The Gratitude

by Rhonda, May 27, 2024

He walked across the stage in his graduation gown.  Watching him from the audience was a surreal experience.  I think anytime you watch your child graduate from high school, it is momentous.  But, I have to say it is especially momentous when you weren't sure if he would live long enough to graduate.  Cancer has a way of putting things into perspective.

He didn't want a party.  He simply wanted his closest family members to join him for a nice dinner.  So, that's what we did.  I told him he could order whatever he wanted, and he ordered everything from appetizer to dessert.  He enjoyed himself immensely (he always does when he gets to go out for a meal) and we left the restaurant three hours later.

The same week he graduated, my daughter moved into her own place for the first time.  I just hung up from a FaceTime call with her, because she wanted to show me how she organized her new kitchen.  I'm happy for her, but can't help but notice her empty bedroom every time I walk past it.

Its been a big week and my emotions are all over the place.  I am not sure if any of them are even remotely accurate, so I am letting them do their thing, run their course, and hopefully I will stabilize soon.  A mother's heart is a complex thing, after all.

The events have happened so quickly that I haven't had time to reflect, or more importantly, be grateful.  God has worked within my children's lives so profoundly, and I want to be sure I stop to share these moments with Him.  Both of my children are, after all, miracles.  

My daughter, adopted after years of abuse, was so violent and self-destructive as a child that I can remember praying someday she would just be functional.  She's finishing her Bachelor's degree in a few years, and will start her Master's program after that.  My son, who drives all over the big city, was supposed to be blind after the last brain surgery.  But, he sees fine.

How easily I forget God's miracles.  These are big miracles, so I can't help but wonder how often I miss the small ones.  Is He not incredible?  Is He not so good to us when we don't deserve it?  No wonder David wrote Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! (Psalm 107)

Today is Memorial Day, so I'm also grateful for the sacrifices of our soldiers today.  There's so much to thank God for at this point in my life.  At the same time, I flip on the news and watch the destruction in Ukraine.  Every attack breaks the heart of the refugee families I am sponsoring, as they watch their city systematically destroyed, praying for the family members left behind.  As my kids are growing more independent, God brought others into my life who need me. 

I've learned so much about sponsoring refugees.  Its about so much more than providing for their needs - although that is critical.  They need to be accepted by Americans, and they need our time.  They are trying to adjust to a new culture and a radically different way of life.  They need someone to practice English and to stay engaged, no matter how hard it becomes.  They need us to show up and have dinner, and to check in with them to see how they're doing.  

Again, I'm grateful to have the opportunity.  

Life is changing, but God remains constant.  He is working so many things in my life right now.  His plans are so much more fulfilling than anything I could have dreamed up for myself.

Happy Memorial Day.  Don't forget to thank the One who makes all things possible today.  He loves you so very much.

The Mothers

by Rhonda, May 13, 2024

Today is Mother's Day.  So, in honor of Mother's Day, I'll share one of my finest motherhood moments.  

When my son was three years old, he somehow got a cut near his eyebrow.  I didn't think it was deep enough to require stitches, but I did have some "liquid stitches" in my medicine cabinet.  If you've never used liquid stitches before, it is basically super glue for your skin.  Instead of a bandage, you can use liquid stitches to close a wound.  I felt like a genius for thinking of this idea, not to mention it was going to save me a trip to the emergency room. 

My son was very upset over his cut and he'd been crying.  I laid him down in my lap and tried to get him to hold still so I could super glue his wound shut.  I applied the glue to the wound, and as it was drying, he decided to wipe his tears.  

Unfortunately, this is where things went south.  He drug his hand across the cut above his eyebrow...and then continued to drag it across his eye.  Before I had a chance to react, the damage was done.  He had drug the glue across his upper and lower lashes as he closed his eye.  His eye was glued shut.

This is an important part of the story, because when we argue about this story 16 years later, he likes to say that I glued his eye shut.  But, the fact remains that he actually glued his own eye shut.  I simply witnessed it.  I'd also like to point out that not all of his eye was glued shut, but approximately 75% of it was.  He had a small opening that he could still peer through.  

Anyway, at the time, I was freaking out because I didn't know if it would damage his eye.  His upper and lower lashes were glued shut and no amount of tugging on my part would open them.  Not to mention, I was quickly losing the cooperation of a very mad three-year old.

I called the doctor.

"Is he in pain?" the doctor asked.  

I looked down at him.  He had calmed down and began playing with his toy truck on the floor (although he had to look at it with one eye).

"I don't think so," I said.

"Is the glue all on just the lashes?" he asked.

"Yes, it appears so."

"This will dissolve itself in a few days," the doctor said.  "As long as he's not in pain, I'd just let it wear off naturally."

So, for three days, my son walked around looking at everything with one eye.  Let me tell you, the Mom guilt was pretty terrible. Every time he played with a block and had to turn his head to see it out of one eye, I died a little inside.  I refused to take him to day care, because I did not want to have to explain the situation.  We stayed home for those three days together until he could resume normal functioning again.

