Tag Archives: inspirational

Ride the Waves


Some of the best advice I’ve gotten lately is this simple phrase: “Enjoy your hormones.”

That came from a doctor. A female doctor much older and wiser than me.

As a woman, hormones tend to be my enemy. They effect my mood, my appetite, how I feel physically, how well I sleep, my body temperature, and everything about my overall health. These hormones exist in a delicate and easily overturned balance. One chemical goes out of place, and suddenly I’m needing to resist throwing the phone against the wall while I’m on hold.

But the thing is–they are out of my control. No drug, no herb, no diet or lifestyle change will ever grant me full control over those hormones. A lot of control. But never full control.

So this lady told me to embrace them. I can’t control them. I can’t control a roller coaster.

But roller coasters are fun. Scary, yes. Stomach-lurching, yes. Worth it? Yes. My hormones are part of what make me female. And I really like being a girl.

My mood swings do not have to control me any more than I can control them. they can get me down, sure, but I always have the option of looking up.


Daughter Mine


Daughter mine, don’t be afraid.

The night is dark, I know,

But the blackest night will never melt

The whiteness of the snow.


Daughter mine, avoid the dog

That lurks along your way.

Lie with dogs, awake with fleas—

You, too, may end a stray.


Daughter mine, look up, ahead—

The clouds may mask the sun,

But his bright face is shining still;

His day is never done.


Daughter mine, the door is closed

That holds back all your doubt.

The door of hope is opened wide—

Run towards it, daughter—shout!


Daughter mine, remember this

As you face grey unknown:

That I am ever with you.

Daughter mine, you’re not alone. 

Exceedingly and Abundantly


If there’s one thing I’ve learned from college, it’s this: God always gives you exactly what you need.

This means the good things. This means the bad things.

God knows how stressful a busy schedule can be. He traveled to the cities of Israel almost nonstop for three years healing people and telling about their need for redemption. He knows that we need rest—and He gives it when we need it.

God knows what it means to be alone. His own disciples did not understand him. He spent a month in the wilderness, alone with His thoughts and the devil. He wanted the company of his disciples the night before his crucifixion. He knows the meaning of loneliness, and sends us friends when we need them.

God knows what it means to be in pain. He hung on a cross, suffocating to death. His killers rammed thorns into His forehead. They beat Him mercilessly. He knows what it means to hurt, and sends us comfort when he knows we need it.

God also knows that we need stress to teach us to depend on Him. God knows we need loneliness so we will realize that with Him as our Father, we are never really alone. God knows we need pain so we will learn to be strong.

God’s love is magnificent and unending. He sees and meets the needs of His children. This will always be true, because God never changes.

If I walk away from college having learned only that, it will be four years well spent. 

Open Letter to the Kind of Heart


Dear Kind People,


It’s good to know there are more of you in this world than I am sometimes inclined to think. Some days I read the headlines and wonder if you exist at all.

It’s not that there are necessarily hoards of unkind people out there. I mean, everyone is unkind at some point in their lives. We marvel at those who never say an unkind word. I know I tend more towards unkindness than kindness, which may be part of why I’m so surprised that people can really be nice to each other.

No, unkindness is not so much the problem as indifference. We grow indifferent to the struggles of others. After all, everybody fights something. Everybody faces difficulty. Some people face difficulty that isn’t nearly as extreme as our own, and there are still more who struggle with nightmarish circumstances we could never imagine living with. So we succumb to indifference; powerless to relieve the pain of others, we instead choose to do nothing at all.

Except, of course,you kind people. Or should I say those of you who choose to be kind. For kindness, like love, is a choice. Kindness is the fruit of love, so those who choose to love their neighbors choose to be kind as well.

Thank you, kind people, for making that choice. May I choose to love as you do.


Much appreciation,

Risabella Rambler



The thing about self-diagnosing is this: it almost always does more harm than good.

When you’re too cheap to call in to the doctor’s office to report a problem, the modern recourse is to search the interwebs for a solution. WebMD is allegedly helpful, but 99.9% of the time, that and other sites will tell you that you’ve got cancer. You could be checking for symptoms of a sprained ankle after falling down the stairs, and the site would try to convince you to talk to an oncologist.

