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.