Personal Blog by Rhonda Crowdis Hardisty

Heart of a Soul Friend

072c4eb6e2ae30033b1c050ae5dba59f--david-and-jonathan-knitsWhile listening to Everyday Genesis by Nika Maples on Audible this morning, I heard the term “soul friend” for the first time. She explains that a soul friend is someone who supports your spiritual walk in various ways at different seasons of your life. She described how David and Jonathan were just such friends as well as Jesus with James, John, and Peter. This discussion made me think about whether or not I have any soul friends and quickly my friend Monica came to mind. Monica is a dear Christian sister who frequently supports my soul in so many ways from encouraging my dreams, to praying for me whenever God lays my name on her heart and pushing me to be better in various aspects of my life. She’s a combination of surrogate mother and soul sister. She is one of the most supportive and loving Christian women that I have encountered in my lifetime.

She shares in my passion for children with special needs. She too is a special educator who has dedicated the better part of 20 years to teaching children with special needs in Life Skills and Medically Fragile classrooms across Texas. She has operated in the capacity of teacher, paraprofessional, and even substitute, all the while praying over classrooms, staff, and children as she works closely with them. More importantly she shares my passion for Christ and living a life of dedication to Him and his truths. She leads a group for Special Needs parents at her church and encourages me to interact with the group using my knowledge of special education from the perspective of both a parent and an educator to support others in difficult situations as well as celebrating victories with them. God has used her to bring out strengths in so many people through this group while building her own strength in the area of ministry to these families.

Monica encourages my dreams by not only praying for God’s direction in my life, but by making me think my way through them. It’s not uncommon for me to get a text or private message from her asking how things are going with regard to me making the next move toward a goal or previously voiced hearts desire. She keeps me accountable for taking the necessary steps and not losing sight of the purpose God has for me. She often reminds me of things I have long since forgotten from previous conversations she and I had while waiting in the cold for buses full of children to arrive and start our daily routine. She also prays for me. She lifts me up at times when she doesn’t even know my specific request, but knows that our Father God is able to answer any prayer.

Back when we were on the same campus, she and I were in similar but opposite situations where we struggled to connect with a team member who shared our individual classrooms. She a former well respected teacher on that very campus who stepped into a paraprofessional role as she prepared for retirement, and me a teacher new to the campus and the program with only a few years experience teaching special education. She had so much experience and insight to offer the newer teacher she was to support, and I was anxious for insight from the experienced paraprofessional who who had spent the last 6 years in the classroom I was to acquire. Unfortunately, while it seemed Monica and I were meant to support each other, we were not in the same classroom. The teacher she was to support was timid and reserved in her approach while Monica was outgoing and eager to see great things in their classroom. My para was somewhat passive-aggressive and, while she apparently had ideas about how things should be done in our classroom, said nothing when I asked for her input. Her response was typically something along the lines of “it’s your classroom now, just do it your way.” I appreciate that she felt she needed to step aside and allow me to take the lead, but what she didn’t understand was that I learned everything I knew about Special Education from the amazing paraprofessional in my previous classroom where I had spent the past three years. Since that was a medically fragile classroom full of students who needed support with every move they made from toileting to eating, and this was an Autism classroom where students needed specific structure and behavioral supports, I was relying on her to lead the way. Once I settled in and started to learn the ropes, she would covertly attempt the lead the way in a direction opposite of that which I had come to learn was appropriate for our setting. Both Monica and I were somewhat unhappy in our classes, but trusting God to grow us through this year of miscommunication and  stress. I often deferred to her experience on ways in which to respond to and address the situations with which I found myself faced. She was the epitome of grace as she calmly moved forward in the cold and sterile environment of the classroom where she was assigned. God soon made a way for both of us to move out of those situations or moved the other staff member on to better things so that we could all step forward and grow in new and exciting ways. It was a challenging year or so, but together we survived and thrived.

