In marriage, two become one, but that is definitely a process. Some would call that process “from me to we.” Rhonda Hollins shares her profound “me to we” journey of love. You will hear how a painful dating experience affected her, how a miracle shaped her, and how the love for her Savior has enabled her to live, and lay her life and loved ones at the altar.
Today, Rhonda and her husband Conell, are busy helping hundreds of couples start off with strong foundations for godly marriages. And in this story, we are invited into their home, to see where it all started out.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew. 6:33
Note: Because this is a family-friendly podcast I want to take just a moment to let you know this podcast contains some sensitive content that might not be safe for young ears. If you have young kids listening, please take note and consider putting in earbuds.
Happy Childhood, P.K.
Parents married 50 years
Clearly saved at age 6
Baptized, and hears God’s voice
13 yr old rebelling, at odds with mom
Learning to trust again
Honeymoon, and the loss of a parent
The “me to we” first year
A very sick newborn
Miracle provision, surgery and healing
God has raised beautiful ministry through their family
Ministry of premarital counseling and strong foundations
THE P.S. Questions Answered:
Asking permission before physical encounters in marriage
- Tips on pursuing a relationship, pursue premarital counsel
- Heated Fellowship
- How to Keep the fires going in marriage when things become stale
- How has the pandemic changed you
Rhonda and Conell Hollins links:
Podcast: “Me to We Talk” https://metowetalk.com/
Women in Distress 24-Hour Crisis Hotline 1-954-761-1133
Conell “Marriage is one conversation, one long, long communication.”
Conell “whatever you did when you were dating, keep that going. Why does it have to stop? It only stops because we allow it to our we become stagnant, or we become lazy. We become lazy in love, and once you become lazy and complacent, it is hard to get out of it.” It’s hard to get back to something that is special, something that is fiery.
Conell “A name has no character, no color, no flaw, but it means so much.”
Raven Hartwell’s story: https://lettersfromhomepodcast.com/podcast/living-and-loving-out-loud-raven-hartwell-ep-51/
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Purposely. Your life. God’s purpose. Listen at onpurposely.com.
Meg Glesener: Purposely your life God’s purpose. firstname.lastname@example.org. Hi, it’s Meg. And because this is a family friendly podcast, I want to take just a moment to let you know, this story contains some sensitive content that might not be safe for young years. If you have young kids listening, please take note and consider putting in your buds.
Rhonda Hollins: And so, I went to the altar and I put Ethan on the altar and I was like, Lord, I don’t know how you ever did this and sacrificed your son, but I can’t do this. I was just on that alter, crying out from my baby. I was like, Lord, please. I love him so much. I love him so much. I don’t know what to do.
Narrator: And now for the next episode of Letters From Home, sending encouragement to your doorstep, by capturing the heartbeat of God’s people, one story at a time.
Meg Glesener: In marriage two become one. But that is definitely a process. Someone call that process from me to, we today’s guest will share her, me to we journey of love. You’ll hear how a painful dating experience affected her. How a miracle shaped her and how the love for her savior has enabled her to live and lay her life and loved ones at the altar. Here is the everyday extraordinary Rhonda Hollins and in the PS, her husband Conell will join us. The Lord has used them to help hundreds of couples with their marriages and you get to see where it all started out. Rhonda Hollins. I am so happy to have you on the podcast today. I love seeing how God’s using you in your family, in your marriage, in other marriages, for conferences, and now you’re writing books and workbooks and all these things while raising your beautiful family. So, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Rhonda Hollins: Thank you so much. And you know, I look up to you so much. I thank God for giving me great examples in parenting and motherhood. But most of all, just being a woman of God. And also your marriage, which you also have a wonderful marriage, and children. And I just really strive for that, and I thank God for your example. I really do.
Meg Glesener: Amen. Thank you so much. All the married people out there, it’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of… it is blessing.
Rhonda Hollins: Yes, it’s a blessing. It’s so worth it.
Meg Glesener: What was it like to be in your home growing up, Rhonda? Can you bring us into your home and how things started up for you?
Rhonda Hollins: Yeah, my mother and father, they’ve been married at this point almost 50 years. And when we, when we were growing up, my parents were in ministry and they were in the family, the marriage and family ministry, but they focused on the family side of it more. And so, I would watch my parents labor in love with different families and just giving them feedback. And as you’re growing up, you don’t always recognize that, “oh, this is a good thing.” I just was used to it. It was just part of my life. And. I think at one point, I even took it for granted a little bit too, cuz I was just like, well, we’re always in church. You know? Like I was like, we’re always here. And so, what else is out there in the world? But now I thank God for that. Oh. I now that’s a whole nother story in itself. But I just remember just growing up in ministry and us having so much fun. It’s myself, my sister, and my brother. And I’m the oldest of three. And so, we, my mother always told us, you know, or trained us, I would say is to how to walk alone.
And when it’s time for you to walk alone, just know you always have your family. You know that you always have your, your mom, you got your dad, you got your sister and your brother. And so, they were my best friends growing up and they still are. We grew up in south Holland, Illinois. We just were pretty much preacher kids. It is what everybody would say. Here goes a PK kid. We were that.