But, my son being the comedian that he is, never lets me forget this story.  Every time we get into an argument and he's losing, his last act of desperation is to say to me, "Well, you glued my eye shut."

And when he says this, I usually respond with a lot of compassion and empathy.  "Is your eye glued shut now?  No.  You're welcome."  I'm afraid when I die, he's going to have She glued my eye shut engraved on my tombstone (which as we've already established is historically inaccurate).

You know, every time I read Luke Chapter 2 of the Bible where Mary and Joseph lost a twelve-year old Jesus for three days, I think to myself, Well, there you go.  Parenthood isn't easy, even when you're raising the Messiah!

We're not perfect parents, but God uses us in spite of our imperfections.  He sees our hearts, and He knows how difficult the struggles can be.  I always think of the single Moms on Mother's Day, especially those with young kids.  Those first few years can feel like survival and doing it alone is an especially heavy burden.  Single Moms are truly heroes.

My first few years of raising my kids, I felt like I was failing all of the time.  But, at the end of the day, what my kids needed was a Mom who loved them.  I could give them that much, even if I missed the mark on a lot of other things.  

So, this Mother's Day, I just encourage you to see your accomplishments.  Your mistakes will fade into time, but your kids will always remember how much you loved them.  

Happy Mother's Day.

1 Peter 3:4: "You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God."

The Drive

by Rhonda, May 04, 2024

Last night I decided to ride along with my son, who works for a delivery service (delivering food and groceries) as a full-time gig.  It works well for him, because if he has a day he's not feeling well, he doesn't have to work.  Being a two-time cancer survivor at age nineteen takes a toll on the body, and some days he's not able to work a job like most.  He has a weekly earnings goal, and he was short on deliveries this week, so I told him I'd drive if he would deliver.  

I am so glad I did.

Because of his struggles, he's not a typical nineteen year old.  He may be unable to follow conversation for a long period of time.  Everything he does is at half the speed of a normal person.  Radiation does that to a brain.  But, he is the kindest soul you'll ever meet.  His faith is rock solid, and his heart is one of love for everyone around him.  He literally drives around town with the heater on when he's delivering food to keep the food from getting cold.  He's that thoughtful.

As we began to get food and grocery orders, I had a quick realization that, in our particular area, those who were placing orders weren't necessarily the wealthy.  Quite the opposite.  Orders were coming from those who were struggling, for whatever reason.  Perhaps they couldn't leave their house and they depended upon delivery.  Maybe they didn't have a car (which on our particular location, means you are unable to do much since nothing is within walking distance).  Whatever the reason, I quickly realized his job was more than food and grocery delivery.

One of our orders was at a grocery store in a rough area of town.  My son can often miss items on a shelf, so it takes a long time to do the grocery orders.  For this order, he was trying to find cough drops and I was getting ready to walk over to help him.  Instead, I watched a young man walk over to my son and help him find the cough drops.  He wasn't an employee, just a customer.  

After we were done shopping, we pulled up to a house that was a wreck.  The lawn wasn't mowed and the neighborhood wasn't great.  An old man waited for us on the porch.  My son brought his groceries and talked with him for a little while.  I watched the interaction between the two and as my son was leaving, the old man pulled $5 out of his pocket and gave it to him.  

We went to pick up the next order, which was a pizza place.  My son went inside and they clearly knew him and smiled when he walked in.  He had to get three Sprites and two pizzas.  His mind can hang up on certain things, and being able to carry three Sprites and two pizzas was going to be difficult for him to figure out.  I began to get out of the car to help him.  But, before I did, the man in the back of the pizza place came to the front register.  He brought a bag for the Sprites and put the pizzas into my son's pizza bag for him. Then he opened the door for him.

I asked him if every day is like this for him.  

"Yeah, pretty much." he said.  "There's an older grandmother on the other side of town that I love talking to.  She always orders strawberry yogurt and cat food.  She has a bad hip.  One time she tipped me $25.  I also really love delivering to the juvenile prison.  They're all so nice there."

After our delivery was complete, we got another order from the same pizza place.  My son went inside, and I heard them say, "Welcome back!" and watched the same routine.  They helped him pack his pizzas and opened the door and off we went.

It hit me that my son doesn't just deliver food and groceries, he has somehow created a ministry.  He works in areas where people seem to need him, yet those same people also help him.  Nearly everyone we delivered to was waiting for him on their front porch.  

Isn't it interesting how God uses everyone for his glory in unique ways?  The pace of my son's life allows him to slow down and pay attention to those who need him.  He is not worried about rushing off to the next order, he's completely in the moment, making sure everyone in his life feels valued.    

The amazing part is God doesn't use our perfection.  He uses our weaknesses for His glory.  Life wouldn't have slowed down for my son if it wasn't for the cancer.  The Ukrainian families would not be my neighbors if it wasn't for my divorce.  Our worst moments become a launchpad for His greatness.  

He turns our messes into miracles.

Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.