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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"H" is for hope...

You smell smoke in the air.  You hear metal scraping against metal as the wind blows against debris.  You see miles of broken homes, torn trees, and devastated businesses.    You feel your heart sink when everything comes into focus.   It seems never ending, and impossible.  Where do you start?  I found this thick chunk of plastic with the letter "H" in my yard.  So I will start with putting my hope in the one who can heal.  My hope is with Jesus.
Seeing it on the computer and in the news does nothing to prepare you for the experience of witnessing the disaster area for the first time.  Yesterday evening, after Kael was asleep and our house was quiet, I asked Sam if he could watch Caleb so I could take a little run.  I felt nervous energy that needed to be worked out.  He understood completely and happily volunteered.  I headed West on 13th and you can’t avoid the damage path.  It starts about 100 feet from our house where our neighbors have blue tarp covering their roof.  You see the roofs and the collapsed garages, an overturned storage building.  Garbage everywhere, tree limbs and trees upturned.  The further down 13th I got the worse the damage.
I headed toward Range Line and prepared myself for what I would see…that is silly now, because how do you prepare for this?  I don’t think you can.  I cried as I ran, I tried not to because I didn’t want to alarm anyone.   But I think most people understood.  Bent metal, twisted wreckage, shattered wood, broken plastic, shredded insulation, torn paper, socks, shoes, toys, everything everywhere.  Everything everywhere…so much, everywhere.
When my house gets really messy I like to start cleaning in one corner of the room so I don’t get distracted.  I like to clean as efficiently as possible so as not to waste time by losing focus.  I start in the corner and work my way out until it is done.  I work quickly and deliberately…I look at this place and realize this is not a quick fix.  This is going to take years.
Today I accounted for the last of my customers.  I drove to their home because I knew that their home was located in an area that would have been directly affected.  I found their street thank you to the small new street signs that are placed at each corner.  I drove up to their house which was a mangled mess and George, my customer, was standing in his driveway making a list.  He showed me around his house…what was left of it.  They had just paid $250 to open their pool.  You can’t see the pool from under the mounds of junk.  Well, not junk, junk now, but it is people’s stuff, people’s houses, belongings, treasures.  He told me how he was famous because he took refuge in his truck under the drive through “pick up" zone at Home Depot.  “Not too smart,” he told me.  The tornado was trying to pick his truck up but a metal pole fell across it and held it down.  The windows broke out and debris pelted his head and body.  He held his head and ears trying to protect himself.  His arms are all beat up with cuts and scratches.  But George is grateful, grateful to be alive.
I stood there with him when his wife Carolyn came home.  She was on the phone with the insurance agent and you could tell it was a very frustrating conversation.  She covered her face with her hand several times and did her best to hold it together as she got the run around.  They are so confused and are being told different things.  First they were told to save everything they could.  So they filled up three storage units with their belongings.  Carolyn told me now that she is thinking straight everything was wet, and she told them it was wet, and it is hot, so now she is concerned with mold.  They have to make lists of everything they owned, the date they purchased it, and how much they purchased it for.  Shirts, lamps, dishes, chairs, you name it, they lost it!  They survived and now they have to go to work piecing their lives back together.  They don’t get to grieve, they don’t get to recover, and they have to work.  Nothing will ever be the same; some things you can’t replace.
I gave sweet Carolyn a hug.  I didn’t want to leave them there.  The insurance adjustor arrived just as I was leaving.  Please pray for them that God will give them tremendous favor and bless them beyond their imagination.
When I was walking through my yard a piece of paper caught my eye.  It was small about 3 by 4 inches, but it stood out amongst the debris.  It was three pages of Luke chapters 6-8 from a pocket Bible.
Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.  And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.  If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.  Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;  give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. Luke 6:30-38
I encourage you to read Luke chapters 6-8.  I feel blessed to have found this and will save it. 
I feel so blessed, and so sad, all at the same time.  I was on the phone with my boss today when I drove down Range Line and I burst into sobs.  He didn’t know what to do about this, so he did his best to console me.  It breaks your heart.  It is awful and incredible.  Pray for Joplin and its Joplers.
If you feel led to send support our church is supporting over a hundred volunteers, feeding them three meals a day and providing a place to sleep and shower.  They are also supporting the community with food and necessities through our We Care facility.  They are doing so much it makes me so grateful to be a part of their body.  You can mail any offerings to Abundant Life Christian Center 6863 E Newman Road, Joplin, MO 64801.  Or find them on the web at:
Much love and blessings!
Xoxo

Ronda

Monday, May 30, 2011

Such a happy place to be...


