About Me

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Anacortes, Washington, United States
This is my testimony - my testimony of faith and lack thereof; of the rising and falling of hopes and dreams; of beliefs and disbelief's; of tremendous heartache and human folly; of reaching out and stepping out when all I want at times is to is pull back and step away. At the age of 30 I was diagnosed with a very rare neurological condition called Post-traumatic Syringomyelia (PTS). Please visit my post on PTS. One of my goals is to increase awareness of this terminal condition. Broken to Grace is not yet released. Follow this blog to receive an email when the final release date is announced. God bless, Ronda

Friday, October 26, 2012

Wonder over Fear

In lieu of endlessly seeking the meaning of life ~ 
Live your journey, discover what you believe, live by what you believe, and live with patience over anxiety - wonder over fear. Stop wasting time seeking answers in frustration and start living with excited curiosity for what you might learn on this day. 

Psalm 37:7-9 "Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his own way, or because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land."

Friday, September 7, 2012

Third Room on the Right, Anacortes Magazine Feature Article

Third Room on the Right
Feature article from the 2nd issue of Anacortes Magazine

By Ronda Rae Franklin
Photos by Julia Cox

Julia Cox and Taylor Rae Aydelotte left Anacortes in September of 2011, just after graduating from Anacortes High School in June. They headed to a base in Herrnhut, Germany for seven months – cameras in hand – with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) for Discipleship Training School (DTS). It happened without request that they were together the entire time. They were roommates throughout their travels, in the same art track – photography, and on the same mission trip to South Eastern Europe. When Julia and Taylor Rae arrived in Germany they spent the first four months of DTS, from September 4th to December 17th, in what is called the Lecture Phase. Their first night in Herrnhut, Germany they slept in tents their group fashioned from things found in the dumpsters at the school. The idea was for them to experience one week of what a refugee camp was like, but massive lightning and thunderstorms forced the staff to bring them indoors the next day.

During their Lecture Phase, Taylor Rae states “…we learned about God, how to be a missionaries, how to minister to others, and because of our specialized art track we learned how to use our camera – our photography – as a ministry tool.”
The second half of the school is called Outreach, when they finally go out on missions to apply what they’ve learned. Even though Taylor Rae and Julia were together on every step of this journey, there was one day where they were sent in separate directions.
Julia Cox moved from Idaho to Fidalgo Island in March of 2005 and felt quickly embraced into our town’s culture. Festivals lined the streets throughout the following months. “Art surrounded me…a community that encouraged me more than I had ever experienced anywhere else surrounded me.” Once she reached high school, Julia enrolled in the ever-popular photography class. She submersed herself into photography, fell in love with this newly acquired art form, and soon college plans changed to filling out her application for “Marriage of the Arts” DTS with YWAM on a photography track.
“The world around me began to look different as my perspective changed through the eye of my camera.” – Julia Cox
This is Julia’s story as she told it to me, through her newly acquired focus, of the third room on the right…
The third room on the right, the bed to the left of the door, laid Alex. She looked no more than twelve or thirteen – much older than the rest of the patients. Our translator, Jenechka, spoke with the woman standing next to Alex much more than any time before. The young girl looked frail, tired, dazed, and emotionally detached. When I asked to take her photograph, the woman next to her snatched a hat to cover her bare head and fiddled with the girl’s blankets before she seemed satisfied with Alex’s appearance. I doubt Alex cared much. It seemed a vain attempt between her lack of hair, her washed out skin, and feet and ankles engulfed in gauze bandages. I pressed the shutter knowing this was the only way I would ever see her – always in this bed, under these blankets, hat covered head, and gauzed feet. Before I could learn anything about her condition, we were pulled into the next room. My time in the hospital was over before I realized we had left the last room.

After four months of lectures and assignments, long nights and challenging decisions, twenty-four others and I left our temporary home in Herrnhut, Germany and embarked on a ten-week adventure throughout Eastern Europe. My home was ever changing. We went from Germany to Serbia, Macedonia to Greece, Greece to Romania, and finally, Moldova. Moldova – had I even heard of this country before? My team’s final three weeks were spent in the below-freezing villages of Moldova. I had never experienced a colder winter. With record-breaking temperatures, we could barely stand to be outside for more than an hour.
In Chisinau, Moldova was a hospital like none I had ever visited. A children’s burn unit was not where I imagined spending my time. But there I was – for just one day. As I sat in the hospital’s waiting room I felt my stomach moving about as if some strange creature fluttered its wings against my insides. My heart pounded in nervous anticipation of what this day would bring. My thoughts scrambled away from me. Was it really only six months ago that I was home in Anacortes?
We traveled from room to room, equipped with cameras and handmade teddy bears, visiting each child. Most rooms contained three or four children with a variety of burns. Each child had a parent or guardian. I had never seen such innocent beauty. However, the pain on their faces made their unspoken pain beyond apparent as the burns silently screamed at them. Everything inside me wanted to break down. After we left the last room I sat again in the waiting room with the same feeling as before. Jenechka sat beside me as if she knew what was on my mind and told me the story of the girl in the third room on the right – Alex.

