were all gone.  

My lunch was a bit of a disappointment, much to my, well, disappointment.  Don't get me wrong, I ate it anyway.  But, it definitely wasn't the same experience.

It reminded me of Exodus when Moses rescued the Israelites from harsh slavery under the Egyptians.  They had gone into the wilderness, but unfortunately they didn't have any microwaveable dinners with them.  So, God himself rained manna from the clouds for them to eat every day.  Each and every morning, the Israelites would wake up and gather manna.  But if they stored manna overnight, even just one night, it would rot.  They would have soggy manna sandwiches.

It is fascinating to me that God created such an incredible miracle by raining of manna from the sky, but He didn't preserve the manna overnight.  Why?  Maybe He didn't want the Israelites to get lazy, lying around eating their canned manna.  But, more likely, He was making a point.  He would take care of them every day, each and every day.  He showed them they could depend on Him.  

God really does present each day as a new opportunity, doesn't He?  We are to live on what He gives us.  We can expect Him to show up and see us through.  But, if we try to live off of our own works, our things we've stored up, we are going to end up with soggy sandwiches.  A bad imitation of the real thing.

I think this is why Jesus always said to never worry about tomorrow.  Each and every day is new, and when we worry about tomorrow, we're forgetting one important thing.  God's mercies for tomorrow will be given tomorrow.  The manna rained from the sky every morning, not two days ahead of time.  His mercy is given when it is needed.   

But, the devil plays mind games with us.  He wants us to believe our success is in our own hands and that everything depends on our skills and talents.  The weight of the world is on our shoulders, and it rests on our abilities.  Before long, we start to fear our own failures.  But, fear discounts God.  It removes Him from the equation.  The only way we are victorious over our trials is because of God's strength, not our own. 

If the Israelites had to worry every day about how they were going to rain manna from the sky, I would imagine that would have been a very stressful existence.  But, God was the one who rained the manna from the sky.  The Israelites used their skills and talents to collect the blessings from God, they were the beneficiaries of His mercy.  The victory over their starvation was won by God, not by their talents.

God is our Savior.  He saves us.  He goes ahead of us.  He ensures our victories.  He doesn't just "help" us.  He is the conqueror of our trials, the victor over problems that should normally defeat us.  He's the reason David conquered Goliath.  He's the reason Moses parted the Red Sea.  We don't have to manifest the miracles.  

We simply have to show up and believe in the One who can defeat our problems.

The Winter Storm

by Rhonda, January 19, 2024

I am looking over the horizon watching a wall of snow heading towards our neighborhood.  It is an amazing sight.  Weather is such a magnificent display sometimes.  It is very cold in our area right now, the weather forecast says it is -25 degrees with the wind chill.  My garage doors actually froze shut over the weekend.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  They froze shut. That's a new level of cold, honey.

My car is in the shop this week.  Actually both my son's car and my car have had issues.  Cold makes a significant impact on our beater cars.  I am driving a loaner vehicle around right now.  When I took my car in for repairs, the woman behind the counter told me they were running short on loaner vehicles.  She said it would be nearly a half hour wait while they waited for the vehicle they were going to give me to be cleaned.  "I have nothing else," she said, "so I have to give you an SUV".  

Some people would be excited by this news, but when you've been labeled a "Curb Killer" in your high school driver's education course, you prefer to drive smaller cars.  I simply thanked her.  I felt slightly annoyed that I had to wait a half hour on the vehicle.  After all, I am a frequently returning customer since my car is always on the fritz. But, I rarely check the weather, so little did I know that a severe winter storm was going to move in.  Frigid temperatures combined with heavy snowfall were going to make getting anywhere a huge challenge this week.

Isn't it crazy that I was lucky enough to have a four-wheel drive vehicle during the exact week we experienced a serious winger storm?  Perhaps my half hour wait on the loaner vehicle wasn't just an inconvenience.  Perhaps it was divine intervention.

I've been thinking a lot about how God takes care of us in so many ways, but so often we don't notice.  I drove through the city in my oversized SUV this week watching the smaller cars slide on ice, some even sliding off the road, and my SUV didn't slide once.  I know I am not simply lucky.  God taking care of me, loving me even when I don't see Him.  Even when I don't notice Him.  He lined this up long before I walked into the repair shop.  

He is so meticulous with his care. 

He is so meticulous with his love.

He gets my struggles.  He knows how crappy my car is.  He intervenes in the most amazing ways, and I just can't help but be enamored by all of the creative ways He loves me.  He makes me laugh, He makes me cry, and He makes me love Him more.