I don’t know where to start.  What a journey!  What a day!  What a time to be alive and to do something useful! My first order of business upon arriving home was to hug Kael.  CHECK!  He saw me and his little squishy face lit up and I got some great hugs and precious kisses.  I didn’t get to see Sam until about 4:45pm because he had to drive someplace far away for work so they could bring more cars back to the dealership.  Hugs and kisses for Sam…CHECK!  My arms fit so good around his neck, such a happy place to be.
These two weeks I have been gone feel like ages, my trip was a little longer than I expected by a week.  A week ago the tornado changed our town and our lives; I am still trying to prepare myself for how different everything will be.  I feel very nervous when I think about it…so right now I choose not to think about it.  I have only seen our house with garbage strewn about.  Insulation coats our roof, and some of the roofing is slightly blown up.  There are sheets of metal wrapped around trees in the field across the street, but other than the metal and the litter you would think everything was normal.
I loved reading Sunday with Sam yesterday.  I went through a range of emotions as I read it, a little irritation (“GET IN THE CLOSET!”), a little frustration (‘You felt like a sitting duck so you decided to drive???’), a little understanding (‘I guess you didn't know what actually just took place’).  Watching the video was hard on me, I raised my voice at Sam several times in the video and had to remind myself that he had no clue what had truly just taken place and he also had Kael with him so he was limited with what he could do.  I am grateful to both Sam and Colby for taking the time to document their experience.  Hard to read and watch, but I am sure the experience in person was a lot more intense.  I am back home now and just so grateful to have a home, and most grateful to have little squishy cheeks to kiss (Kael), and a strong neck to wrap my arms around (Sam).
Caleb and I flew into Kansas City at 5:20pm yesterday.  The blessings for me started when we arrived at the airport.  My wonderful sister Robin volunteered to drive around with Caleb while I checked my ridiculously heavy bags (filled with clothes from Shane’s closet to donate…more blessings).  Honestly I couldn’t have done it without her.  The line was 35 people long and it was moving slow.  I would have been pulling my hair out if I had to guard four bags and a carseat and corral Caleb.  When I FINALLY got up to the counter I asked if I could purchase the extended seating for more leg room.  The man from Frontier Airlines was looking at my driver’s license when I asked this and realized I was from Joplin.  He looked up and said “You have been through a lot…I can extend it at no charge and I will put you in a seat that has no one next to it, so you and baby can have some room.”  !!!  Yes those are exclamations in the middle of nowhere, because his gesture of goodwill was a HUGE blessing.
Robin came around with Caleb and the man at the counter had already told me to just bring the carseat up when I came back in, he had a tag ready for it and made it super easy on me.  Security was a breeze, they were so helpful and took the laptop out of the bag for me and then repacked it which was no easy task because I packed that thing like Jenga!  I got to board the plane early, so Caleb and I prayed as the plane filled with people.  We were sitting at the front where the higher priced seats are and I knew what people were thinking when they saw me trying to tame my toddler who was in the middle of his “I am two, who are you?” act.  So we PRAYED.  I said, “Caleb are you ready to pray?” “Okay,” he replied.
“Dear Jesus, keep us safe.  Watch over Daddy, and Kael, and Grandpa, and Grandma, and Auntie, and Uncle, and Maddie, and let Caleb sleep the whole flight. AMEN!”
And Caleb said “AMEN!” So I knew we were in agreement.  I proceeded to tell him that amen means “let it be,” and that this was now our deal.  This is a true story…His eyes closed as the engines roared and he was asleep by the time the wheels left the ground.  Three hours later I had to wake him up when the wheels touched the ground.  PRAISE GOD!  People around me were pretty impressed.  I told them that it was because we prayed about it.
It was 88 degrees in Kansas City when we landed, very different from the 55 degrees in Seattle.  Grandpa picked us up and took us back to the farm where we visited for a while and then we enjoyed some leftovers.  I like leftovers, you get to have a little of everything.  We don’t do a lot of leftovers at our house, I usually make just as much as we eat.  Caleb ate like it was going out of style.  I don’t know where he put it all!  He must have been hungry from sleeping so long; exhausting work sleeping.
After we enjoyed dinner we went outside with Grandpa and played.  Caleb is Caleb Conrad and this is his Great Grandpa Conrad who he is named after.
They swung on the swing.
They dug a hole.
They looked at Grandpa's garden.
YUM!!!
Grandma got in on the fun this morning and they had a good laugh before we said “good bye.”
Caleb said “good bye” to corky.
And he was ready to hit the road...
And off we went to pick Colby up from the airport and start the 3 hour trek home.
Today I took it easy.  I enjoyed my family.  Tomorrow I will go work and venture out into my new world.
God, I know you have a plan for me.  I believe that you are guiding me because I am doing my best to put you in control of my life.  I am trying to live a life that you would be proud of, that you can use.  I pray that you will give me all the strength and compassion I need.  I pray that you will give me many opportunities to serve the people and help heal the wounded hearts of my Joplers.  I will move my feet and open my arms.  Put me in the right place at the right time and give me eyes to see the opportunities that you are placing in front of me.  Thank you Jesus, thank you father, thank you for your love for me.  AMEN!
It’s time to get out in the field, and either plant, water, or harvest…Let’s get to it.
Xoxo

