Thursday, February 19, 2015

Snow and Ashes

The beauty of the fallen snow this week has put a twist on everyone's plans.  Some have still not been able to venture from home since Sunday or even earlier. Some are seeking refuge in Warming Stations in town.  Businesses and schools are closed. Even Ash Wednesday service was canceled at church.

As my day progressed yesterday from being out in the cold searching for folks to using a restaurant as my office I could help but think of the fact there would be no ashes on my forehead.
No ashes - what did that mean to me?

It wasn't that long ago that I really began to practice the season of Lent.  In my upbringing our denomination didn't participate in the season and actually held bias opinions of those who did. But that is not what this writing is about...

I was first introduced to the holy season of lent while living in KY the first time but for some reason it didn't seem to take as strong of a root in my soul as it has since 2008.
I remember Ash Wednesday service  in our little church in WV.  George, our pastor, lovingly painting on my forehead the sign of the cross and saying "From the dust you have come, to the dust you will return".
Last year my dear friend and brother, Louis, imposed my ashes.  Louis and his family have been like family to Tommy and I for many years. I remember him praying over me earlier in the service as well.  There is something special about people you love sharing in this moment with you.  Reminding you that you are dust...dirt...loved.

Yesterday we were to have our first Ash Wednesday service at HOTEL INC.  I had shared with our folks especially our friends who are experiencing homelessness the service time and what to expect for those who didn't know. With the blanket of snow this service was also canceled.  I was happy to sit in on the morning devotion with many of these friends at Crossland church.  To watch their faces as the scripture and devotion was read. To hear their amens. To see them as Christ see them. To see myself as Christ sees me.

From the dust you have come, to the dust you will return....

What is in between?


A life that is lived is full of grace, sorrow, laughter, joy, love, frustration, disappointment, strength, courage, hope, peace, pain, sickness, health, newness, death.


Although for the first time in years there were no ashes on my forehead.  No communion shared. No sermon heard. It does not mean that this beautiful season of Lent was not ushered into my soul. Some folks add to their life over the next 40 days, some take away, some pray more, some fast.  For each person this season takes a different approach but with one common theme - draw us closer to God, closer to Christ who spent 40 days in the wilderness before his death and resurrection.

May we remember "From the dust you have come, to the dust you will return".
Ashes or no ashes
May we remember to live! To not just exist but to live!!!
To walk boldly, compassionately, encouraging each other, to love all of God's creation.

So my prayer today is like the freshness of the fallen snow may Your grace fall fresh on me not only this day but the days ahead.  May I share Your grace with all who cross my path in Your way, in love.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Natural Me or Not!

Recently, I've heard the following:
                I wouldn't have known it was you if I hadn't seen your name.
I wouldn't have known it was you if I hadn't heard your voice.
You are braver than I am.
I didn't recognize you at all.
You'll love it, no up keep.
You do look your age but not older.
I miss the red.
I like the gray.
It is so dark, who knew.

For more than a year I have thought and pondered on my hair; cut it, grow it out, quit coloring it.  Especially, the coloring part.  This was a must larger weight on my shoulders than I imagined it would be.  I can't remember exactly when the coloring began but I know it was between 15-18 years ago.  First it was just as close to my regular shade as I could get it.  Then I took the plunge to be a red head - something I had always wanted.  Through the years I heard comments like this:
Your hair fits your attitude.
You look better as a red head.
You look vibrant.
Do you have a short fuse like natural red heads?
I never know what color your hair will be.
Sassy lady, sassy hair!

I had decided this time last year that I really wanted to see what my natural hair color would look like at this stage of my life.  I began to ask myself the following:
Am I as gray as I fear I am?
Will I look really old?
Will people respect me more?
Will people respect me less?
Does it matter what color my hair is?
What's wrong with just accepting this natural part of life?
How can I be so consumed with what I eat and not care about the chemicals going on my head?
If I dye my hair and chat about not putting chemicals in my mouth is that like the pot calling the kettle black?

After Bennett & Brittany's wedding last May, I thought I was ready. I was vain enough to know I didn't want to look back on wedding pictures and see hair a bunch of different shades because of a grow out! I got my hair cut short in July.  But I still colored my hair until August. I think it had something to do with moving to our little farm in the Summer.  I thought about how excited I was to have the opportunity to live in such a beautiful place.  A little roll to the land, some woods, a red barn, a place for chickens, a garden and flower beds.  The natural beauty of Montani Farm gave me the courage to see if I could accept a natural me.  I informed my stylist, Brett, of my decision.  His response, I really love the red.  I felt he was as skeptical as I was.  But we began the journey.  First came a shorter cut.  Gone were the natural curls I had embraced in my earlier 40's.  With this came a few comments like these:
Love the short hair, don't ever grow it out!
You look 10 years younger!!

I began to have doubts and all I had done was get my first hair cut. The first comment, made me feel very insecure.  Something that many women battle over something.  The second comment was flattering but who knew if they just meant I looked my age (44) or 34...I knew it wasn't 24! 