Lamentations 3:22–23  The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

The next day, I was sat work when I got a text from my daughter.  She and my son were stranded on the side of the road.  We have a flat tire, the text said, and we tried to make it home but we couldn't.  We're on the side of the highway.

Panic immediately set in.  I don't know how to change a tire.  When I was married, this was an easy answer.  Call your Dad.  But it isn't that way anymore.  So, my kids were sitting on the side of the road in -20 degree weather, and as I got ready to pick them up, I knew I wasn't going to offer much help on the tire.

I started to look up whether my insurance covered roadside assistance when I received a call from my daughter.  "You won't believe it," she said, "a police officer pulled up behind us and he is changing our tire."  And, sure enough, a kind-hearted officer changed their tire in absolutely frigid temperatures.  

Soon, my kids were on their way again, and they made a beeline to the tire shop to get their tire repaired.  I never had to leave the house.  God took care of my kids, in the form of a kind officer who was willing to help.  

All of this happened within a matter of a few days, and once again, I am in awe of often God does things like this and I completely miss it.  I forget to thank Him, and I go about my life as if these things are no big deal.

But, they are a big deal.  We have a big God who goes before us and helps us.

Thank you Lord, for your faithfulness through the storm.

The New Year

by Rhonda, January 15, 2024

Its a New Year, you know I love me some resolutions.  I always set my goals for the year.  I've gotten into this routine on New Years Eve where I write down not only my goals for myself, but also what I believe God is asking of me for this coming year.  I also like to give my years a theme, and I've got a good one this year.

My theme for the year is More in '24!.  Do you like it?  Actually I believe God gave me this theme, which I love, because I love rhymes.  I couldn't have come up with it myself, so I must give credit where credit is due.  Anything this catchy must be divine.

But, what does More in '24! mean?  

I'm glad you asked.  More in '24! is not about buying more, getting more, sleeping more or eating more.  Nope, the theme this year is about making more progress.  More!  In '24!  

OK, I'll stop.

If I can.

2024 is the year of more growth for me.  In 2024, I want more of  the great things accomplished in 2023 (no matter how small).  Any progress in 2023 can, and will be be amplified this year!  Let's have more obedience, more joy and more peace.  More chains breaking away, more bondage thrown to the side, and more love.  More of Jesus, less of me.  More of the father-daughter relationship with the One who created me, and less of dysfunctional relationships.  Let me grow closer to God in 2024 and get rid of anything that comes between Christ and myself. More in '24!

Join me!  God will strengthen us to give us the life we long to have.  We can choose love over self-pride and arrogance.  We can choose God in the quiet space, the alone moments.  We can choose God even when we cannot trust ourselves.  

I want more of this in 2024.

I've been thinking a lot about what this means to put this into practice.  

Dedicated Time  One of the most important things I must do is protect my time with God so I can keep my focus.  Our lives get busy quickly, and for those of us who are single Moms, there's not a lot of downtime.  I've got to be careful to protect my time with my Savior.  Our time together is so important.  It helps my mind to function properly over anxiety.  It keeps me humble, away from the roller coaster of emotions.  It keeps me peaceful and eliminates my desperation for rest.  It is my true "self care", required to keep me healthy and stable.

Obedience  I want to bring my actions and my behavior in line with my beliefs.  I want my life to be completely under God's authority.  This means I have to make hard decisions that my flesh doesn't like.  I have to choose God's ways over my ways.  I have to bring my struggles to Him instead of acting out.  I have to make choices that seem less fun, but are better for me in the long run.  If I don't understand something, I need to think God must have a plan, instead of  I need to make a plan.  I need to live by God's solutions that fit into His plan instead of my solutions that fit into my ego.  I must let Jesus take the wheel, and bring my problems to the One who can actually give me a real solution.  He knows what's best for me, and He's not about to forsake His daughter,

This choice around obedience is the critical piece of More in '24.  This is what breaks the chains and gives true freedom.  This needs to be my top focus, and it becomes easier when I stay consistent with dedicated time.

Forgiveness  I didn't want to put this one on the list, but the Holy Spirit was persistent.  My walk with forgiveness is far from finished.  Forgiveness is such a process, isn't it?  I have many people in my life to forgive and if I refuse to make progress in this area, I will not have More in '24.  I really don't like working on forgiveness.  But, I also don't like being miserable.  I have to forgive my ex-husband for things that happened during our divorce.  I have to forgive my father for rejecting me (honestly this one is harder).  I have to forgive my mother for hurting me, even when I know she's battling mental illness.  

