Rhonda Cagle

Merry Broken Christmas

In Uncategorized on December 10, 2015 at 12:24 pm

For more than 20 years, decking the halls has always begun with assembling the Nativity. Call it a nod to the reason for the season or simply a warm-up to the time-consuming tree trimming; my porcelain Nativity is always the first decoration of the season.

In the past 20 years, my Nativity has seen its fair share of wear and tear. It’s been moved countless times, logging more miles than the Three Wise Men on their quest to find Baby Jesus. The crèche is a bit mangled, with one of the posts that supports the roof warped and scratched. And the gold paint adorning the angel and Wise Men is faded and chipped in places. But it is the Nativity I bought when my own daughter was born and the one from her childhood, so it is the only Nativity for me.


Baby Jesus has survived more than his fair share of trauma. When my daughter Megan was a toddler, I would frequently find tiny porcelain Jesus removed from his manger and wrapped in pieces of Kleenex or toilet paper. Exasperated, I finally asked Megan why she continued to disobey me and touch breakable Jesus.

Her beautiful green eyes, round with fear at my anger, filled with tears as she explained that Baby Jesus looked cold and she was trying to keep him warm.

Touched by her tiny, tender heart’s compassion for cold, naked Jesus, I brushed the tears from her eyes and mine. I told her we would wrap Baby Jesus up together, and then leave him swaddled for the rest of Christmas.

She happily agreed and busied her little fingers, carefully wrapping Jesus in Kleenex, while my own hands served as spotter and safety net in case she dropped him.

She didn’t. And, for the rest of the season, she left Baby Jesus untouched, nestled warmly in his Kleenex swaddling clothes, lying in the manger.

A few years ago, Baby Jesus suffered major trauma. Knocked from his manger by over zealous dusting, he hit the ground. His arm broke clean off, and several bits of his chipped body scattered in pieces on the floor.

I gasped in horror. What kind of karma does one get for breaking the Son of God during Christmas?!

Thanks to Gorilla Glue and a magnifying glass, I surgically reattached the Savior’s arm and glued most of his body back together. You have to look carefully now to see where Jesus has been broken and chipped.

This year, while placing broken Jesus in his manger, I thought about all of the years I have repeated this ritual. Some years it has been easy and joyful. In other years, the brokenness of my own life has tinged the ritual with sorrow; even anger.

Broken Jesus has become more precious to me because of the years and the miles we have traveled – and survived – together. Gazing down at his naked porcelain body, I realized broken Jesus is exactly the Savior my manger – and my life – needs.

This year, I am surrounded by so much brokenness in life. People I love are fighting cancer and without jobs. Terrorists are blowing up people and countries. The economy remains uncertain. There are big questions in my professional and personal life with no answers in sight.

Each one of these issues is another chip from my individual and our collective wholeness. News headlines splinter and shatter any sense of well-being or safety. With a few words, a doctor’s diagnosis sends shards of life flying in all directions.

All of this brokenness was reflected back to me this year as I placed broken Jesus in his manger. More than ever, I realize how much strength I draw from the story of a Savior who fell to earth and became broken like me. For me. In these moments, when I am keenly aware of life coming apart, I am grateful for His grace; the glue that mends and restores.

Merry broken Christmas. A thrill of hope; a weary world rejoices, indeed.




Learning the Real Value of Choices

In Uncategorized on April 13, 2015 at 7:21 pm

I was raised to worry. From my earliest days, there was pressure to “get it right.” To be perfect. Never to make a mistake.

Failure wasn’t an opportunity to learn and grow. Failure meant you had made the wrong choice. You had let down those around you and disappointed God. Pretty serious stuff for a seven-year-old.

After a lot of anxiety, not to mention medication for stomach acid, I’ve come to the realization that there are very few choices in my life that are right or wrong, black or white. There is only the opportunity to do my best with what I presently know and what I have to work with.

The choices I have made in life have often resulted in detours and paths that wandered down unexpected and sometimes unwelcomed roads. They weren’t always the most direct route. They resulted in a lot of experiences and relationships that didn’t seem relevant or even helpful at the time.

Were they the wrong choices?

I’m not so sure.

Photo courtesy of tastytabletopics.com.

Photo courtesy of tastytabletopics.com.