Meg Glesener: I know, growing up and you know, my, my kids have been raised in a, in a Christian home and there’s, there has to come a point where you give your life to Christ and that he becomes yours. What did that look like for you?
Rhonda Hollins: It, it happened when I was six years old on my golden birthday in may. So, I was born May 6th and I remember it, it was no longer my parents telling me about it. I remember asking the Lord, I know this, it may sound unbelievable, but I just remember asking him, I said, Lord, I, I just, I wanna know you for myself. And I felt like I heard him like, I felt this calm that came over me and was this warmth. And I just felt so confident in that moment. And I was just like, mommy, I wanna get baptized. And so my mom was like, you wanna get baptized? Yes. Okay. Yes. Yes. You know? And I remember they made such a big deal about it and it was a big deal, but I just remember thinking I’m gonna have time with him. I’m gonna get to know him. And I remember when I went to go get baptized, I felt like I was under there forever, but that I could breathe. I know this sounds weird, but it, you know, I felt like I could breathe and I was just under it. And I just felt like I could hear him when I was getting baptized. And after I came out, I, I just felt a connection where I just knew I was gonna be taken care of. I knew that he loved me. And I, I always think of now, I, I would say now I think of this… have you it’s this book it’s written by Francis Chan called Crazy Love?
Meg Glesener: Yes.
Rhonda Hollins: I love that book. I love it. And it’s a part in the book where it talks about his natural father, the way that he perceived his natural father was the way he started to perceived the Lord. And it wasn’t in the best situation in the way that he perceived his dad. But I had a incredibly close relationship with my dad. My earthly father. I was real close with him. I’m definitely a daddy’s girl. We had t-shirts my shirt said, daddy’s girl. And my dad’s shirt said, who’s your daddy?, So that’s just how close we were.
So, you know, and so when I would think of knowing the Lord, I would think of him in the same way. And the protector. You know, a good listener loving. And I felt like when I got baptized that day, I felt like I got that. I, I felt like I got a greater sense of what that was.
Meg Glesener: How encouraging and how rare is that to hear like a, the Lord clearly saved you at age six, and that was a start of something beautiful. Did you hit any bumps ever? Like, you know, the teen years?
Rhonda Hollins: Oh my goodness. Yes. I, I know my mother, she probably couldn’t stand me at 13. I think it’s something that happens right there at that age. You don’t know who you are and then all of a sudden your mother becomes the enemy, you know? And so I, I remember having a journal and writing how angry I was with my mother in there. And I wanted to, to leave and sneak out the house. I was just trying to do so many different things cuz I was rebelling because, i, I don’t think it was the right reason. It was just a reason. It’s just, I felt we were so confined only, you know, to the church and I wanted to see everything else, but they were protecting me. You don’t know that at 13. And so, the person that I felt was keeping me from my fun was my mom, when she was really just trying to protect me.
I don’t know why I feel compelled to say this. So, I remember my mother was telling me about really protecting my atmosphere and making sure that I don’t entertain every spirit. I remember her saying this to me, and I just was thinking, oh, this is super religious. I, I don’t I don’t know why that she thinks this way and, and feels this way. And so, I just went ahead and and at this point I was, so I had to been about 19 or 20. I think I was 19 or 20 and I was going to college in Chicago. I didn’t want to go far at the time. I wanted to still be around my friends and everything, and I wasn’t listening. They were telling me, go out and experience things. So I, I, I, I go out and I’m going to the city and the city of Chicago is not the safest place whatsoever. I, it’s definitely on the news, but it’s not all bad, but there are areas you just shouldn’t go. And I took it upon myself to still go out with friends. And so, we went to an event and there was a young man there. And he and I exchanged numbers, and I, you know, I’m thinking, you know, he’s, he’s nice looking guy and everything will be fine. So, I come back and I tell my mom about it. And I was like, Hey, I met this guy and everything. And she was just like, you know make sure you, you guys go in separate cars. You don’t know this person, you know? Get to know him first, you know? Things always look good on the outside; not necessarily on the inside.
Meg Glesener: Wisdom.
Rhonda Hollins: And so, yeah. Yeah. , that was great knowledge. And I said, okay. And so, for a while, I actually didn’t talk to him for a very a long time. I was just going through school, trying to get my studies. So, then the young man reaches out to me and asks, you know, if he can take me out on a date. And I was going to, I remember I was going to tell my mom about it, but I had, I was angry with her for something. I don’t know what it was I was angry about. And I didn’t, I didn’t run it past her, like I normally do. And even to this day, I still run things past her, but this time I didn’t. I was getting ready to, I told him, I said, well, yeah, I’ll meet you. And then he said, well, I’ll come pick you up. So, he comes to pick me up and we, we go out on the date and everything. And then afterwards, when he was supposed to drop me back off towards my car, he, he didn’t. He wouldn’t let me go back towards the car. And I remember just this fear in my chest. I was very scared and I was just like, oh my goodness. I don’t know what I’m gonna do. And so, I was trying to, at the time everyone had pagers, I don’t know, and so, I try to page one of my friends 9-1-1, cause I was nervous. Cuz he wouldn’t take me, you know, to my car.