Ronda

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday with Sam: Any given Sunday...


Isn't it amazing how life can change in an instant?  Home, job, family…life.  Last Sunday, Colby and I ate lunch at the church for a Spaghetti fundraiser put on to support an upcoming mission trip.  After lunch we took Kael and headed over to Wal-Mart to get a fan for Colby and some anti-freeze for his Jetta.  It was about 3pm when we left Wal-Mart.  It was sunny and a bit too warm to be comfortable, and I remember this because Colby and I were talking about how hot it was going to be in a month or two.

When we got home, I put Kael down for a nap and Colby and I sat with my guitar and worked on a song that I had been writing not realizing that the weather was starting to change.  In fact, neither of us noticed anything until I went to get Kael up from his nap when I looked out the window and saw that the sky had become very grey and it was starting to rain.  I mentioned this to Colby, that the weather sure had changed awfully fast.  By the time he got to the window it started to hail.

Of course, Colby grabbed his video camera and headed outside.  So I sat Kael down on the couch and followed him out the front door, that’s when I was met with the sound of tornado sirens. After a few quick moments of scanning the sky for a funnel cloud with no luck, we started to hear what sounded like thunder; continuous thunder that wouldn't end.  Many later described the sound as if it were an enormous freight train in your ear.  That's a pretty accurate description.  We shuffled inside and got into the closet under our stairs.  It’s the lowest most interior spot in our house, and I figured it would have to do.  If you watch the video that Ronda posted yesterday we were all very calm including Kael.  We knew we had experienced a tornado, since there was "stuff" hitting the house and we could hear it pass by.  The wind was strong when we went into the house and if I had to guess I'd say about 40 miles per hour with gusts up to 60.  Sounds like a half descent wind storm in Washington, but from what I could see and hear, the winds must have tripled for about 30 seconds or so.

Once the wind calmed down we decided we should try to get out of there.  I kind of felt like a sitting duck and Colby agreed.  So Colby, Kael, and I (with his video camera) got in the pathfinder and headed out.  We turned right from my driveway and we saw debris everywhere; in the street and in the yard.  Across the street from our house there was a boat about 20 feet up in a tree.  Within 2 blocks of our place there were trees down and roads blocked, shingles and siding ripped off of houses, and trees lying on top of roofs.  There seemed to be only one turn available to us at every 4 way intersection due to trees blocking and cars stopped in the middle of the road, and before we knew it we were coming up behind Wal-Mart where we had been maybe 3 hours before.  Wal-Mart is less than 2 miles from my house and with every block from my house to this retail Giant the destruction grew worse and worse.

I'd now like to take a moment to remind everyone that when we left our house, we had no idea how bad the damage would be, how far away the damage would extend, or in what direction we should drive to avoid the carnage.  We accidentally found ourselves driving the entire path of the tornado over the next couple hours.  Roads were blocked and police diverted us, power lines prohibited intersections.  We never set out to get the footage on camera that we got.  My 3 year old son was in the back of my vehicle the whole time and getting him somewhere safe and comfortable was my top priority.

I put my vehicle in 4 wheel drive over and over again.  We drove through yards, ditches, curbs, and even across a football field to keep from getting stuck in traffic with no way out.  I cannot begin to explain the chaos and confusion for everyone, including myself.  I think I kept a cool head, but we just kept driving with no real destination except out!  The tornado was so wide, almost a mile, and it seemed there was no end to the devastation.