Next came more haircuts than I had ever had in a years time.  I was up to getting my hair cut about every 6 weeks at most.  Brett and I discussed the more natural hair that was showing up with each cut. My hair became the joke of 50 shades of whatever! For over a month only the top had any color on it and the sides/back were just me.  Then came the final cut!!! I was terrified.  I had used the last bit of color and longer strands to help hide the silver that was glistening near my face.  Today marks the 2 week mark.  You would think I would be use to it by now but it is still a shock to me and I'm not sure if I will keep it natural.  Yes, I know everyone will absolutely know I color my hair if I go back but who cares, not me. 
This is what I have realized over the past year and a half.  I have given too much thought over this! It has been the subject of way too many conversations.  A few moments of stress.  In the end, it's just hair and it's OK whatever I decide. I will be turning 45 this Summer which has been a realization of its own.  I often say, I am half way to dead.  People give me a look or a comment. But the reality is -  more than likely that I have lived half my life. This has also been a source of thought about the "hair process".  Is it time to look "my age"?  Is it time to take on the look for the next part of my life? Or do I be the rebel my family has reminds me of on a regular basis of being like Maw, my great-great grandmother, who passed away when I was 16, always had her hair colored red - even had a touch up job after her death before the funeral to make sure it was presentable in Maw fashion!
That's it.  That's my journey over the past months in regard to the most important thing in my life, my hair - NOT!!!! At least no one can ever accuse me of having the same style for a lifetime....

March 2013

May 2013

July 2013

September 2013
December 2013
February 2014

Monday, January 13, 2014

2014 word of choice - Replenish


verb \ri-ˈple-nish\
: to fill or build up (something) again
Full Definition of REPLENISH
transitive verb
a :  to fill with persons or animals :  stock
b archaic :  to supply fully :  perfect
c :  to fill with inspiration or power :  nourish
a :  to fill or build up again 
b :  to make good :  replace
intransitive verb
:  to become full :  fill up again
I keep thinking this is a most interesting word choice for me or maybe anyone really.  As I searched, thought and prayed of a word of focus for 2014 - I was constantly reminded if I am empty I cannot serve.  That with each day of life we (I) must find time to replenish. 
Back in the fall, Tommy and I really began to notice how I needed to be replenished.  That I had given and went as much as I could but that it was beginning to take its toll on me (spiritually, emotionally and physically) By not taking the time to fill up again, or be filled with inspiration - that I could not help to replenish others.

Some of the ways I hope to replenish this year:
Through new relationships
Renewing relationships
Spending time in silence, laughter, and prayer
Creating a prayer path with a friend
Stepping away from things that suck the life out of me
Getting involved in something outside of my work

I see small group, communal meals, time on the farm, time of giving on my horizon...


My Year of Love

Love was my word of focus in 2013.  It was the first time for me to choose a word to focus on for an entire year.  This for me was in place of resolutions that seem to evaporate from our mind not long after we think of them or write them down.  So I took the challenge and focused on one word.  The word I chose seems to be used and thrown about as easy as taking a breath.  But what I found out was this.....

Love is an action verb.  Love is a noun - (no judgement from all my English literary friends)

I learned that when I read scripture focused on love it is...
           hard to judge
                  difficult to stay angry
                           not important to always be right
                                       easier to forgive
                                               sometimes challenging
                                                           involves grace
                                                                           sharing the journey
                                                                                       opening new doors and closing others

One of my challenges that I hoped would resolve itself in the past year was my frustration and sometimes unwillingness to "love others" who reminded me of my old self.  You see the old Rhondell was mainly the opposite of the things listed above.  Not to say that I get it right every day, every minute now but I'm so thankful that God continues to help me remove my old layers of selfishness, judgement, pride, and ego to be emptied and able to be filled with LOVE.

Before you read this and think I have it all together, let me be the first to tell you I don't.  What I have learned over the years and especially last year is that each day I (we) are given the opportunity to love.  To love someone. To love something. To love somewhere. To love ourselves.

To love and to be loved doesn't mean your life is with out problems or complications.  But to know the eternal love, the love of peace and understanding is to know that love never fails.

So as I say farewell to my word of 2013 and look forward to what my word of 2014 teaches me, I hope you enjoy love!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Be a voice, not an echo

Life seems to be passing by quickly the past few months, well make that years.  I've thought for weeks about some thoughts I would like to get down on paper.
Today the most looming is the US Government and the lack of reality between those we vote in to office and those of us who do not commute to Washington on a daily basis. I was listening to NPR the other day and for a moment thought of my own voting choices over the years.  I can honestly say I have been a registered voter of all parties. Before you jump to any conclusion on that let me say the first choice was the family choice. Then came the rebellious choice and now I make my own choice!  I also realize as I look back over my adult years how my views on life, politics, and faith have evolved. I get confused and concerned when I hear people say, " It's how I've been my whole life". You see, I can't see where we are to stay the same our whole life.  When asked an opinion I am quick to preface it with - today I believe... I realize to some they think I just go with a fad or the popular choice but I do not.  For anyone who has known me for any time at all you know I speak my mind. Right, wrong and indifferent.