False diagnoses lead to worry, not solutions. You’ll prescribe yourself ten different supplements and make lifestyle adjustments only to find out you never had a problem after all, and now you’ve got a stomach ulcer from worrying too much.

This is especially a problem for those with active imaginations. Once a good imagining latches into a person’s mind, that’s all they can think about. This person may quickly diagnose themselves with lung/brain/stomach cancer and immediately start mentally penning letters to loved ones spelling out their final goodbyes. Then there’s the bucket list. Then the weeping over an imagined funeral.

Goodness, why do hypochondriacs do this to themselves?

There is within all of us the desire to control our circumstances. When we can’t control them—an increasing problem in an increasingly chaotic world—we try to control other things. Like our health. We want to be in control of something, so we self-diagnose, not wanting the assistance of a licensed physician (for whatever reason) and choosing to fret about the problem instead. Really, this helps no one.

There’s a lesson in here, somewhere. In life, it’s much harder to let go of control than to keep things under control. Sometimes—in fact, at all times—it’s better to trust God instead. To be safe to the Rock that is higher than I. After all, He’s the One Who wrote the story. He knows the beginning from the end. It’s always better to trust the guidance of the One who drew the road map than to forge a path of one’s own. 



God is Awesome

Really, this post would probably cover all ten days of the countdown. I just broke things up for the sake of actually having a countdown.

You know Who helped me more than anyone else over these past two years? God. No questions asked. Without Him, I wouldn’t have survived.

God is the One Who gives me perseverance when I’m too tired to think straight (Romans 5:3-5).

God gives me reasons to rejoice when life looks bleak (Psalm 16).

God keeps me calm when it seems I have every reason to panic (Psalm 118:5-6).

God’s promises encourage me to be patient and wait, for the best is always yet to come (Jeremiah 29:11).

God chose to make me me, and not anyone else—and He made me by hand (Psalm 139:13-16).

God provides me an endless supply of joy, and He is the reason I choose to be joyful (Psalm 33:21).

God has surrounded me with incredible friends, because He knows I cannot walk alone (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

God knows I will make mistakes, and picks me up so I can try again and not fail, this time (Proverbs 24:16).

God has given me something to write about (Psalm 19; John 3:16).

That’s it, folks. It all boils down to God. I don’t always represent Him well—I am human and fallible, after all—but He does not fail me. God can do anything but fail. He is worthy of respect, love, and awe. I would be lost without Him.

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

-Romans 11:36

Two or Three


Before today, I had never though I would encounter a road that would be better traversed via pack mule than automobile. But such roads exist, and I spent the better part of the day on them.

A small caravan of us bounded across dirt and gravel roads through the backwoods of Croatia to visit house churches. When I say “house church,” envision nine people in a farmhouse’s dark, shabby-but-clean kitchen, sitting on rickety wooden chairs, singing joyfully, but out of tune. The “joyfully” bit matters more than the “in tune” part, so everyone was happy.

I must admit, though I have experinced a lot of things, I have never worshipped anywhere where a herd of sheep listened in, nor where roosters shouted periodic “hallelujahs”.

The only way to navigate a sermon given in a language other than your own is to make a game of it. See how much you can decipher. Croatian is in no way related to English. German, French, Spanish, and a handful of other foreign languages sound similar enough to English that one can generally figure out what’s going on. No such luck listening to Croatian. Croatian is the liguistic lovechild of Russian and German, mingled with something that almost sounds Chinese to my untrained ear. But Bible words tend to sound the same in every language. God…Jesus Christ…amen. The really important words sound the same, somehow.

Prayer especially seems to be a kind of universal language. Prayer is always given in the same tone of voice, with heads lowered and eyes closed. Then it’s easy to join in, in your heart, echoing he sounds of praise inside you, even if your spoken words would not be understood. God speaks all tongues. After all, He gave us the toungues that form the words.

