"She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future." - Proverbs 31:25
When she first shared her story with me, I remember feeling just this sense of "whoa". Mostly because I am more prone to being skittish about the future than confident and am always immediately floored when I meet a woman like her who has survived so much and still wears the badge of an unwavering faith for all to see.
The hint of her Southern roots can be heard in the sweetness of her voice, but don't let that fool you. This beautiful lady is refreshingly honest and straightforward, but in such a way that clearly reveals that at her core, she is also strong, kind, and loyal, being the first to stand up for what she believes is right or even to defend a friend from a bully as a child growing up in the South.
And that laugh? Well, you can see it for yourself in the twinkle of her eyes through these photographs and video that I am so very proud to share with you all of this beautiful lady named Rhonda.
Rhonda, thank you for being willing to step out in front of my camera, to share your story and your faith without filters or shame, to boldly live life out loud, to dance simply for the joy of it - all so as to encourage other women - other people - to do the same. I have enjoyed getting to know you, to laugh with you, to be a part of celebrating this new season of your life. May these photographs continue to draw forth that shining smile of yours for all to witness, even years down the road.
"I went through a 2 year period of loss. My parents, my dog, and my husband of 25 years all pass in a 2 year time frame. We moved from New Mexico to take care of terminal parents so we left behind our support system of friends and church, too. After the loss of my mom on Mother's Day 2013, I came to California to grieve and start my life over."
"My life is beginning again.
I have related my life to the Japanese art of Kintsugi where they turn broken pottery into beautiful art by putting it back together with gold or other precious metals."
When was the last time you left your comfort zone? I performed a dance routine on stage last May and we had some mistakes but it came out fine.
If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be and why? This is tough. Abraham Lincoln because he stood up against the norm [even though] it wasn't a popular idea and [because] he wanted to bring the entire country back together to heal. Jesus because he loved me enough to die for me.
My dad - he died when I was only 10 and I didn't know him very well or what his dreams were for me, but I know he was respected and well loved. His funeral wasn't even standing room, the building was packed and the procession was over 5 miles long in the rain.
What is one piece of advice you would give your 18-year-old self? Take better care of your health, skin and body - you only have one and you want it to last! And...insist that your husband learn to dance with you.
What do you think makes a woman beautiful?
"Her spirit and heart.
Women are designed as emotional beings and we need to appreciate that."
What do you appreciate most about your life now?
"How good God has been to me.
He has seen me through some long and difficult storms and blessed me with some of the best friends a person could know."
A funny or surprising fact about yourself? I presented flowers to the wives of the Russian cosmonauts that first shook hands with American astronauts in space. Shook hands with all of them.
I am [also] stronger than I look. I have dead lifted over 200 lbs and bench pressed 90 lbs. They still ask me at the grocery store if I need help out with my items...haha!
"I know that I am in God's hands and that he has a purpose for the next half of my life.
I found God's joy - His internal, overflowing, abundant joy."
Many thanks to Keziah Dauz for her styling of Rhonda's hair and makeup!