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Tuesday, April 16, 2019


I remember the first time I felt God tugging at my heart.

I was in third grade and sitting in a small church my father pastored in Montana. What was said I don't recall, but the thought kept running through my head and heart, "How could such a great God care for me?"

By age 12 I had made a profession of faith and was baptized. But my heart was trying to live in two different worlds. My behavior belied my supposed belief. My sin was laid bare to the Lord, but I would be terribly embarrassed to enumerate them here.

Jesus' sacrifice on behalf of my sin still cuts me to the quick when I stop long enough to think about it. My gratitude is what pushes me to service and to share. Fifty some years after that first perceived tug, I still struggle with how such a great God could love me. I have to rely on what Scripture says. That isn't easy, since "faith" scores lowest on my spiritual gifts assessment.

If I should ever lose my memory, please just sing this song to me as a reminder that I am forgiven and loved.

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong.
We are weak, but He is strong.

Yes! Jesus loves me.
Yes! Jesus loves me.
Yes! Jesus loves me.
The Bible tells me so.

Monday, January 07, 2019


The face of radio is changing.

Calling all prayer warriors!

Well, that was not what we expected!

If you read our Christmas 2018 "letter" you probably noticed that we were ready to kick 2018 out the door. What we DIDN'T expect was that 2019 would kick us down the stairs so soon.

Don't get me wrong. We trust the hand of God, no matter where He leads. But it isn't always pleasant.

First of all, we've been blessed with income and insurance for the 4 ½ years since Mark's "departure" from WMBI and transition to WYLL. (The astute reader will no doubt figure out where this is headed.) And Mark has no doubt been used by God in ways that we cannot see on this side of life, both through his opportunities to speak in public and primarily through his daily radio talk show on WYLL.

So it came as quite a shock when Mark was given a handshake and a final check on Friday, January 4, with no forewarning or explanation. Corporate HR departments being what they are, I guess this covers everyone.

Yes, Mark is 67. Yes, Mark has been in radio since 1975 (earlier if you count his media presence in the Air Force). And no, we don't agree that it is "time to retire" as long as God gives strength and presence of mind. So the question is ...

What are the next steps?
  • First: would you pray with us that we would remember God's sovereignty and presence? You've heard it before, but nothing takes God by surprise. So we want to be reminded that this has been sifted through His love, His wisdom, His power, and His plan for us. Fear stalks me regularly, but "Fear, you are not welcome here!"
  • Second: would you pray that we would be open to wherever God leads? I have a tendency to put my foot down if the "wherever" doesn't include wherever the grandkids are. This includes the question, "Is it time for me to go back to full time work?"
  • Third: would you pray that the Spirit would protect our emotions and witness? This may sound like a repeat, but we need protection from the darkness of "woe is me." God has provided ample opportunity during the last year for us to draw close to Him. This is certainly another.
  • Fourth: would you pray for our physical health? Emotions can play havoc with the body, and although we plan to get Mark signed up for Medicare immediately (to take the place of the employment insurance), I do not qualify yet. This means I either take my chances until I turn 65, or we have to find something incredibly affordable. Given my health issue in 2018, I'm not sure which to pray for more. And there are those pesky prescriptions ...
  • Fifth: would you pray for doors to open that we cannot even fathom at the moment?
  • And finally: would you respond with words of encouragement for Mark? Not sympathy, thanks. But true encouragement. Words of affirmation rank right up there in his love language profile.

It's hard to take the next step when you cannot see it. But we are doing what we know to do. Sharing. Praying. Following through with practical needs.

In the meantime, stay tuned for some fun Facebook live broadcasts and a possible YouTube channel. Suggestions are welcome!

Thank you, friends.

We will be held by the strong arms of the Savior.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

The Ss of (Weight) Success

We are almost a week into the new year. Did you make any resolutions? I did not. But my hubby and I did decide that it would be prudent for us to divest of some of our stuff (okay, a LOT of our stuff) and to get our weight in order, so that we might ease off of some medications (that cost money).

Long ago and far away, I taught a class that was more on the "why" of weight control (notice I didn't say "loss" since some people have issues in the opposite direction.). That leads to the HOW of weight control.

First off, understand that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are no longer perfect, like Adam and Eve, but God has put certain systems into our bodies that give us signals as to what we need.