As I read, discuss, pray, live and repeat those steps- I evolve.  I grow.  I learn.  My viewpoints change.  My actions change.  I learn more about myself when I am a part of peoples lives who are not just like me. When dealing in the political realm you don't seem to see this happen.  Politicians draw party lines. They spew hateful words, twist facts to suit their taste, and vote on bills that effect all of us and sometimes not them.  How are we as people to have our voice heard?  We must call. We must email.  We must reach out to those from our states who are in congress voting for "us".  I was once told by a Congresswoman that 4 calls from her state can make a difference in how she votes.

So today, we the people, set and wait.  What are we waiting for? However you feel today about the possible shutdown you need to make your voice be heard.  We have no right to complain when we do not make our voice heard.

Be a voice, not an echo!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

More than a day

I began this post on Valentine's Day - I will try to finish it today.

Today is Valentine's Day.  A day that many couples celebrate in an over-the-top kinda day.  A day that some celebrate as a family.  A day that some like myself really don't celebrate at all.  Why, don't I celebrate?  I've been asked this many times through the years. And my answer remains the same, "Love should be celebrated everyday not just one day of the year".
I've thought for several days about what I would write today.
Thoughts of Love: Simple love, Difficult love, Everlasting love, Friendship love, and Relational love

Simple Love...I'm still trying to figure out how anything about love is simple.  I've boiled it down to all the things we say we "love".We will say we love certain foods, drinks, books, movies, places, items of clothing...will you get the picture.

Difficult Love...Abuse. Broken families. Addiction. Broken relationships. The journey for many in our society. Forgiveness, restoration, healing, and trust are part of this type of love.

Everlasting Love...This love I have known since I was 7 years old but continue to learn and grow more in this love each day. A love that is extended to everyone.  A love that requires us to have faith in someone we cannot physically see as an individual but see Him in others, in creation, and can feel His presence in our lives.

Friendship Love...Childhood friendships are beautiful memories.  Sometimes we are fortunate that those same friendships grow up with us and are a part of our lives forever and sometimes they are just a memory.  When I think about it, it doesn't really matter the age of the person when we love that special friend. Friendships are sometimes for a lifetime, some are seasonal but they are all a wonderful part of our life and I can't imagine life without the love of friends.

Relational Love...This love is beautiful and comes from the everlasting love.  The creation of humanity, the creation of relationships, all come from God's love.  This love grows each day, should be at the forefront of our thoughts.  I saw a poster the other day that said, Love is not the person you can live with but the person you cannot live without. This love is not always easy and it can have some rough patches along the way but it is beautiful and worth the "work" that goes into it - that protects it.

The words above were written on February 14, 2013 but stored in a draft to get back to and finish. As life happens days turned in to months and I vowed to finish the post today.

Since my word for the year is love, I continue to look at love, live in love and long to love. So far in 2013, I have experienced love these ways -  in our family as our son was married two months ago today; Tommy and I celebrated 26 years of marriage; a friend who has fallen in love; the pain of losing love for a few other family members; the loss of a loved one for friends and family... the list could go on.  A lesson in love is a lesson in life.  It is ever-changing.

Today, I am thankful I am loved.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A list

A friend of mine and fellow blogger, Kris Bridgman, shared her list today and asked others to copy/paste and share their own list.  I went with the first thing that came to my mind.  

I am:  a bit sassy, hardheaded, and passionate
I think: about the future, a lot
I want:  people to truly live life not just walk through it
I have:  a loving husband, son, family and friends
I dislike: when people (including myself) think we know what is best for everyone else, or that we completly understand their situation
I miss:  the snow, seeing my son on a regular basis
I fear:  for my son 
I feel:  happy and sad at the same time sometimes
I hear: my husband singing upstairs in his studio, the fan of the furnace
I smell: not much today

I crave:  mexican food, a good cup of hot tea
I search:  for answers and solutions
I wonder:  how old I will be when I become a grandmother
I regret:  not staying in shape
I love:  to cook, and to share a meal with friends, to laugh, read and garden
I care:  about the homeless, the loss of empathy and compassion in our communities
I am always:  planning ahead
I worry:  about overscheduling and just going through the motions of life
I remember: Sunday afternoons at my grandparents houses, hiking the mountain behind Mama's house with my cousins
I sing:  all the time
I argue:  to be a voice for the unheard and sometimes because I'm grouchy
I write:  to decompress
I lose:  ink pens
I wish:  I could travel more often to see friends and experience new places
I listen:  sometimes...this is a continual work in progress for me.  To listen to God and others is important to me
I don't understand:  why so many don't act like they care about anyone but themselves, why 18,000 children die from hunger and other issues each day, why human trafficking and fair trade issues aren't important to more people
I can usually be found:  at work, at Spencer's, or home reading
I am scared:  of needing my valve replaced sometime and having cancer someday
I need:  more patience
I forget:  who I use to be and how far God has brought me

I am happy:  having conversations with my husband, son, family, friends, strangers ( I guess that means I like to talk, still working on the listening side). Hiking. Sharing with others. 

Now it's your turn.  Make your own list and let me know so I can come read yours.  And remember, don't spend too much time thinking about it.  Usually what first comes to mind is what you need to write. Don't worry about sounding goofy, or nonspiritual, or whatever. . .we are all a work in progress;)