Maples describes a soul friend as one who, like Jonathan to David, supports a friends spiritual needs and triumphs as if they were their own. They give correction when needed as well as accepting correction given in a loving Christ-like manner. This is certainly the relationship I have with Monica and I am blessed by this new beautiful picture of our friendship in light of what God does for us through each other. She is truly a soul friend who helps me to grow and rejoices in my triumphs and I in hers.  I am thankful that God has placed such a precious soul in my life.

Who are your soul friends and how do they support God’s work in your life? How do you support His work in theirs?

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Restless Heart

9d1f7efbfdfd54ccc6acc0ac0af85c0eI realized recently that one of the reasons I struggle with rest is that I fear in resting I lose the ability to cope with stress in the future. In my job for example, I left a very emotionally draining position to take a step up into a position that I thought would support people in the position that I was leaving. It turns out, that while it is a better title for my resume, and I have learned some new things, it is a much less demanding and stressful job. Rather than resting and enjoying this new found peace, I find that I am creating work for myself, worried that I am not doing enough, that I should be doing more in the course of my week. All the while I continue to hear God say “rest”. Unfortunately, peace and quiet are not in my nature. Having been a single mother of three for thirteen years who went to school full time, worked full time, volunteered as their cheerleading coach, basketball coach, or team mom all while keeping up with most of their school activities, I have rarely before been in a position in my adult life to rest and relax. I feel guilty for even considering it. I want to help someone else who is struggling, by taking something off their plate. So, I take in extra children, do paperwork for other staff members, and ask for more work at every turn.

I mean, even my vacations consist of visiting more historical sites than anyone should plan for a weekend trip. I want to do it all and see it all while I can. Don’t get me wrong, I love to sleep! I’m not a night owl by any means. My husband jokes that its past my bedtime if the sun is setting. I’m an early bird. I want to get up early and get going. I strongly dislike sleeping in past 7 or 8 even on vacation. Daylight is burning and it’s a hot commodity! About three years ago on Spring Break I drove from Texas to California to visit my husband who had just weeks before taken a new job there. I loaded up one daughter, one granddaughter, two great nephews, and headed out for adventure. We didn’t get to leave until afternoon and drove until after midnight to Grants, New Mexico. After 4 hours of sleep we got up, fed everyone, gassed up, and hit the road with the intention of meeting my husband for dinner in California in about 10 hours. Along the way we saw signs for the Painted Desert, a once in a lifetime chance to show the kids the wonder of God’s handiwork. Next we found the petrified forest and of course we had to stop, then we had the great idea to get off the highway in Flagstaff to take the quick drive up to the southern edge of the Grand Canyon. See how quickly I get off course and think I can take on the world? Before we knew it, the drive to, across and back from the Grand Canyon took about 5 hours. By the time we actual arrived at the first sight seeking platform we were tired, behind schedule and unimpressed with the majesty of it all. We ended up meeting my husband at iHop after 10:00 pm and then went straight to our hotels to bed. The next morning we were up early and ready to see Los Angeles, which was only a 90 minute drive…without traffic. To make a long story short, we struggled to find the correct exit for a Starbucks on the way their that started the tension. We enjoyed lunch, the aquarium, and some beach fun at Santa Monica Pier and decided we should head back by 3:00 to avoid significant traffic. This happened to be the day that President Obama was visiting the area, therefore shutting down major freeways, and turning our 90 minute drive into 4 hours of car sickness and despair. Needless to say, we arrived back at our hotel after 7:00 pm, fed the kids and went straight to bed. I had not spent any time with my husband other than the drive to and from Los Angeles and we were leaving in the morning. I was too exhausted to even think straight. Told him good night and sent him back to his hotel alone. The next morning we left bright and early for a quick trip 2 hours to San Diego before heading to stay the night with friends in Yuma, Arizona on our way home. Luckily, it was a beautiful drive, the kids loved the beach, and Yuma was only 3 hours from San Diego. Thankfully my daughter refused to allow me to make any side trips this time, and kept us on schedule for dinner with friends after checking in to our hotel. The next morning we drove straight through and arrived home 17 hours after we ate breakfast in Yuma.