1. Stomach hunger: When one's blood sugar drops, it sends signals to the brain to start the stomach growling. Some of us may have never allowed ourselves to get to the growling stage. Perhaps you are even afraid of it. But remember, God has put this system in place so that we get what we need when we need it. For those who overeat, it is important to wait for the growl. For those who under-eat, it is important not to ignore that sign.
     When you wait for stomach hunger, you are more able to discern what it is your body is calling for. Is it protein of some sort? Do you need a piece of toast? What is it that is the "need?"

2. Small portions: Unless you are super self controlled, starting with a small bread plate might be wise. You will be eating from a full plate ... just a smaller one. And take small bites. Your stomach really isn't that large, so eating small portions will not only help with self control, but also with digestion.

3. Slow down: One bite at a time. Put that utensil down between bites. And if you would normally be eating all finger foods, start using a fork and knife to cut those small bites. It will slow you down and show you just how long you can enjoy this small portion.

4. Savor the bite: Since it is a blessing that God gives us delicious options for food, savor those bites. If you are alone, I'd suggest you close your eyes and thank God as you slowly chew. If it helps, also pay attention to your swallowing and feeling the food make its way to your stomach. From experience, I know that you can feel cold foods especially!

5. Sip between bites: You may have heard that sometimes what we mistake for hunger is actually thirst. Your body needs a lot of clear liquids. Not only is sipping between bites slowing you down, but it is getting that water (or other non-sugar drink) into your system to help get the nutrients into your blood stream and trigger the "stop" signal.

6. Stop when satisfied (not full): As long as you are doing the above, it is much easier to discern when you have had "just enough." Eating fast bypasses the natural signals to stop. So let that blood sugar and brain catch up.

And finally, the spiritual underpinnings of all this. Are you heading for food (like I do) for every little thing that happens in your life? Anger. Anxiety. Bitterness. Boredom. Happiness. Peer pressure. Or just because the clock says it's time to eat. None of these are reasons God gave us food to enjoy. It is a blessing that He allows us to enjoy something that we need every day. But if we are eating for any other reason than "need" it's time to turn to Him and ask, "Why am I doing this? What do You want to teach me while I wait for the need?"

Stay tuned ... to the body God gave you.

End of preaching to myself. Thanks for going along for the ride.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Merry Christmas ... 2018 Style

If you are here by way of a paper card, it was handmade courtesy of Louise Cruetz. Thanks, Louise! She graciously sent me some handmade soap as well, to deal with my ... ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

If you are here by way of a FB link ... this could be redundant.

MERRY Christmas! The gift of Jesus causes us to be grateful and merry (or the ancient meaning of the word ... strong).

What a mixed bag of challenges and blessings 2018 was!

January had us traveling to Florida to celebrate our 41st anniversary. We did something we'd never done before...went swamp sailing and saw more than a few gators!

February saw Anthony and Tony Evans with Mark in the middle. During a WYLL gathering.

I (Rhonda) was privileged to spend time with the four grandkids who live nearby, volunteering some time at their Classical Conversations community day each week. They concluded their homeschooling at the end of May 2018

Dad turned 88 in March, with Don and Diane by his side at a memory care unit. Dementia began catching up with him quickly, and the decision had to be made for his safety.

Last Christmas, we surprised our oldest granddaughter (Ashley) with a trip to California in April.

God's timing is perfect. We arrived on a Saturday, visited with Dad on Sunday, and was told we'd better say our goodbyes. I promised Dad that we would visit again on Friday, but we got the call on Wednesday the 25th of April that he had slipped into eternity. We were so grateful to have much of our family there. 


Time with the kids and grandkids in CA. 

We got to take Ashley to K-LOVE to visit our friend, George Rath, and met Lauren of Air-1.

Mister Dad greets Lara at the new Apple complex.

Danny, Rhonda, Diane. We missed David! Gathering to go over memorial arrangements in Grass Valley and Dixon, CA.

These handsome imps: Linus and Oliver.

A trip had already been planned for me to spend a week with Oliver and Linus while Adam and Britany celebrated their 15th anniversary getaway. So we planned Dad's memorial to coincide with my time in California. His military memorial was poignant. Dad's only surviving brother, Jerry, (and Aunt Gladys) was a part of the ceremony.