We finally got far enough West to find a gas station that was still standing, and had power, which was good because the gas light had been on for nearly 30 minutes of driving 0 to 5 miles an hour.  It was a close call.  Of course by this time Kael was getting a bit tired of being in his carseat so I took him out for some fresh air while the pathfinder was filling up.  I guess Kael had some sour milk or something and before I knew it he was puking chocolate milk and spaghetti all over both of us.  ‘Seriously!  This is the worst possible timing,’ I thought to myself.  The people parked behind me sure got an eyeful while waiting for my spot in front of the gas pump, but they were so nice and even offered some napkins.  Sidebar:  I always try to keep a pack of wipes and some diapers stashed in my car just in case of emergency, and it paid off that day for sure.  Mobile changing station, oh yeah.

After cleaning up Kael, I threw away his clothes in the gas station trash can and with a 3 second pause, proceeded to throw my shirt away as well.  When Colby got back in the car and I explained what happened he literally gave me the shirt off his back.  Of course he was doubled up on t-shirts that day but I still appreciate the gesture.

After pulling out of the gas station I turned into the bank parking lot next door and realized, I had no plan, a naked toddler, and no idea if I would be able to get back home.   I began trying to make a few phone calls to arrange for someone to take Kael for a couple of hours or maybe more.  Colby and I were so overwhelmed by what we had seen and knew that we should be out searching houses/wood piles, or overturned cars for survivors.  I made arrangement to take Kael to Carthage to Bryan and Tina's house and heard from her that we could get there if we went the long way around Joplin.

On the way to the highway was the 7th Street Wal-Mart (one on the Northeast side of Joplin), so we popped in for a quick $160 spending spree for steel toed boots, gloves, flashlights, diapers, wipes, 2 changes of clothes for Kael, a new shirt, new pair of jeans, new socks for me, and some bottled water.  I'm sure it sounds excessive now, but we expected to be out for hours and hours helping with the search and rescue, and I didn't know if I could get back home if I tried.

By the time I got to Tina's house, it was about 10pm.  We dropped off Kael, who was feeling better now and fast asleep, and headed back for Joplin to see how we could pitch in.  We must have drove through the rubble zone two or three times trying to hook up with volunteer groups and get our hands dirty, but unfortunately disorganization won.  We even went to the "Command Center" as announced by N.P.R. news radio and were turned away.  I met up with my boss at around midnight and he said they had been all over desperately looking for somewhere to lend a hand but were turned down over and over.  Just then, a police officer yelled at my boss and asked him if he knew a way to get across town. My boss, Duce Lett, who was on his 4-wheeler said that he did, the cop asked him to lead some guy in a pickup across town to drop off a body that he had in the back of his truck.  I realize that this may seem morbid, but this happened right in front of me like a normal conversation, almost like someone flagging you down to ask directions to the nearest grocery or something. 

Around 1am we headed back to Carthage to get Kael and if possible make our way home, and if not, our backup plan was to just hit the freeway and go visit Grandma in Kansas City.  We did in fact make it home and although the power was out and there was a potential for more storms, I was beat.  So I slept with my window open that way I could hear sirens if they came back on.

We later learned that the storm was headed straight for our house and after hitting Wal-Mart and Home Depot (many lives lost), it was still growing stronger as it came right for us.  Approximately 6 blocks from our house, it started to turn and ended up missing us by less than 700 yards.  If you drive 2 streets over from my house there is incredible damage.  If you drive 4 streets over, there is nothing there anymore.  Houses disappeared, vehicles launched hundreds of feet, trees pulled right out of the ground and carried for blocks.  The new car manager for my dealership hid with his wife and son and another couple in their bathroom and when it was over he opened the bathroom door only to realize that all the walls of his house were gone except the bathroom walls.  Praise God!

It doesn't take long to realize what is really important to you when something like this happens.  I left my house that day with the most important things intact, our lives.  My son Kael, and my friend Colby and I survived. I am so thankful for God's provision for me and my family.  I know that it was hard on Ronda to be in Washington while all of this was going on, but I'm glad for her sake and my sanity that she was.  This town will never be the same, and I can only hope that Joplin rebuilds better and stronger.  Oh and that we don't have another tornado like this ever again.

In closing, I want to let everyone know that the relief effort here has been astounding.  Thousands of people from Joplin and thousands more from nowhere near Joplin have been here every day since Sunday to lend a hand.  Not just Paramedics and extra Policemen, but citizens from all over the state are loading up trailers of water and food and bringing chainsaws and work boots just so they can help.