Bouncing back down the roads, I watched each village acquire a little more civilization as they passed us by. Broken down farms turned into more efficient ones. Brick houses became houses shod in stucco. Gravel turned to asphalt. Flatness replaced the untamed roll of the hills we had left behind. But I had left behind a small number of hearts that loved the Lord in exchange for a city full of people who may never know Him by name. Now will they care to.

Somehow I know I’ll be back down that road one day. Where two or three are gathered, God is in the midst of them. I will always be happy to be where God is.

Observations From the Mountaintop


The church we visited today was tucked up in the mountains, far, far away from civilization.

There was no electricity in this building. The plumbing was questionable. The walls were painted plaster and we shared space with beetles the size of quarters. The chairs were of the folding metal variety and/or wood. The windows were our one source of ventilation. We were all grateful for a mountain breeze.

This was the only church for miles around. Most of the people who came did not own their own cars, and so were ferried up the mountain in the pastor’s Land Rover. But they came. They came from miles away, if they had to, but they came.

They came for something that they’re hungry for every other day of the week. They came to worship. They came for fellowship with other Christians. They came to hear the word of God preached.

They came for something so many Americans take for granted.

Americans tend to treat churches like fast food restaurants. They pick their favorite based off of the deal they get, or the food they’re served, or how nice the staff is, or whether or not the establishment caters to their supposed needs. There are so many churches, it’s easy to be picky. Most people flock to the biggest or the best furnished or the one with the most entertaining speaker.

Americans don’t go to church to serve other believers. You see, we’re not hungry for the company of other Christians. We can find that anywhere. Christians are everywhere, of all stripes. Because we’re everywhere, we feel we have the right to pick and choose which brothers and sisters are worthy of our company.

Here, in Croatia, in the backwoods, far from the kind of culture that this American Christian is used to, there is a tiny, tiny family of believers. Some are old, few are young, and they are scattered across the country, one or two per village. They come from miles around just to worship. Just to shake hands with someone who shares their faith. Just to sing, however slowly or out of tune. Just to pass a sister a cup of cold water to fend off the heat; just to serve potato salad to a brother when the service is done. Just to hear the word of God read aloud.

These people know what it means to hunger and thirst after righteousness.

My question to myself is this: when I return to my country, glutted though it is with Christian conveniences, will I approach worship with gratitude, knowing that what I have is rare? That my church family is family and not just another club of people with similar interests? That my God has given me an abundance of love, and I need to pour love out on the believers He’s placed me with?

I wonder.  



Sometimes on the road of life you will have no clue where you’re going.

You will be tired. You will have had a long, long day. How the day went in terms of delightfulness or lack thereof is irrelevant. You will be tired.

You will be driving through unfamiliar territory. The sun is going down and you are less and less sure of where you’re supposed to be going. The forest road that seemed pleasant and green half an hour ago is growing ever darker and more foreboding. You see the full moon rising and momentarily question your belief in the innate fictitiousness of werewolves.  

But you will see a road sign. It will tell you your intended destination and shows an arrow pointing down the road you’re on. You will drive on with renewed, though still shaky confidence.

Then the road will go from patchy asphalt to dirt and rocks and holes. You will question your reasoning and your sense of direction and whether or not this was a good idea to go on this adventure today.

But most of all, you will question the sign that told you this was the right way to go.

You encounter sign after sign that tells you to keep going—you’re on the right road. But nothing about this road will look right. You will have to trust the sign.  

Doing what God’s Word tells us will not always “look right.” It will tell you to ride against the current of popular opinion. Others will mock you, threaten you, even inflict bodily harm on you, if you do what God has called you to do.

But He gave us road signs. He gave us a whole Book of road signs. We have to trust Him when He says to keep going, no matter what.

And you will get there. So long as you don’t get into your head that your detour is a better idea, you will get there. Trust Him. He made the roads. He knows the way. 

Time Marches On


There are few things weirder than looking at old pictures of yourself and wondering “what on earth happened?”

