A warm breeze kisses my skin as I am at last able to return to the old porch without the need for a blanket or a jacket. Brightly colored purple blossoms ignite the spring trees, and tiny buds indicate soon-to-return Texas bluebonnets that will carpet the ground in blue. Spring is here, finally. 

I’m blessed that we have a short and usually mild winter here in the center of the Lone Star State, only a couple of freezes and one massive ice storm to deal with so far. And though winter is my least favorite, I love living in a place where seasonal change occurs. Being able to open the windows and sleep with fresh air, no heat or AC, is among my favorite things.


Of course, summertime is the ultimate. So many summer memories occupy space in my gray matter. Each summer my grandparents would hop in their new Chevrolet (my grandfather traded his in every year) and we would make the full-day drive to Tennessee. They always packed a picnic, and we often stopped to visit other family members along the way.

Get in the Car Now!

At first, I was resistant when they would ask me along, because summer was a time to hang out with my best friends, to ride to the shopping center on our bikes, and to see what kind of trouble we could get into. But I had no choice in the matter. And once we got to Tennessee, I had some of the best summers of my life. 

Country Breakfast

My second cousin Larry was a year or two older, and we got to share a bed. We would stay up late talking and telling stories. I got up with him at 5 a.m. to help him work the farm. We would feed the chickens, milk the cows, clean out chicken coops (the worst job ever), and once the chores were done, we would come in for breakfast about 7. My Aunt Ruth would make fresh cornbread, fried potatoes, and fried chicken for breakfast. Her preparation included going to the yard, grabbing a chicken, and dressing it, which is a polite way of saying she cut its head off and plucked its feathers. We didn’t get to eat like that at home.

Skinny Dipping

Larry knew all the great spots, and we would hike to a giant waterfall and skinny dip in the cold rushing water, standing up with the water gushing over our heads. We would walk to neighboring farms, visit friends, make forts in the woods, and whittle. The big competition every night was to grab an apple from the tree, pull out our pocket knives, and see who could peel an apple with one continuous peel. The men would sit around on the porch telling stories while the women were making a dinner of more fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and fresh green beans and tomatoes. 

Glowing with Joy

I could not be happier. I was with my cousins, my grandparents, and my great-grandparents. Grandpa Garrett was a preacher who founded several churches, and he raised songbirds on the side to make a little extra money. My Great-Grandma was about the sweetest person I ever knew, and she was truly interested in me.

A Litter of Puppies

One summer I had the added bonus of a litter of little black puppies. I’d lay on the grass and all nine of them would lick my face. I couldn’t stop laughing. But the hardest part about going home was leaving those puppies behind. On the day we were leaving, I begged my grandparents to let me take my favorite one back with us, and somehow they must have secured permission from my parents. The dog was probably not properly weaned, and he whined and was sick most of the way home. I named him Whiny, but later we renamed him Pepper.

Boy’s Best Friend

All young kids should have a childhood companion like Pepper. He was at my side constantly except for school. He was an outside dog because my dad didn’t want a dog in the house. Yet Dad was the one to let him in on his first cold night. Pepper lived in the house from that point forward.


One day my brothers and I were out playing basketball in the driveway (required lifestyle in Indiana) when Pepper took off chasing a loud car. He had a bad habit of chasing cars that we were not able to break him of. As this car raced down the road, Pepper was on its tail and barking. Suddenly the brake lights went on, the driver swerved over, and he intentionally ran over our dog. Pepper hobbled back to the driveway and died in front of our eyes. I cried for weeks. I can remember being in 7th grade, holding back the tears. I had lost my best friend.

My oldest brother knew the driver, who was a bit of a “hood” (the negative term we used at that time), and he went to his house and confronted him. He just laughed and said it was time to teach that dog a lesson for chasing cars.

This may have been my first real dose of reality, a moment when I realized that not everybody was loving and friendly. It’s the first time I can remember being disappointed in humanity.

