Challenge Me…

I woke up this morning and realized something. It’s almost August.


In all practicality, that means the last month of summer. Not by the calendar, of course, but by the academic calendar, which I have lived by for years—first as a student, then a teacher and parent. Because of that, August almost always feels like the end of something. This year, I decided to make it the beginning of something. Something new.

Something I’ll introduce here. In August, I’ll be starting—Da da da dum (imagine drumroll here)—


Journal, pen, and Bible with the words “Writing Life Challenge” and hashtag #writinglifeaugustchallenge overlaid atop of them

The Writing Life Challenge will be a community of people dedicated to encouraging each other daily, challenging each other to grow in our faith in Jesus.

Let’s break that down.

It’ll be a community of people. That’s right. I’m hoping it’s not just me creating a challenge—I’m hoping others join in, because I believe this is one of the main elements that make for a good challenge. Let’s face it: We need people. The Bible tells us to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today'” (Hebrews 3:13). I find that belonging to a supportive group of people, either in person or online, helps me to continue on and challenges me to do more than I would on my own. There’s something about being held accountable, and about being able to cheer others on when they have victories.

That same verse also defines the purpose of the challenge: encouraging each other daily—simply encouraging each other to keep the faith. But, like I just said, it’s also about challenging each other to grow in our faith. To do things like reading God’s word. Like praying. Like spending time meditating on God’s word, or deliberately applying it in our own lives.

Interested? (I hope so!) Here are the practicalities:

  1. Beginning August 1, I’ll post a challenge each day on @rhondalorraineblog on Instagram, but I’ll also post it in a menu I’ll add to this blog under August Challenge (it’s ready! Check the blog menu). Each challenge will ask you to do something to do with your spiritual walk, like Spend 10 minutes reading your Bible (or, if this is a regular practice, spend 10 minutes more reading your Bible). I’ll do my best to keep the time required for completing the challenge to a maximum of 15 minutes a day.
  2. I’ll ask you to post a response to each challenge you complete on either the Instagram challenge post (in the comments), in the blog’s comments section under the August Challenge, or in your own Instagram post with the hashtag #writinglifeaugustchallenge. This could simply consist of telling us you did it, but on some days the challenge itself may ask you to generate specific content, like an answer to a question or a photo of something.
  3. I’ll ask you to encourage each other by responding to completed challenges—read the comments and respond! Follow the hashtag #writinglifeaugustchallenge on Instagram and like or respond to those. This is how community forms—with interaction and communication.

So what do you say—are you in? I’d love to hear from you!

Noticing & Acknowledging as an Act of Praise

About a year ago, I was sitting at the back of our church auditorium preparing to run graphics for a special worship night. If you attend a church that uses screens, you’ve seen graphics: they’re the song lyrics, Bible verses, photos, videos, or whatever else the church prepares ahead of time to put on the screens, and my job at the time was to click on the slide that contained the correct graphics to display. On that particular night, the pastor who was speaking wanted to chat about the best time to display the photos he was planning to use during his talk.

Woman in a chair sitting at a production station in the back of an auditorium

“I’m Rhonda,” I said when he approached me, as a way of introducing myself.

“I know,” he said. “We met the last time I preached.” He was right; we had met. And I hadn’t forgotten it.

I had just assumed he had forgotten me.

Do you ever do that? I often think—assume—that I am not memorable. That others won’t remember that we’ve met or spoken before. I know that this assumption, in part, grows from a belief I have always struggled against, particularly when it comes to people I admire, people in higher positions of authority, or people I look up to: I’m not important enough to notice or remember.

All of us want to be known by others, but being known begins with being noticed. Being acknowledged. Being remembered. When I was younger—and yes, sometimes even now—I struggled because I often felt forgotten, overlooked, and inferior to those around me. I was quiet and shy, afraid to approach others for fear of rejection, large or small. I saw this fear—this loneliness—in my mom too. I remember seeing someone walk away from her in the middle of a conversation when another person interrupted, and I remember the way she wrapped her arms around herself and the flustered look on her face that spoke of obvious emotional pain. I remember hurting for her because I thought I knew how she must feel: unimportant, the inferior person who was neither acknowledged nor apologized to, but was left standing there. Forgotten. Alone.

But there I was, sitting in an often “invisible” volunteer position at the church (that’s the way the position should be, since attention driven to it would likely be the result of mistakes being made), and I had been remembered. I was known—at least, my name and my volunteer position. It may seem like a small thing, but the fact that this pastor remembered me, remembered my name, was important to me. It made me feel a little bit, well, special.

If this desire is in us—a desire to be noticed, to be acknowledged, to be named by others—how much more might it be a desire of God’s?

Earlier this week, I was reading about Jesus’ crucifixion and death and puzzled over something I had never noticed before:

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” (Luke 23:44-47, NIV, emphasis mine)

My first thought upon reading this was, What an odd time to offer praise to God. A time to be afraid and for chills to run down the spine, yes—for the past three hours, it had been so dark and overcast that one author says the sun stopped shining. The man on the center cross had just been crying out, praying, and then took his last breath.