With other people, it’s one thing. Sometimes you’re shocked by the change that happens from pre-pubescence to post-pubescence, and sometimes you smile and say “man, she looks just the same.” Perhaps staying the same is a good thing, and perhaps not—usually that’s up to the viewer.

I haven’t changed much since I was a teenager. I changed a lot before high school, but then, after a growth spurt and significant weight loss, I became the Risabella I am today.

Well, sort of.

Out of curiosity, I flipped through a few pictures of my 16th birthday party, followed the senior portraits I got done with my friends. Then I looked at a few recent pictures and saw one crucial difference:

I look tired. Not different, really—perhaps and bit fuller in the face, and goodness knows my skin has seen better days—but I look tired. College has left me physically unchanged, except for being permanently tired.

And I’m wondering if that’s a bad thing. After all, time does what time does. Time changes things. Time leaves us tired. That’s just the way it works. To deny or to hide the fact that I will probably always look tired no matter how much sleep I get from this point on seems an exercise in futility.

I have two options: freak out about it, or embrace it.

Yes, I’m tired. I’m tired because I’ve worked very hard for three years to do the best I can academically. I’m tired because of a year and a half’s worth of intense interpersonal drama. I’m tired because I’m a night owl in a world of early-birds. I’m tired because my imagination keeps me up at night. I’m tired because I am incapable of taking naps. I’m tired because of the journey I chose to take. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, really, and the fact that I look tired is nothing to be concerned about.

I have a million blessings to count. Fretting about a physical change will get me nowhere. I know I’m preaching to myself—but there are others who feel the same thing, and I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t be worried about looking tired. You’re tired because you’re working hard at something. You can’t control what time does to you, you can only control what you do in the time you have.

Apologies to Gandalf. 

Fairy Tales


People seem to have a love-hate relationship with fairy tales these days.

I’ve noticed two camps: one camp loves fairy tales and everything they imply. A person from this camp will readily tell you that she still believes in them—that happy endings are not only a possibility, but a likelihood or even something she deserves. I’ve noticed more women in this camp than men.  This person is either an extremely bubbly eternal optimist or that really quiet girl or guy who sits in the back of the class drawing dragons in the margins of his or her notes.

The other camp is the realist/pessimist camp. They’ve got their tents pitched in the marshes, if you know what I mean. These were the first kids in school who were willing to say they did not believe in fairies. These are the disappointed ones. These are the ones who expected things to turn out the way they do in fairy tales—prince charming or perfect princess and living sappily, happily ever after. When they didn’t, they threw the baby out with the bath water and insisted that love must be a myth as well. The people in this category vary. Some are the smart people who approach relationships with a “head-over-heart,” cerebral approach—like Lt. Commander Data on a date. Some are militantly anti-romance; the kind who like to yell at couples locked in prolonged periods of silent eye-contact to “take a picture, it lasts longer” (I’ve seen this happen). There are those who are content—and perfectly happy—living life without the fairy tale, and fill their time with similarly worthy pursuits.  And then there are those who swathe themselves in cynical bitterness, cranking out angry-sounding essays from their darkened corners at Starbucks, sipping the bitterest of espressos.

I’m not here to say what camp I’m in. I’m just giving you the field notes.

I do wonder, however, why this seems to be such a divisive issue. Both camps tend to look down their noses at each other. The fairy-tale-lovers pity those who’ve given up on hunting for prince charming, and those who have given up on Princy and love in general think that everyone in camp A is several fries short of a Happy Meal.  

Both sides seem to be missing the point. Honestly, folks, love—when it’s real love, not the counterfeit version that seems to be so prominent these days—is beautiful. It’s the most wonderful thing in the world.

What’s real love?

“Greater love hath no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Real love is utterly selfless. Real love is like being king of the universe and deciding to become a human for thirty years. Real love is like spending three of those thirty years telling people the truth about themselves, even if that’s not what they want to hear. Real love is spending your years on earth caring for people that society has cast out. And even when those people decide to turn on Him, demanding His death,  His real love still loves them back. Someone with real love would be willing to let His soul, though sinless, be stained with all the wickedness of the world. Real love is willing to carry all the blame for every crime—crimes He didn’t commit. A Man with real love would be able to look into the eyes of His executioners and say to an unseen listener, “Father, forgive them—for they do not know what they do.” Real love forgives. Real love lasts for all eternity.