That’s how I run everything, I want to do it all. I want to see it all. I want to share it all with anyone and everyone who is willing to join me on the adventure. It’s exhausting to just think about, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Rest is not something I do willingly, unless it’s between the hours of 10:00 pm and 4:00 am. So, having come to this realization that what God really wants from me is rest, I am finally resigned to working on resting in His arms. So, the first question is how do I rest? I have little experience in this area. One way I am learning to rest is by listening to Everyday Genesis by Nika Maples on Audible for the second time. There is so much truth in this book that I am having to go through it again to pick up the bits and pieces that I missed the first time through. One of the things I’m learning is how to let our creator re-create me in His image with new mercies every morning. Listening to this book is like learning new things about God that I did not previously know. It is so refreshing to hear more about the awesome God we serve from such a deep and engaging author. For more information on her or to follow her blog just go to www.nikamaples.com. I appreciate any feedback on other authors or Bible passages I can add to my study on rest.

IMG_0046I can intend to lose weight or write a book or be better at my job, but until I take the time to actually take the right steps, it is not going to happen. I have to be directly intentional about these things in order for them to happen. The same is true of following Gods directives. I find myself being called to rest, but instead of resting in this time God has set aside for me, I am restless. I keep looking for things to do to occupy my time, to fill my mind and heart so I do not have to rest. I continue to stay awake longer than I should by filling my time with computer games or Netflix. I continue to eat more than I should in an effort to keep myself focused and alert. I only think about things to write when I’m driving to or from somewhere and then don’t take the time to be intentional about writing when I get to a quiet place, instead I turn on a book in Audible and fill the quiet with sound. I continue to reinvent my purpose at work so I have enough to keep me busy. I think about and look for another dress to pursue. I am intentional only about staying busy. When God calls us to something we must first be intentional about accomplishing His will, with His direction, in His timing, rather than trying to drown it out with everything we can add to our lives to cover up the sound of His voice. Until I choose to listen and follow His lead, I will continue to be restless. I will continue to unintentionally make myself unhappy by trying to fill the quiet restful places with other things. I just finished a book called Everyday Genesis by Nika Maples, and I so clearly hear myself being called to intentionally rest and listen. I hear the reminder that I am to be renewed by His strength every day. I hear Him prompting me to be intentional about Him rather than trying to be intentional about everything else. Nothing else is going to come together no matter my intentions, until I obey His call to be intentional about Him.

Linking with Five Minute Friday on the prompt “Intentional”, to write for just 5 minutes without revision to pour out what’s on our heart.

115b2304832dbc579c4aa946e65f0f98This blog is the place where I come when I feel safe enough to share a piece of what is on my heart. I think that’s why I don’t come here often. For me, it is so much easier to ignore the things that I am not comfortable facing. It’s like when I was a teenager and changed lanes at the last minute when I realized my lane was not going the direction I needed to go, and in the process of that change I clipped the bumper of another vehicle: I didn’t stop. I just kept driving, thinking that they would somehow go away. They didn’t. They stayed right behind me until I pulled over. This is not the only time I have ever waited for something to go away, like the salesman at the front door ringing the bell. I know if I wait long enough, he will go away. Sometimes when someone asks me a questions I don’t want to answer, or maybe don’t know exactly how to respond to with a quick short answer, I wait for them to go away.  I just want them to stop waiting for a response. I think it’s a defense; if I ignore it, it will go away. Unfortunately, important things don’t go away. God’s call on your life, it doesn’t go away. It is always near, and ready for you to pick it up and act on it. It is near your heart and in your soul even if you don’t want it to be. I know that mine is connected to writing, but I like to think that since I’m not a great writer there is very little that God can do with my writing. There are so many other people who have powerful words to share; what I have is small in comparison. It’s almost embarrassing to consider myself a writer, even as a novice. I was once a sad lonely teen who wrote from the heart about a lot of things, but as I have grown older I have moved on to stuffing my feelings down rather than writing them out. Writing them out often made me cry, and I don’t like to cry. I don’t want to deal with them. I feel like they are better off left alone. No one gets hurt that way, let alone me. However, God is calling me to a purpose that can only be fulfilled by my listening to Him and his calling. He is always near and often calls my name followed by phrases like “read my word” or “just write what I say to your heart” or “I am in control of what happens when you follow my directions.” So, here I am writing.