And the centurion praised God.

My second thought was, How was this praise? How was this worship? I know that the type of “praise and worship” we offer in the weekly church service is not what is usually (if ever!) meant when the Bible speaks of praise or worship, but I’ll be honest—it’s what my mind goes to first when I hear the word praise. That, or the oft-used expression, “Praise the Lord!” when God answers prayer or does something amazing. There’s nothing wrong with that type of praise, but because my mind went to that, it puzzled me when I read this. How was just proclaiming Jesus to be a “righteous man”—and, as Matthew (27:54) and Mark (15:39) tell us, “the Son of God”—considered an act of praise?

In times like these I often wish I knew the original languages used in the Bible so I could determine if something was lost in translation, but in English the word praise is a transitive verb meaning “to express a favorable judgment of” or “to glorify.” And I do think there were elements of that in the centurion’s expression; he was awed, and probably a bit fearful, by everything he had seen and heard that afternoon. But as I ruminated—and prayed—about this all week, I came to believe it was even simpler than that: This man first noticed who Jesus was—a righteous man—and then acknowledged it by proclaiming it aloud and naming him: the Son of God. And that alone—simply noticing and acknowledging God—was his act of praise.

Earlier I suggested that God, like us, desires to be noticed. In reality, it’s the other way around. God made us in his image, and the desires of our hearts that are not sinful come from him—they reflect him. Our creator, our sovereign, our savior wants first to be noticed by us. He wants us to acknowledge who he is. By doing so, we offer him our praise.

Only after noticing and acknowledging who he is can we really get to know him.

If you’ve never before considered who God really is, who Jesus really is, I hope you will consider it today. Think about it—have you ever noticed God? Have you ever acknowledged him? If you want to get to know him, offering this simple act of praise is a good place to start.

(Side note: I’m nothing if not a practical planner, so my little interaction with the pastor at my church and a few other interactions with him since then have put him on a short list of pastors who I’ve instructed my husband to approach if he needs to plan my funeral any time soon. I at least want the pastor who does it to have known my name while I was living!)

Summer & Small Struggles

When I was a kid, I spent the entire summer—which was actually three full months off of school, rather than the two plus one week-ish they have now—roaming the neighborhood with two of my friends. Summers seemed endless. Now it feels like the summer is almost gone, even though it’s only mid-July. Maybe that’s because for me May and June are over, and I’ll have to think about class planning in a couple of weeks, but I also think it has to do with how busy my kids have been.

Last week both kids went to “camps” at their school. I have no idea why these things came to be called camps, because they have nothing to do with camping—which I love and never get to do because my husband is not a nature guy. My daughter went to Craft & Sports camp in the mornings, and my son, not old enough for that camp, had two play dates with friends from school. In the afternoons, they both went to Creation Science camp. I love that my kids get to learn about the science side of creation, both from school and camps like this—I went to a public school for elementary and learned evolution as “fact,” not the theory that it is, and have always had to try to reconcile creation with science on my own. It’s so much better to learn, as my kids are learning, what other theories there are about the origins of the universe, of animals, of plants, and of people and what the Bible says and the scientific facts that support it.

Pre-teen girls in a craft cabin

This week is the last of the camp weeks—my son is at a day camp at our church, put on by the same organization that my daughter went away to camp for earlier in the summer. He sometimes gets nervous with new situations, and was nervous yesterday before I dropped him off. When I picked him up and asked him how it was, he went from “I didn’t really like it and don’t want to come back tomorrow,” to “I liked it, but I didn’t love it,” to “I loved it! I want to go to overnight camp next year!” (he’ll be old enough, but I’m not sure he’ll be ready for that quite yet). He was excited to be dropped off this morning, so we’ll see by the end of the week.

As for me? In some aspects, I seem to have stalled for the summer but I’m refusing to stop plodding along. Last week I posted about the little things that kept happening, and those little things tend to add up and seem big sometimes—things like it taking much longer to get tasks done than it should, which takes away time from things I would much rather be doing—the work I believe God has given me to do (see the three big things here, if you don’t remember or don’t know about those)—like working on my book project. My duties as a mom and wife take away from the other work sometimes, but I need to remember that those duties are also a huge part of the work I’m meant to do, and am just praying (and praying, and praying) that God will help me to recognize and follow his lead when he leads me, and to trust in his timing for the rest. I refuse to give up faith in his plan for me—and I know he has one:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)

To be honest, even writing this blog lately has been a struggle, both time-wise and style-wise. If you’re a regular reader forgive me—I know the format/style these past couple of posts has been different from what you’ve been used to reading. I hope you’ll allow me some freedom in this! But this blog is about writing life, about being transparent when it comes to my life—full of failures, which we don’t normally see in others (especially on social media!)—and my faith, and of God’s amazing grace in dealing with me (us) on a daily basis. So while I often write in a devotional style, this post and the last has been almost pure “life lived.” And maybe, when it comes to me personally, a plea for your prayers: prayers to “continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, NIV)—and to just continue.

With that, I can’t resist this: To be continued…