At this point in the narrative, we were anticipating results from a mammogram and biopsy. On July 3, we got the bad news and the good news: You have breast cancer. But it is treatable. 

Mastectomy was scheduled for July 18, and the ever-serving-trooper-sister Diane (seen here giving Pepito a bath) came to help out for the first two weeks while I recuperated. With pathology results looking good, we are super grateful that I did not need either chemotherapy nor radiation. My new normal is just fine!

Nana (me) with Drew and Ava and their Grandma Williames.

Four of the grandchildren (the local ones) are now in a Christian school and finding their new normal as well. Ashley and Amberleigh are on the cheerleading squad.

Ingrid has the opportunity to work at the kids' school as the "hot lunch lady" and preschool aide. It keeps her hopping, but allows her to see the kids in their new environment. 

Andy continues to minister to the "up and outers" in Illinois politics and with cohorts around the world so that they will know Jesus.

Adam and Britany have started homeschooling Oliver and Linus. Kudos! New normals all around! Adam's heart for ministry has him antsy to try new things. He continues to manage the Granite Arch climbing gym. Both he and Britany do art in their "spare" time.

Marshall's job with Apple has literally taken him around the world this year. When she can, Lara hops on the global visits. But when she is home, she is busy with her job helping couples maintain strong relationships when they bring a baby home. Or she is training the trainers. 

 Mark is busy each and every day communicating via "Let's Talk with Mark Elfstrand" on WYLL in Chicago and around the world online and on the app. (AM1160) Go, Mark!!!

Kids, grandkids, friends. It's been a full year of blessings and challenges. How about you?

I know that so many of you have been through your own literal and personal storms this year. Hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes, cancer treatment, loss of loved ones, and on and on. 

We are reminded that "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

It is THIS ONE we remember as our gift each year. God has been gracious and merciful. All we have to do is unwrap the gift. We trust you have done so. It's the best gift of all!

Merry Christmas 2018 
from Mark and Rhonda 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Thursday's Child

Monday's child is fair of face
Tuesday's child is full of grace
Wednesday's child is full of woe
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good always.

August 29, 1957, was a Thursday. There was no hospital in this tiny hamlet of Polo, Missouri, and so the mother, heavy with child as she was, knew that there was a drive to Cameron in her near future.

If history had taught her anything, it was that she had better get to the hospital when she felt her first "pains." So she quickly got the two older children ("older" being a loose term, since the oldest daughter would turn 3 tomorrow, and the son just turned 1 three weeks earlier.) to the church babysitter. She then enlisted her minister husband in driving the 24 miles on a hot August day.

The mother's obstetrician had warned her early on not to have any children at all, given her Type 1 diabetes ("juvenile" as it was then called), and its danger to not only her but the children as well. But the two older children were born healthy and she had minimal problems, so she had no reason to believe this birth and child would be any different.

In the 1950s, it was common practice to use heavy anesthesia to, in effect, put the mother to sleep while the doctor delivered the baby. And in this small town, that practice still existed. But this mother was a study in fast labor, so when she and her husband arrived at the hospital, she was well on her way to delivering her third child.

Goodbye to the father ... not allowed into delivery unless by emergency edict. Not long after, a baby crowned. 

"Put the mother out!"

The hapless mother couldn't understand this backwards event. The baby was being born! She didn't need to be anesthetized. What was going on?

From the doctor's perspective, there was something dreadfully wrong with the baby. He was convinced the baby had two heads. Sparing the mother this sight upon delivery was his main objective.

Fast forward to recovery. The doctor met with mother and father, telling them that the baby had a rare condition known as hydrocephalus. This had resulted in a water "bag" on her brain that had looked like a second head at the time of birth. Newly developed and understood procedures allowed for draining the cerebrospinal fluid, but the doctor had more bad news: the baby girl also had half an extra vertebra, which would cause problems later in life; he warned that due to the pressure on the brain, she may not live to go home from the hospital; if she did go home from the hospital, she may not live beyond 8 years old; if by chance she did live that long, her mental capacity would never surpass a 12 year old.

Numerous hospitalizations were followed by a move to a tiny town in eastern Iowa, followed by another move to a tiny town in northwestern Montana. The infrastructure wasn't much better in either location.