As you can see, I've got a list.  I've had a ball of fury inside of me that is creating bondage in my life.  God tells me over and over that He wants me free of this.  But, this particular mountain has been a struggle for me to climb and it seems like if I'm not seething in anger over these topics, I'm crying over them.  Luckily, God does not ask me to be perfect in this area.  He just asks that I make progress and not sit idle in this space.  So, yes, I must have more forgiveness in '24.  

These are my areas of More.  I'm excited to continue with progress and work towards a more Christlike life.  There's so many good things ahead for us in 2024, and I can't wait to see what God brings into my life in the future.

Happy New Year, and may the Lord bless you abundantly this year.

The Season

by Rhonda, January 01, 2024

Christmas season certainly has its challenges, doesn't it?  Divorce makes the holidays feel different.  Even now, despite our tremendous healing, I am sensitive to the changes in our Christmas holiday.  I see it on my kids' faces, too, their hearts desiring the Christmas of the past, with both of their parents together.  

If you're struggling through the holiday season, I am so sorry.  God loves you dearly.  You are his daughter, and He is not going to leave his daughter when she is hurting.  If I might make a suggestion, do your best to be open to what God has for you through this season, even if it does not feel familiar.  God loves seeing you delight in the surprises He has for you, and He will surprise you.  Give it a try and see what happens.  

Stay active through the holidays.  Staying active doesn't mean it isn't going to hurt.  The first time we went riding around the city, looking at holidays lights, with just the three of us, I felt like I couldn't get through it.  But, those first few years are "building years" where you're making new memories and new traditions.  They may not feel great, but staying at home in bed won't feel much better (trust me, I tried it).  Every year as you gain distance from the divorce and create new traditions, you will feel better, but the first few are going to be tough.  Keep going.  The day will come when you're going to enjoy your holidays again, so don't expect perfection during these "rebuild" years.  Let yourself hurt, but don't hide under the covers.

Focus on helping others.  Nothing takes the sting out of the freshly divorced holidays like focusing on something else.  Our Ukraine refugee families (yes, there's more than one now) have saved us every bit as much as we've saved them.  Find someone who needs a place to go on Christmas.  Volunteer at a local soup kitchen.  Do everything you can to remind yourself of your blessings instead of focusing on what you're missing.  The best Christmas of my life was this year, and it wasn't because we somehow managed the perfect meal or the perfect presents.  It was because I had a houseful of Ukraine refugees watching Home Alone.  Different?  Yes.  Better?  Oh, yes.  I've never sensed Christ so absolutely present in my home on the holidays.  I needed to think about something besides my own problems, and helping others is always the solution for self-focus.

Remember who you are, and Whose you are.  Everything hurts more during the holidays, especially divorce.  Divorce is a drastic form of rejection, and over the holidays it doesn't take much to cut deep when dealing with something as severe as this type of rejection.  But, in the midst of finding your way through holidays as a divorced person, remember you are a daughter of the King.  You may not feel like royalty here on Earth, but you are.  You are not a "divorced woman" or a "single mom" in God's eyes.  He doesn't use those words to identify you.  You are His daughter, His beloved child.  So, while you're hurting, don't let the emotion of the holidays steal your memory of who your heavenly Father is.  He is the God of the universe, and these holidays aren't about a perfect family, a perfect memory, or even perfect behavior.  No, the holidays are a celebration of the love of our Savior.  These days are about Him, and His love for His children.  His love defines you, not a perfect holiday or your marital status.

This year, as we started the holidays, I found myself enjoying some of our new traditions.  It turns out we like to go to candlelight services, and this year we brought a couple of Ukranian families with us to experience it.  We created a few new games to share with my side of the family this Christmas.  And, our gift exchange didn't go as planned this year.  By the time we finished hosting parties for refugee families, as well as our own families, the kids and I realized we'd run out of time to buy gifts for each other.  

The kids were mortified by it, sheepishly telling me my gifts weren't going to arrive before Christmas.  I started laughing, and I said I hadn't gotten them anything either. No big deal, I told them, we'll do our gift exchange whenever everyone's Christmas gifts get here.

And so we did.

It never would have happened if I'd been married.  But, we never would have had Ukranians here if I'd been married, we never would have gone to candlelight services, and I most certainly would not have ordered Christmas dinner catered.

But, I did.

Sometimes Plan B is just as good as Plan A, and I'm starting to believe it can be even better.  I know God never wants divorce, but I also know that His plans for my life didn't stop when my marriage failed.  I am not meant to be miserable every holiday season because I am divorced.  Christmas is about Jesus, not about me.  

And for that, I am thankful.