The reason I wrote this down is so that I could remember.  Now you should watch Colby’s video and experience this journey with us.  His story is detailed in video called "Joplin Tornado Chronicles", there are 5 parts.

Tornado Cronicles, Our Story

Someday my son will watch the videos and read this account and know that there is a God, and that He was watching out for us that day.   If you are looking, you will find God in everything, even in a Tornado.

Sam

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wakeup call

Oh God!  I praise you and thank you.  Holy is your name.  Your creation groans and moves beneath us.  Thank you for reminding us that we are yours and there is meaning and purpose and a job to be done.  Give us insight and stamina.  Provide for the needs of your people.  Thank you!
I serve such an amazing God.  Ah, I love him so much.  I could bust out into song right now; a love song to my savior because He brought me so far!
I am anxious.  I feel eager to get home, to see Sam and Kael and hug and squeeze them and cover them with kisses.  When your world comes a quarter mile from ending it really gives you a huge wake up call.  I am so grateful in this instance for a wakeup call and not an object lesson.
Sam is going to be writing about his ordeal in Sunday with Sam.  Colby made a 5 part video that you can find here:  
I mentioned I was anxious…yes, I am.  I definitely am.  The Bible tells me in Philippians to be anxious for nothing.  I guess I should pray that the Lord will bring me peace.  It helps to remember this early on and give it over to him; spares so much headache, heartache, and worry.
“Lord, please bring me peace.” 
I have these feelings because I don’t like change.  I like things to be as I remembered them, I like to eat the same thing for breakfast every morning and have routine to my life.  I hear that so much has changed and everyone there has had an experience together that I don’t have.  I am an outsider in this regard.  That feels weird.
Everyone back home lived through this tragedy.  They have the wounds and memories, sounds, sights, smells.  And then there are all the new faces of people coming from all over to help.  Faces that I have never seen, people who might be there for a little while, might be there for the long haul, but lots and lots of new faces.  All taking part in an experience without me, that didn’t include me.
I don’t like all the ‘me, me, me’s’ I am reading that I am writing…’goodness Ronda, think about someone else for a change!’
Forgive me for this boo hoo blog.  I think it helps to put this all out there as I prepare to go back home and see that everything is different and everyone has already had the emotions that I am going to go through.  Anxious…yep, it sums it up.
I don’t know where and how I will be a help.  That makes me anxious too!  I am going to try and bring home my Kitchen Aid Mixer and my sewing machine J.  My airline is going to love me!  I was going to pack them in my suitcase, and they would fit, but I think they could get damaged this way so I think I will go the tote, or box route.  I am excited to have them back and hope I can do some good with them.  Make food, sew stuff…I will think of something.
Before Sam and I left Seattle for Joplin we recorded this song.  It was in my Mom’s car that she blessed me with by letting me use it while I was here visiting.  I popped it in the CD player and listened to it several times. This song was a gift He gave to us (Sam and me).  We needed it.  When we wrote this song the words flew from our minds and finger tips right onto the paper and the melody and harmonies were easy and unplanned. It was a message, a wakeup call for us that we can get so comfortable in our day to day that we become unaware.  AWAKE MY SOUL!
I am ready to be home, but scared of what I will find, and nervous that I will be an outsider.
Man, even reading this I want to turn to myself and say ‘get over yourself, self!’  Oh Lord, you are teaching me even now.  Thank you.
Xoxo
Ronda

PS, blogger is aware of the comment posting issue and they are working on it.  Don't let that stop you from saying "hi" via facebook.  I love to hear from you.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Penny for your thoughts...