Alex just arrived at the hospital earlier that morning. Abandoned by both her father and mother, she was left in the unstable care of an aunt. For reasons unknown, Alex was left outside with hardly any clothing or covering for her feet for approximately two days in this cold that my team couldn’t handle overly clothed for more than an hour. Upon her arrival to the hospital both feet were severely frostbitten. She was scheduled for surgery for the following day. Amputation was the only answer. My mind began to race with questions, confusion, and anger. How could this child be left alone in -25 Celsius (-13 F) for two days, not to mention her inadequate clothing? Where was the love I had always known growing up? The love that I had seen around me all my life Alex knew nothing of. All of these children had a home much different from my own. Being in this hospital may have been the most cared for they had ever been. The beds and the rooms may have been the best home they’d ever known. These children were possibly among the most fortunate in Chisinau, Moldova. I had seen and heard of countless children who were homeless or orphaned in this small city. At least these children, including Alex, had found home within the walls of this hospital that to me seemed so desolate.
I wanted to show them love, that they are children of a God who knit them together in their mother’s womb. What better way than to literally let them see that. Photographing them was an honor. Knowing I would send their portraits back to the hospital that showed them the beauty I saw in them allowed me the courage to follow through in pressing the camera’s shutter in front of each child. My lens unveiled more than what simply sat in front of me. I no longer just took photographs, but became deeply involved in my surroundings. The world around me became more alive and more real for me with each shot.
“Home is where the heart is” – possibly one of the most over-used phrases I have heard yet never fully understood until the day I took that photograph of Alex. All I knew of home before this journey with YWAM was living with my loving family in our comfortable house in the safe harbor of Anacortes. But now I more clearly see through the focus of my camera that home is much more than that – home is in fact where the heart is. Home is where you are, the people you are with, and the life you are living. In the safety and community of Anacortes, we may hear of distant difficulties, but many of us never see them for ourselves. Leaving was the best decision I could have made. And it was in coming back that I fully realized home is the best place to be… whether it be Anacortes, Germany, Chisinau, Moldova, or the third room on the right.
As for Taylor Rae, her heart calls her back to their home at the YWAM base in Herrnhut, Germany.
“When I got to the base I felt like I was coming home. I loved everything about the school from the moment I got there, refugee camp and all. I actually was sad when they made us come inside because of the lightning storm the first night Julia and I slept outside. I miss the base, the people, the atmosphere, and just the simple way of life. I’m planning on heading back this August – hopefully the 14th. I don’t have my ticket yet, but I’m almost halfway to having the money. I’m currently working with the base on the exact date I will return – this time as staff instead of student. It costs about $500 a month to work as a staff member. For the first few months I will be working specifically with the students, helping them process everything as they go through their schools, and hopefully working in the cafe in the castle. All proceeds from the cafe go to “Impact Hunger”, a ministry working with people who have eating disorders as well as working with children in Africa and other third world countries. After I learn how the base runs from a staff perspective, I will be able to staff schools as they come through the base. My goal is to work with the “Marriage of the Arts” DTS that Julia and I attended, working with the photography students and teaching photography – and just helping out anyway I can.” – Taylor Rae
Taylor will not be returning alone to the YWAM base in Herrnhut, Germany – Derek Hiles will accompany her for one month. Derek also graduated from Anacortes High School with Taylor Rae and Julia Cox in June of 2011, was a photography student at AHS, and is now going to DTS with YWAM for photography. After his month at the base in Herrnhut, Hiles begins his student training in Switzerland, a nine-hour drive from what will soon be Taylor Rae’s new home.

Ronda Rae Franklin

Author, Counselor, writer for Anacortes Magazine, CoFounder & President at Fidalgo Island Writers Guild & Director of FIWG for Literacy Program, a non-profit organization under Fidalgo Island Writers Guild. Our mission statement is "Writers helping writers; writers helping youth." We tutor in the Anacortes School District and the Boys & Girls Club of Anacortes to help students of all ages with their writing and reading skills. More info: fidalgoislandwritersguild.wordpress.com, www.anacortesmagazine.com

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Long Lost Friend ~ #Article #Magazine #Writing ~

Such a wonderful, beautiful and full-of-talent community I live in - and now we have our own magazine. Thanks to the vision of Chris Terrell, owner of How It Works and the Heart of Anacortes, and the design work of Ken Davenport - we have created the inaugural edition of Anacortes Magazine. 