And that’s no fairy tale. 



Tonight I learned something fabulous.

Tonight I found out a friend and fellow student of mine shares my birthday. Not only do we share a birthday, but we’re in the same society (read: UU “sorority”). We’re both Ravenclaws. We both play stringed instruments. We also live in the same dorm. We also lived in the same country (Germany) at the same time (2000-ish); we both speak German (although she speaks it much better than I do). We both have brown hair and brown eyes. We both enjoy eating large salads.

In short, I have found my long-lost twin.

We go through our lives being told that we are unique. Everyone is different from each other—radically different. These differences are the spice of life. These differences are what make living interesting.

All of this is true. But another wonderful aspect of living is that we all have a lot in common as well. More, perhaps, than we’d like to admit to ourselves.

We all need love. We need love from other people—we need it from our parents and our siblings and spouses. When we don’t receive this love, we are disappointed at least, crushed at the most.

We all value our own lives above just about anyone else’s. Man is a defensive creature. We want security. We want safety. Even the risk takers of the world—the sky divers, the bungee jumpers—strap themselves into harnesses and wear helmets. Everyone wants to live, preferably for a long time.

We all are born incomplete. We’re hunting for something. We’re born with questions in our heads.

And none of us need to be taught to do bad things. Badness is an instinct. Children have to be taught to share, to be kind, to obey, to be content—those things don’t come as naturally as throwing temper tantrums.

It’s easy to be judgmental of the people we see on the news—the headline makers carted off to jail—the mug shots on the front page. We think we’re above the kind of behavior that lands people in jail. But really, I can’t look down my nose at anyone. Not the thieves, not the embezzlers, not even the murderers. None of them. Not a single one of those people just woke up one morning and decided to do what they did. No: one conscious decision led to another, then another, then another. I could have easily made the same choices. I am capable of the same crimes. I’m no better than them. I’m no better than anyone.

We all have much more in common than it’s pleasant to think about.

That’s why we all need a Savior. In a world of imperfections, we have one Perfect Standard worth conforming to. In a world overrun by evil—the evil that sits inside all of us—there is Someone who can lift the stains from our hearts. And one day He will lift the stains from the whole world.

The world is full of people who, at least as far as externals are concerned, are completely different. Different heights, different hair color, different ages, different tastes. But, at core, we all share the need for redemption.

Hello, there, world. Let’s talk. We’ve got a lot in common, you and I. 

Every Now and Then, You Should Try to Write a Song


Long we loved another Land

And hid beneath its Ruler’s hand.

We’ve abandoned our Commander.

Lord, look down.

Lord, look down—

Lord look down.

We’ve abandoned our Commander.

Lord, look down.


Somehow we have pulled away,

Though Your blood cried out for us to stay.

We’ve forsaken our Redeemer.

Lord, look down.

Lord, look down—

Lord look down.

We’ve forsaken our Redeemer.

Lord, look down.


Long we’ve tried to merely endure

The illnesses no man can cure.

We’ve forgotten our Physician.

Lord, look down.

Lord, look down—

Lord look down.

We’ve forgotten our Physician.

Lord, look down.


Now we bow our heads before Your throne;

Prodigals asking to come home

We’re returning to our Father.

Lord, look down.

Lord, look down—

Lord look down.

We’re returning to our Father.

Lord, look down.



And the Sun Came Out (Part 3)


We saw you, and the scars

red on your hands


showed plainly you had met

the law’s demands.


The night of doubt dispelled,

you shone anew


and we marveled at what the Sun

of love could do.


Long had we endured the death

of darkest night


but daylight cut the clouds, and now

we bask in light.


The veil before your face

was torn in two


and the Sun came out. We have

no more to do


than to step into the light—

walk through the door—


you lived to die so we

would die no more.