At the age of 3, what should have been a running toddler/preschooler was scooting around on the floor on a cookie sheet, as she was still unable to walk, and had never crawled, due to her spasticity. Her speech was nearly incoherent. But she was indeed happy. The mother described her as the happiest of babies.

The town of Conrad, Montana, was approximately 60 miles from Great Falls, the largest city nearby. So instead of going to preschool or kindergarten in a town of 2000, the little girl was driven to a special class, physical therapy, and speech therapy down the highway. She would bring home scrapbooks full of glued letters and cut out animal and food pictures. Eventually, she was walking, talking, and putting two and two together.

Time and care availeth much! Although her speech still sounded like she had hailed from Massachusetts, progress was happening.

It became obvious, around the age of 10, that the girl had scoliosis. By that time, the father had joined the Air Force as a chaplain and was being transferred from Montana to Minnesota. A fortuitous move for the family. Opportunities and resources became readily available. Little D was fitted for a "Milwaukee" brace that covered her body in steel and leather until the time when the doctors felt it was time to do back surgery.

That time came not in the US, but after the family was transferred to an Air Force base in Japan. At the age of 12, the daughter was taken to a nearby hospital for surgery that would remove some hip bone, remove the half extra vertebra, and fuse her spine; in essence stunting her growth from that point. She was 4 feet, 10 inches tall at the time.

With the steadfast love and care of a mother, Little D progressed mentally as well. Upon relocating to Missouri, and then California, she was about to graduate from high school ... no small feat. But one of the requirements of the high school was to be able to swim two laps of the swimming pool. The young woman's spasticity (what one side of the brain did, the other did also ...) prevented her from driving, swimming, and the like. Anything that required the two sides of the body to be working independently. (Although she DID learn to type at 56 words per minute!)After much intervention from the parents, the school recanted and allowed her to graduate on the merits of her schooling alone.

"She will not live past ... she will never ..." 1. graduate 2. get married 3. live independently 4. have meaningful employment

And this is where we come to the chapter of disclosure.

She moved in with her sister for a short time, and then into a boarding house, where she went to work for the county in a training program. This led to an aide position in the public school system, for special needs students, with whom she could empathize. This led to going to a local church and singles group. Which led to dating, and eloping to Reno, Nevada!

Diane ... my sister ... is nothing short of a miracle. She has held her aide position, as an awarded member of the school employees, for more nearly 40 years! She almost singlehandedly assisted our parents through their life at a local retirement community, until their deaths. She has had the difficult job of sorting through all of their things, as well as sifting through probate issues.

God has the final word! Not the "she will never" naysayers. Outside of a limp and still sounding like she spent years on the East Coast, Diane is a thriving giver to her church, school, and family communities.

Today, Diane is a wife, a sought after teacher's aide, a gardener, a camper, one who gets asked the tech questions, a kitchen gourmet, and a believer in Jesus. Maybe I should have put that one first. Above all, that is what matters most. God has been gracious and merciful in more ways than temporal. His grace is eternal.

Thank You, Lord, for my sister and the miracle that she is. She has come far. Just like Thursday's child.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

One Score Minus Three

September 7, 2001, we closed on our newly constructed home. We began the laborious move across town, and by "across town" I mean about 40 miles away. On Monday, September 10, we finally closed the new garage door, full of boxes, and went to sleep, wondering how we would acclimate to our commute to Moody Bible Institute the next day.

Mark awoke just before 3 AM, as per usual, readied himself, and got to the radio station by 4:30. His morning program went from 5 AM to 9 AM.

My alarm went off at 4:10, so that I could get on the road at around 5 AM and hopefully miss the dreadful commuter traffic on the Stevenson (I-55 heading into Chicago).

My desk was in a quad toward the back of the building housing Moody Press (now called Moody Publishers) and Public Safety. I went to work ... which included greeting all my coworkers and combing through emails to find the urgent items of the day. And, as a dedicated wife, my hubby's program was on in the background.

As the years go by, certain memories bubble up, but exact times are not some of those memories. I've never been good with sequential events.

It must have been just before 8 AM when Dave Mitchell, the morning program's news director, broke in with the sad news that an airliner had just "crashed" into one of the World Trade Center buildings in New York. We were so shocked, wondering how does that kind of accident happen? It wouldn't be long before we figured out ... this was no accident.