Being a part of this is a blessing, and writing my feature article was a great experience. To see it in print, with the photographs of the children I wrote about, was an inspirational moment in my life. 

Please open the link to read "A Long Lost Friend" by Ronda Rae Franklin. (pages 19, 20 & 21)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Book excerpt ~ Grace and Love Personified

Excerpt from "Broken to Grace; A testimony of faith and lack thereof."
(April 21, 2010)

leep didn’t come easy again last night. This has been a recurring theme over the past year – at least. But these past 6 months have been the worst I can recall since back in 2002. I spoke of my recent prayers concerning God’s will. What I haven’t shared is what God showed me back in September or October of 2009. I will share this soon enough. For now, I sure wish I could remember the date of its occurrence. I started going through old letters Mathew and I exchanged via email last night, ones that we wrote beginning the first week of September of 2009. My reading began as a search for that date that God first placed this ever important vision on my heart, thinking there would be a clue in the writings. What it became instead was the discovery of a more divinely inspired love between two people than I had allowed myself to remember.
From those very first days, via emails back and forth, nothing was lost in translation. The opposite in fact occurred. Multitudes of insight into each other’s hearts, souls, spirits and deepest thoughts prevailed beyond any human availability to such things. And we both knew it and were keenly aware of its happening, as it was happening. Again, there was simply no denying it or mistaking it. Not to say we didn’t try to put human reasoning to it all – maybe we both just wanted the other person to exemplify what we needed and the distance made it easy and safe. Or maybe we were simply reading too much into things, happenings, feelings, and insights – all which could be mere coincidences. We talked about these ideas, a lot.  We talked about them over the phone, in texts, and in our letters. As I was reading back into these letters last night I could feel how much we questioned our connection, the strength of it, and the seemingly divine nature of it. We discussed how this was truly not convenient timing for either of us. Nor was it something either of us was searching for at the time.
In fact for me in particular it was most inconvenient. I had been very purposefully keeping myself clear of any potentially attractive man. In fact, I felt blessed that God had subdued my usually strong desire for male companionship and physical touch for a time. I didn’t pray for that to happen, but God knew I needed it long before I did. And it gave me time, lots of it, to simply focus on my relationship and walk with Jesus. I wasn’t done with that – so why was this happening now? 
Were we feeding off each other, volleying our feelings back and forth, falsely increasing the depth of feelings with each volley? Decidedly after much debate, no we were not. And since neither of us believe in coincidental happenings, that was off the table too. We were left with divine intervention that was most inconvenient for each of us. It was also tantalizing, faith building, exciting, heart wrenching, spirit testing, hope enhancing, character over comfort, and a filling of our souls with more joy than either of us had ever known. We became best friends. Besides the near 100 letters we exchanged over the internet and nearly one thousand text messages, we spent close to one hundred hours talking over the phone. All of this communication occurred during the time span from September 6th to October 6th of 2009. Exactly one month to the day. We met face to face for the first time at the Seattle-Tacoma airport at noon on October 6th, 2009. I had been flying for nearly twelve hours. We met in baggage claim. Mathew saw me before I saw him. He watched me for a minute, in awe as he describes it, before he walked up behind me and said two words that still reverberate in my soul, “Hi beautiful”.
t was during this first meeting at the airport that we realized the effect we had on the people around us. Mathew was the first to mention it as he was driving me to my mom’s condo in Everett. He wanted to know if I had noticed and felt the same reactions. Of course I had. As I have said before, there truly is no mistaking it. Mathew’s description of it was direct and to the point – “people saw a husband meeting his wife for the first time.” I could hardly breathe as he said this, so calmly and passionately looking right through me and holding my hand so tight because there was just no way to get close enough. He asked me if I thought they saw something they longed for. I could barely answer because I could barely breathe; he was so beautiful. But whatever they experienced as they watched us, that was part of it. The draw those people felt towards us was so intense, I don’t believe they realized how long and intently they gazed and breathed us in. And they did. They breathed us in up to the very last second, and I could actually feel their longing for us as we walked away with my bags to the parking garage.
Mathew said he felt bad for them. He wondered had they never felt this before with the spouse they stood with as they watched; I wondered if they recognized something they used to have with that person and had forgotten it as readily as they let it slip away. And I wondered quietly to myself if they could not only see, but feel, the divinity of love that engulfed us and the light that God cast out from us as we stood together. From the moment I turned around to the sound of his voice, we touched without breaking contact – from my hand on his arm, his hand in my hair, my hand in his, to a complete embrace, and a passionate kiss that was so impossibly familiar and intimate – and divine. Grace and love personified in us by the Holy Spirit. There simply is no other answer. I have continued to search my soul over the months since, and I have not been successful in putting human traces to it. 

©Ronda Rae Franklin, Broken to Grace