I hear that comments are not working and I don’t know why but I am looking into it.  That hasn’t stopped many of you from sending me comments or messages via text, facebook, or email, or just plain up giving me a phone call.  I am so grateful for so many wonderful friends and readers.
I just got off the phone with the President of Liberty Bank Joplin, and he said that I could get access to the bank on Tuesday, but that it won’t be open until the 13th and that is still left to be seen.  He said the bank didn’t experience as much physical damage as it did water damage.  He said there was 3-4 inches standing water in parts of the bank that had leaked through the damaged ceiling and walls, but our old gal (the bank) is in pretty good shape considering.  I have seen pictures of the businesses surrounding Liberty and all I can say is wow.
I know of three other ladies, LaDonna, Mrs. Judy (Pastor’s wife) and my good friend Danielle who were all away like me when the tornado struck.  As I follow them on facebook I prepare myself for the shock I will experience when I see the devastation first hand.
I feel very grateful.  The reason I feel grateful is because I prayed that God would not give me more than I could handle.  So He got me a cheap plane ticket to Washington, he protected my husband and my little boy, and he bolstered me with family and friends.  I think He knew that if I had been there I might have not wanted to be there anymore, but that is where He has called me.
I have wanted to write about a special friend of mine for quite a while, and I think today is the perfect day.  This is the story of Pernicious Penny and her journey to becoming my Precious Penny.
My lovely sister Robin and our Precious Penny!
Once upon a time back in 2006, I was blessed with the opportunity to lead the Junior High Youth Group at Machias Community Church.  Some would call this blessing a burden, but it brought immeasurable joy and growth to my life that is beyond anything I could have imagined and I am so grateful to each and every little stinker…eh hem…correction…little blessing that crossed my path during those few years.
I remember the first time I was getting gradually introduced to the group.  We met at the current youth pastor’s house Pastor Chris and Tammy Immer, who were getting ready to go to pastor a church up in Lummi Island (they didn’t know this yet, but it was in the works).  That first night I met Penny.  Her name is actually Persephanie, but she likes to be called Penny, and Sam to bug her calls her Percy, which she definitely doesn’t like.  Ah Penny, she hit me like a freight train that night with her ENERGY (yes, all caps is appropriate) and the speed with which words flew out of her mouth was truly remarkable.
At first Penny was very nice, maybe because I was new, but the tides quickly turned when she learned I was going to be leading the JH group.  Whew, did it ever turn.  She was nasty, biting, a gossip, harsh, cold, pressing…she did everything she could to push me away and was very loud about it.   Other girls in the youth group would say, “You know, Persephanie doesn’t like you.”   Well, duh!  She would push me away until I would stop reaching out and then would reach out until I reached in…It was an exhausting vicious cycle.
In 2007 we had our winter camp up in the mountains at Camp Jubilee, and for me it was anything but a jubilee, at least at the beginning.  I remember this moment so clearly.  I was by a little hill while Persephanie, Emily, Emma, and Lindsay were sledding (at least I think that is who was there, ok, so I guess I don’t remember it THAT clearly).  I do remember that at the very least Persephanie was definitely there.  I remember that she said something hateful to me and stomped away…this was the straw that broke my silence.
“Are you a Christian?” I called after her.
She swung around and with eyes narrowed she replied “Yes!” in the most non-Christian, snot faced tone you could imagine.  It was laced with anger and hurt and was spat out of her mouth instead of spoke out.
“You don’t act like it.” I said.  I didn’t want to say this to her, but I couldn’t think of anything else.  I told her that she was making things very difficult and was being mean to me for no reason.
She didn’t say a word and turned, stomping away through the snow.  I remember thinking, ‘well, at least you tried.’
From that moment forward I experienced a different person.  She is a bundle of barely bridled energy that will knock you over with huge hugs and rib crunching squeezes, but she is a young woman who has blessed my life beyond anything I could have thought possible.  She reads all my blogs, she calls me weekly, she encourages me and loves me even when I don’t have time to give her.  She prays for me, and she holds me close, even when we are apart.
God was working in her life and he is perfecting the good work in her that he started.  He is faithful and he is her source of joy and hope and she spreads it to others around her.
When I think about Persephanie I think about a verse that back when she was one of my youth groupies I made her memorize…because they were being little stinkers and prank calling me while I was pregnant at 3am in the morning.  Don’t mess with a pregnant woman trying to get her zzz’s…she will call all your mother’s and make you memorize scripture.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.  Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage for you. Hebrews 13:17.
Be wise when you put yourself under a leadership, but then don’t be a big whiner.  Pray for them and bless them so that they can continue to be a blessing to you.  God taught me so much through Persephanie.  I am so grateful for my Penny.  I hope more of you will be a Penny to someone and bless them with care and consideration.  Call them, encourage them; build them up! Be the blessing that they need so they can keep on keeping on.
Penny and my sister-in-law Dawn at the family cookout
Oh God, let me be a blessing, not a burden!
Xoxo
Ronda

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Holding onto hope


If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him. If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear. You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security. Job 11: 13-18.

These T-shirts are being made and the proceeds donated to the disaster relief efforts by Big Fish Tees out of Springfield, Missouri.  100% of the profits are going to this cause.  You can call 1-417-869-1700 or email sales@bigfishtees.com.  Donations are being given to Convey of Hope.