I married, and ultimately divorced, a man who resulted in a lot of emotional damage and years of therapy. But I got the most beautiful, caring, bright daughter as a result. And entering therapy has helped me grow in ways I might never have experienced. I have become braver than I thought possible and discovered I am more competent and capable on my own than I ever imagined I could be.

The choices I make in life rarely come with a clear-cut right or wrong label. I do the best I can with what I have at the time. And I pray. And I trust that somehow, God will both guide and use my choices to help me “fail a little better” each day.

I still worry. But I worry less about making the “right” choices in life. These days, I focus more on the choices that allow me to journey, at least for a time, on roads less traveled. I want my choices to create the opportunity to explore the byways that I might have overlooked or ignored by making the “right” choice.

It’s messy. It’s unconventional. It’s a philosophy that is counter to my upbringing. But it’s how I choose to live. And it’s a choice that offers more life than I would have imagined.

Ten Gifts for Myself on My 47th Birthday

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Like death and taxes, birthdays are the only sure thing in life. And, like death and taxes, they come around whether one likes it or not.

Photo: BirthdayPartyBabble.com

Photo: BirthdayPartyBabble.com

Me? I don’t mind Birthdays. And, unlike some people who try to hide their age, I have no hesitancy in disclosing that I turn 47 this week. The truth is, I am relieved to be turning 47. There is a lot of water under this bridge and it feels more congruent to have my chronological age reflecting all that life has brought, all that I have endured, and, in some part, what I have learned, lost, fought for, and sometimes won.

The truth is that I am a middle-aged woman. This is a glorious, shocking, humbling, breath-taking, and often humorous reality. But it is my truth and I choose to own and celebrate it fully, knowing there are lessons I have learned that wouldn’t have come at any other age or stage in life. These lessons are the gifts I am celebrating on this, my 47th Birthday.

  1. Begin each day with the end in mind and live each day with the purpose, clarity, and conviction of this point of view. At 47, it takes more than two hands to count the loved ones I have already lost. Life is hard and time is often shorter than I realize. Knowing what matters, what is truly important, helps me get the most out of living each day.
  2. Not everyone is going to like me. That’s okay, as long as I like myself. It is cliché, but really is true. I have to look myself in the eye as I gaze into the mirror each morning. It’s important to like the person I see staring back at me; the person I see myself becoming. At this age, the shape of who I will be at the end of life is beginning to show. It’s more important to like who I see than to worry about what others think.
  3. Kindness really does matter. So do good manners. With age comes the realization that life brings seasons of harsh bitterness that are unavoidable. A kind word can serve as a pumice stone to a calloused soul. Good manners remind me to look for civility and beauty in what is sometimes a horrifying and often uncivilized world.
  4. Good wine and dark chocolate are usually the best remedy for a bad day. Just go with it. Seriously. Deprivation and a smaller dress size won’t make up for an unhappy soul.
  5. I don’t have life all figured out. No one else does, either. Some people are just better at faking it than others. There is a relief in being with people brave enough to admit they don’t have it all figured out and yet are still trying. These are the people I want to surround myself with.
  6. It’s okay to say no. No to what is expected or obligatory. No to what I know I am fully capable of doing. Sometimes, saying no is really a way of saying yes to something else; something different, new and perhaps important, something that will take the time and energy created by first saying no.
  7. Never turn down the opportunity to take a nap. Also, eight hours of sound, uninterrupted sleep is better than the best sex or drugs. This is a truth that only a middle-aged, menopausal woman can fully appreciate.
  8. Say yes to the chance to do something unexpected. Impulsive. Adventurous. Much of my life is spent trying to be a responsible grown-up. Too often, I am so busy trying to make a living; I forget to make a life. Saying yes to the chance for unexpected exploration or an out-of-the-blue opportunity makes me – and life – more interesting.
  9. My true friends are scarce and worth their weight in gold. I can count on one hand the number of people who are close enough to tell me when I am wrong. Selfish. Too stubborn. They are also the first to run to my defense and fight for and with me. These are the people worth keeping in my life at all cost.
  10. Someone wise once said an unexamined life is not worth living. But it is equally true that an unlived life is not worth examining. Life is meant to be lived. Out loud. Arms wide open. Messy. Complicated. Pure. Unadulterated. With a passion so intense, there is nothing left unsaid or undone when it ends. In God’s hands, and with God’s grace, this kind of passionate life is one that brings pleasure to Him and is a gift to others. And to me.

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