What is your calling? What is near to your heart? What does God talk to you about?

The 5 minute writing prompt this Friday was “near”. Still connecting with Kate and the gang at 5 Minute Friday, even though this is more than 5 minutes and it’s already Saturday. Thanks for following along.

slide11I get the feeling that I am supposed to write. Most of the time when I start to write I’m not sure that I have anything to say, but after a few keystrokes it just starts to flow and I just type and listen to what my heart has to share. Often I write and erase, write and erase again, even when I’m doing a 5 minute free write where the rule is to just write with no thought for where it is worth reading. The times that I just write from the heart are the times that I really say something worth hearing. These are the times when I go back to read it and don’t know where those words came from. Sometimes the phrases are quotes that I would frame and post if it came from someone else. However, since it’s my own writing I don’t take as much care to share it that way. I know that there are a lot of things in my heart and on my mind that people would appreciate hearing. So, I continue to step out of my comfort zone little by little and say a bit more each time. The words come from such a deep place in my heart that it can be difficult to get them out. It takes time in a quiet room, free of distractions other than my favorite songs playing softly on Pandora. Often, the most difficult part of writing can be finding that time and space just to begin. So, here I am writing for just 5 minutes the things that are on my heart and mind regarding the topic for today: “write”. Where would you write? What would you write about? What is on your heart to share?

Connecting again today with Five Minute Friday and Write 31 Days for 31 days of Five Minute Free Write Challenges during the month of October. We write on a given prompt for just 5 minutes without revision and pour out what’s on our heart. Won’t you join me?

431402_3151896518285_2022565788_nWhat I remember best are the stories my Dad loved to tell every year when we would go to his family reunion. We would drive around town and listen to him describe his childhood in vivid detail. The store that his grandfather owned, where his mother worked, may not longer be standing, but in his memory it is just as much there as it was the day he first saw it. The house down the street that he and his dad caught on fire while trying to help get rid of a beehive sits in his memory as clearly as if he were still standing in the smoke. The day we moved into our first new house and my brother had to ride the bus home from school to a new place without warning is something he still sees in the back of his mind clearly enough to smell the exhaust as the bus drove away. The house off Throckmorton Highway where he lived with his parents and uncles still shares a place in his mind as clearly as the day his first grade teacher had to drive him home after the school bus purposely left him behind. The thing that will live forever in my memory is the sound of my Dads voice and the smell of his original Chapstick as he poured out his heart and relived those memories every time he was given an opportunity. I will always remember the love in his voice when he talked about his family and the life they created for him. Thankfully, my Dad is still around and still remembers these stories and many more. I can’t wait for the next chance to sit with him just to listen and remember.

Connecting again today with Five Minute Friday and Write 31 Days for 31 days of Five Minute Free Write Challenges during the month of October. We write on a given prompt for just 5 minutes without revision and pour out what’s on our heart. Won’t you join me?

40a417254dbfb048d3d24701e5a115a6--heart-quotes-bible-quotesMother Teresa says that listening is the beginning of prayer. Throughout the Bible, God says be still and listen. We all seek to find truth and answers in a variety of places in our lives, but we actually just need to be silent and wait for those answers to find us. God is waiting for us to listen so that He can give us the answers to life’s difficulties. He is always there, ready to direct us toward the very thing we are seeking. Listening takes silencing our selves, not just verbally, but also internally. Often our inner communication is stronger than our outer voice. We listen to ourselves make rationalizations and excuses for everything in our lives, when what we should be doing is listening to the truth that only comes from Him. What is it going to take for you and I to get silent and listen?

Connecting again today with Five Minute Friday and Write 31 Days for 31 days of Five Minute Free Write Challenges during the month of October. We write on a given prompt for just 5 minutes without revision and pour out what’s on our heart. Won’t you join me?

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