In Job it also reads: For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Job 14:7

I picture all the trees that used to stand, full with spring leaves, budding with life, now cut down with bark shaved, chunks removed, branches broke...there is hope. I picture the people living life, day to day, moment to moment, now their world slows down and everything takes on new meaning.  Life is more precious, family more appreciated, each moment matters.

Oh Lord, I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and MORE! Psalms 71:14

So many things will be different, the more I think about it the more confused I feel.  But I don't stop rejoicing, because there is no confusion in his presence.  It is simple and beautiful, and clear of debris when I picture Him.  Bright light, bright hope, confident now more than ever in my calling:  LOVE.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three: but the greatest of these is love. 1st Corinthians 13:13.

Last night was a good night up at my parents house.  Caleb and I got to enjoy some Papa Ron's Pad Thai.  It was tasty, tasty, and for a moment took my mind off the world torn and turned upside down back home.  I don't remember a time in my life that I was an "emotional eater."  But these last few days I have felt constantly hungry.

Here is Dad's Pad Thai...I feel cruel even posting this but hopefully you can enjoy with your eyes...it was super yummy.

Here is Dad making the Pad Thai in his wok on the back porch...such a beautiful place to cook food.



Here is Grandpa feeding the little birdie:

Yum Yum! Chop sticks are fun.  Caleb really enjoyed being fed pineapple with them.  Then Grandpa feed him some Tofu...At first he wasn't sure about it, but then he decided it was good.


I think when you experience stress like this your body goes into survival mode like 'gotta store up, stress overload, need to make sure we have enough.' So I become a human vacuum cleaner.  Stomach crying out, brain pulled a gazillion directions, unfocused, divided, not useful for much...doing better today though.  Going to spend time with friends and family and enjoy these few extra days I got to be here in Seattle.

Looking forward to when I get to see you all face to face; much love in our Lord and savior who gives us hope in great supply.

xoxo

Ronda

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Good Samaritan

Sunday morning, before tornados, before the insanity, before the destruction that is left to be restored, was a sermon.  I posted about it in my blog on Sunday right before the tornados hit along with a link for those who wanted to hear the message I heard that spoke volumes to my heart.  Back in Washington visiting family for a week I sat at church listening to my Dad preach a sermon out of Luke chapter 10 verses 1-24.  God is at this very moment bringing me full circle and I wanted to share it with you.
The very next verse, verse 25 begins:
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"  He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live." But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise."

With all the wounded, weary, displaced, broken, robbed people of Joplin we are seeing people banding together, offering aid, extending help, pouring out love.  What I find interesting about what Jesus is saying is the ones you would have expected to help in the story pass by, in fact they go out of their way to not help and pass to the opposite side of the street.  But the Samaritan, who in that day and age were a despised people, he had compassion.
God loves it when we help each other.  He loves it when we serve selflessly instead of selfishly. 
Praising God for all the good Samaritans in Joplin.
xoxo
Ronda
As I mentioned in an earlier post here is where Kael went to daycare and would have been if the tornado hit on Saturday.



Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The twister inside...

My heart is twisting in my chest right now, frozen in a flutter.  My eyes have that weird tingly feeling where you know that tears are chomping at the bit ready to jump out of your head.  Ahhh, this hurts so bad!
I went back and forth, back and forth, stay, go, stay, go…around and around.  I finally decided to go and jumped into the shower and the whole while I prayed.  I prayed a simple prayer and it went like this:
God, help.
That was all.  That was all I could think.
God, help.
I watched a video last night, well rather, I listened to a video last night of people huddled together in the FastTrip on 20th street as the tornado passed over them…passed through them, sucked the city up around them.  They cried out to God, repeating GOD! JESUS! OH JESUS!  Not as profanity, but as those who cry out to their Father, their Savior, and he did just that.  He saved them.
As I stepped out of the shower my phone rang and I answered.  It was my dear friend Lisa.  If you read my first blog this is my friend who called me “Tiger”, who always seems to know when to call.  If I need to be encouraged, if I need to be reminded, if I need to vent…she is there.  I have many friends in Joplin like this, but on the other line this morning it was Lisa.  “You have to stay there” is what she told me.  “As much as I want you here, you need to stay there.”
So with the twister still raging inside me, churning my insides, I finalized the details of my return flight next Sunday.
Our lives were changed forever when we made the cross-country move to Joplin last July.  We love these people.  Their lives are changed forever.
Oh God, help.
Sam will either stay up at Grandma and Grandpa’s for a few days with Kael, or with friends who have basements and storm shelters.  That gives me a great deal of peace.
Praying for strength, energy, support, peace and safety for everyone there, see you Sunday.
Love,
Ronda

Monday, May 23, 2011

Do I stay or do I go...