Time for Revenge

I had never been so angry. I just wanted to get revenge. But my grandmother sat me down and said, “You need to forgive that boy.” She said, “We don’t know why he is the way he is. We don’t know why he has so much darkness in his soul. Instead of getting revenge, you need to pray for him.” I refused. I did not want to. And I stayed angry for a long time.

But once I did forgive him, something changed inside of me. It was when I first realized that forgiveness is for our own good. And it made me want to reach out and help him.

Like you, I could fill up pages where people disappointed me, hurt me, hurt my family, and made me angry. But no matter how hard it is, I forgive them. Then I try to understand what they might be going through. What made them do what they did.

What about you? Did someone hurt you badly?

Have you forgiven them?

Anger eats away at us. I have friends who have carried grudges and anger for decades. I know families who don’t speak to one another because someone hurt someone’s feelings. Yet why would we distance ourselves from those we love most just because they said something wrong? We all have bad days. We all have a slip of the tongue. 

Jailbird Joy

For decades I hated this one kid who used to bully and beat up on me in school. He was flat-out mean, and he ended up in jail. When I first heard that, I celebrated. Yet years later, I was at an all-male event called Promise Keepers, and they asked us to think about people we held anger toward. I realized I was holding anger toward this kid for probably 30 years. I did not even realize it, but he was the first person to come to mind when they asked who we thought of.

I forgave him that day, and all that internal anger was erased. Who knows what the negative impact was on my own state of mind and health because I was holding anger?

If there was someone who wronged you, who would it be?
Who else?

Make a list.

It’s one thing to just tell yourself you’ve forgiven them, it’s another thing to bow before God and ask Him to help you forgive that person. It’s so powerful, it’s life-changing. 

Now, reverse it.

Ask yourself, “If there was someone I may have hurt, who would it be?” It’s even more powerful to realize you’ve wronged someone and need to ask for forgiveness. If you can ask them, write them, tell them, it’s healing. If you can’t, at least deal with it within yourself.

Life is a grand experiment. Maturity comes from a series of stupid mistakes that don’t get repeated.

I made some horrible and selfish decisions when I was young, when I was a young business owner who was a little too impressed with himself, and I still on occasion say or do things I regret. We have all done it. Move on. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. And ask for forgiveness.

Holding a grudge is like being chained to a prison wall. Forgiveness breaks the chain.

Now, get on with it. You may have some work to do.

Eric Rhoads

PS: It completely blows me away knowing that someone who is broken, flawed, and who has hurt others and done bad things can be completely forgiven, and once forgiven, it’s gone forever and never brought up again. This is what faith in Christ has done for me. Whenever I say something about that, people complain, some will cut me out of their lives, others will unsubscribe or unfriend me. Yet if I offered a cure for a horrible disease, people would welcome it, not reject it. The cure is in a simple prayer, which I’m happy to share privately when you reach out.

When I was a kid, I’d stay at my grandparents’ house, in the front bedroom with the fan in the window. Between the windows hung a painting that my grandmother’s sister had painted. When I learned that Aunt Ruth was an artist, it made me want to be one too. Decades later, that painting became mine. I drove to Tennessee one last time, taking my mom for a visit to see her aunt and uncle. I took that painting with me to show Aunt Ruth and to tell her how much I loved it, and I got my picture taken with her holding it. That painting is one of the most cherished paintings in my collection. I only wish I knew where all her other paintings ended up.

Whether they knew it or not, the influence of my artist aunt, and my artist mother, opened a door for me that has made me the most grateful I’ve been in my life. No one knew all the art things God would place in my lap because of the small seeds planted at a young age.

In just two weeks I’ll be hosting our fourth PleinAir Live conference online for anyone wanting to learn or get better at painting. Today, I want to dedicate it to Aunt Ruth. I think if she knew what happened as a result of that one painting hanging in the front room, and all the lives that have been touched and people taught to paint, I think she would be a little embarrassed, but pleased. Who knows, maybe this is the seed you need to explore what you can become.