At that point, we had computer video news going as well as the WMBI audio.

And as all eyes looked on in horror, the second plane hit the second tower. Shock doesn't begin to describe the realization that intentional mayhem had just occurred.

The towers fell. Another plane heads into the Pentagon. And the heroes on Flight 93 brought down the terrorists, and therefore the plane before it could hit its most likely intended target: the White House or Capitol building.

No one was concentrating on anything productive. The TV was on in the conference room, and as the plane hit the Pentagon, I began sobbing uncontrollably. My brother is a military retiree working as a consultant to military medical practice. He would have been within walking distance of the Pentagon on a typical day.

We were called together as employees to pray for the responders, the family members, and our nation. The one line I will never forget is, "Lord, thwart the evil intent of these people."

For a short while, the nation rallied. Flags everywhere. People back in church. "We are America strong!" The skies were devoid of aircraft, as everything was grounded. Those stranded at airports had to try to find rental cars.

Soon, the TSA was formed. Security lines. Armed police and military at the airports. Travel, and life, would never be the same.

There has been an undercurrent of distrust ever since. Will it happen again? Will they use trucks? Cars? Are my neighbors suspect? And yet, there is an entire generation coming up now who have no knowledge of why this emotional buzz is just part and parcel of our reality.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Over and Out

"Well, I don't like to toot my own horn, but that looks really good!" No, I did not say that. It is a direct quote from my surgeon, Dr. Beatrice Klade, of the Edward-Elmhurst Medical Group. It's the kind of thing a survivor likes to hear from her surgeon: that the 12-inch scar extending from the underarm to the breast bone has healed so far ... and has closed this chapter in this part of my cancer journey.

I say "closed this chapter" because, to the even mildly observant, life is not to be taken for granted. The zero on my Onctotype DX test is fantastic, but it does not preclude a recurrence entirely, nor does it promise that the remaining side won't take off on its own. 

The team at E-E has been nothing short of excellent. Caring. Thorough. Empathetic. Accessible. And transparent.

But there's more to this journey than just the testing and the surgery. The emotions are part and parcel of the process. And for support there, I thank my friends and family on Facebook, my breast health navigator (yes, that's a thing) at E-E, and the incredible women on the Pink Sisters in Christ Facebook page. Prayers have encouraged me, and God has sustained me. The roller coaster ride has smoothed out a bit since the beginning, but there are still days when worry rears its ugly head.
In case you didn't know, the answer is "no."

Part of the healing is acceptance that life will never look quite like it did before. But in an effort to feel as "normal" as possible, survivors have the insurance-required option of reconstruction or prostheses. The most desirable boutiques are those who will work directly with your insurance company. So it was that my navigator suggested I head to Naturally Yours, which is a bit of a hike for me, but worth the effort. 

Don't assume that the prosthesis is for vanity or aesthetic value only. No, the "good ones" are weighted to the point of balancing your posture as naturally as possible. Otherwise, over compensation takes over, followed by back pain. So I am thankful that Blue Cross/Blue Shield is taking care of my posture today. ;-)

Speaking of keeping the spine aligned ... and other physical considerations ... I (re)joined a health and wellness center yesterday! Admittedly, I'm a bit nervous about actually showing up. I mean, what if my new body part takes on a life of its own and decides to bow out during Zumba or AquaFit? Yipes. No, that won't happen ... will it?

This brings me to what the future looks like. 20/20 vision only works in hindsight, as you've no doubt heard. Seeing the future is squarely in God's purview. Not mine. 

Original sin's ramifications are far reaching. Death, disease, broken relationships, and evil in general. If someone tells you you can avoid the ravages of sin in this life, they are selling something. "The rain falls on the just and the unjust." And this will continue until Jesus returns. But that doesn't mean that we are without power in this life. Nor are we without hope. Jesus has secured my eternity. The Spirit is carrying me through this life. All because God first created us and loved us. 

In my humanity, there will be days I'm concerned that I might have to go through this again. But overall, God has been incredibly gracious and merciful to me. One might even say that I suffer from a bit of "survivor's guilt." There are women (I'm specifically referring to breast cancer here) who have to take on years of treatment, struggling to stay upright physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I'm grateful for the path God has opened for me. 

For now, let's leave it at "over" ... and it's "out." Thank You, Lord!