Right now I stand on the fence unsure of what to do.  My flight is scheduled to depart at 4pm tomorrow to take Caleb and me back to Kansas City, Missouri, to my husband Sam and 3 year old Kael and our broken Joplin.  But, I could stay here in Washington another week and ride out the storms.  My heart strings are pulling me back there, but instincts say wait.
It is so hard to know what to do when you are so conflicted.  This trip was such a wonderful break with family, friends, dinners, coffees, shopping…and then eeeeerch!  Forward motion halted when I got the call from Sam.  His voice so calm, what else would I expect he is not usually bothered by much; “Honey, we are in a tornado.  There are debris in the yard and a boat in the tree.  But we are ok.”  My response, “ok, love you.”  His, “Ok, talk to you soon.”  Then I flipped open my computer and started to realize what actually was taking place back in Joplin, where so many people I love were facing “up the hinny of a tornado” as Pastor Bryan, our youth pastor, tenderly put it.
I think about Kael and that if the tornado had hit on Saturday he would have been here…

Here is Kael just the day before, when things were peaceful and the destruction that you see in the above picture was this beautiful grass.
And Sam would have been at the dealership, which is now destroyed.
I praise God that by his grace our nanny Missy, her husband and their children are ok.  They have no home, but they have each other and their unwavering faith in God. The picture you see above was their apartment.  They lived on the second floor which is no longer there at all.  They praise Him through this crisis.  They are in a motel now, plans unsure, but they are alive.  Sam told me that he talked to Sebastian, Missy’s husband, and they huddled in their neighbor’s first story apartment, lying on top of the children, while they were pounded by debris.  After the tornado passed, Sebastian pulled five people out of the rubble.  I read on Sebastians facebook page that a neighbor searched desperately for his son who had text that he was buried, but they haven't been able to find him.
Colby, Sam, and Kael huddled in the closet in the center of our house.  Luckily we were blessed that all we got was debris.  But it is debris from our neighbors’ homes, and from our city.  I just watched the news and saw the aerial footage.  The devastation is astounding.  I am so grateful that it was Sam there and not me; if Sam had been here in Seattle and me there in Joplin the conversation would have been very different and probably would have included a lot of LOUD words.
Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.  Pray for Missy, Sebastian and their four children, and all the people in Joplin whose lives are changed forever.
Xoxo

Ronda

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tornado

When the world turns upside down where do you turn?  Tonight my world turned upside down when a mile wide tornado rolled through Joplin, Missouri, while I sat over 2000 miles away in Seattle.  My family is safe; praise GOD!  But, there is so much destruction and devastation my heart is torn.  I see pictures and videos that make my insides churn when I remember what that neighborhood looked like last week when I drove through it, but is now just a pile of twigs.  Our nanny, Missy and her family no longer have a home.  Our good friends Rob and Blythe lost their business.  The dealership where Sam works doesn’t have any cars to sell anymore.  People are trapped, people are displaced, people are dead, and confusion clouds the area.
The song that keeps repeating over and over in my mind is “I will praise you through the storm.”
Oh God!  You see this.  I praise you and thank you for keeping my family safe.  I pray for angels to be sent to all those who are trapped and scared tonight; those who are in pain.  Comfort those who can’t find or reach loved ones.  Give wisdom, direction, and energy to all those who are helping clear away rubble and save people.  I pray that you hold back anymore storms and bring the light quickly in the morning so that more can be found.  Supply the needs of these people.  Bring aid!  Send help!  In this tragedy, draw us near.
I have talked to Sam and I believe that he is going to the house of some friends of ours who have a basement.  Our house does not have a place to go in a tornado.  I am barely able to talk with him.  He told me that many are lost and he sounded very shaken (no doubt).  Then to top it off Kael got sick and puked all over him.  Please keep Joplin in your prayers.  I will try to keep everyone up to date as I learn more.


Picture provided by my friend Danielle via ???
When the world turns upside down, turn to God.


Pictures borrowed from my our Youth Leader Bryan Joslyn's facebook.