And so, eventually he takes me to the car. But then he goes, oh I left my wallet to get gas, to put in this car so I can get you back and everything. So, let me go get my wallet and everything. I said, well, I’ll just, I can give you, you know, the, the money to get the gas. Let’s just go. And he, he wouldn’t listen to me. And so I was nervous. And so, I I’m waiting and just scared. And I say this because when we got over there, he wouldn’t, he wouldn’t, he went into the house and then he was kept trying to get me to go into the house and I wouldn’t go. So I remember he came to my side of the door and I wouldn’t open the door. He unlocks the door cuz he has the key.
Meg Glesener: Oh my goodness.
Rhonda Hollins: And he, he really, he really hurts me. You know really hurts me. And I said, I said, God help me. And he stopped. He stopped. Cuz I literally, it was at one point where he, he bear hugged me so hard that I felt like I could feel my ribs touch. And I thought I wasn’t gonna be able to breathe if he, if he grabbed me any further, I just remember just calling out to God and he stopped. And my friend shows up, and I know this sounds weird, but it’s like, I don’t remember all of it because I think it was just so painful for me. But I remember my friend asking me what was wrong. And I noticed that I was bleeding on the back of my head, and I noticed that I was bleeding on my legs. And so, she, she got me in the car and was like, we’re gonna call, we’re gonna call the police and everything. And I remember I had such shame because I thought to myself, did I invite that? And I was just like, it took me a long time. So, it was to the point where I didn’t wanna talk to anybody. I didn’t want to be around men at all. I didn’t want men around me, period. I didn’t, if I saw men walking to the side of me, I would get nervous or scared. And I remember I went to tell one of my friends, not the same friend that picked me up, what happened. And I remember her saying to me, well, why would he do that? He, he looks, he’s so handsome. He has such, he has such a good job. He has such a nice this and all of this. Why would he do that to you? He could have anybody. And I started thinking, everybody’s gonna think that…
Meg Glesener: Oh, I’m so sorry, Rhonda.
Rhonda Hollins: I didn’t trust for a very long time.
Meg Glesener: Were you ever able to share that with your mom, or were you still too, too, like full of shame? Which I’m, I’m sorry, you felt shame for that.
Rhonda Hollins: I didn’t, I didn’t tell my mother. I didn’t tell my mother because I felt, you know, this is how the enemy works. He’ll make you feel that you are wrong for… I didn’t communicate with my mom like I normally would’ve. If I had talked to her, maybe that wouldn’t have happened. And I started to trick myself and said it was my fault. That I asked for it. And so, I didn’t say anything. And then, in fact, I didn’t want anyone to know because I didn’t wanna be labeled, you know? You know how it is sometimes, especially as a woman. And then you add another layer sometimes as a woman of, of color. Sometimes you’re looked at, as being… there are stereotypes that you’re promiscuous. Or that you’re, that those are the things that you have a lascivious nature. And I didn’t want that. And my parents were in ministry. I didn’t want other people to talk about my mom and my dad as though they didn’t protect me, when I know that they did.
I felt I didn’t protect them because I didn’t listen. It took me a long time to say something to my mom. And the reason why I even said something to my mom is because she was like, well, Rhonda, we, she wanted to go somewhere with me and I, and I saw some men walking. And so, I just would always go dark and assume it was going to be something bad. So, she was just like, she looked at me and she said, what happened? What happened? And I said, what? Nothing. Nothing happened. And I think either four, four years had passed at this point and I was like, nothing happened. And she said, no something happened. And I remember holding me on my shoulders and turning me towards her. And she said, what is it? Say it all. No judgment. What’s wrong? And I just, I felt like I melted in her arms. Like I just cried. I cried. I cried until I had no sound. I never cried that hard in my life. And, and then I told her everything. And so, she held me and she rocked me. Then after that, she was like, where’s he at? So, she was trying to fight. And I was just like, no, I don’t want you to go to jail. I didn’t want, I said, I don’t want that. I don’t want any of that. And so, it took a long time. And, and so about, I, I remember I went to pray and, and I went with my dad and my mom before, we went with the pastors, so that they could pray for me. And, and so, I could get guidance and so I could get counseling and to get through things. And I remember that it was, it, it, you, it’s not something that you’re always, you’re ever gonna 100% be over. But I also realized that, That this is something that happened to me. I’m not something that I am and thank God for people that will allow you to speak and get those things off your chest.
And, and so, I was, I started feeling better right around. I was I was between the ages 26 to 27. I started feeling really good about myself. And I started working and doing things with my career and moving forward career wise. And I started working at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and I had, was moving up the ranks there. I run into a gentleman by the name of Conell Hollins, that is there. And I met him right after that. And he was such a gentleman. I remember he was, I remember I didn’t wanna go out and, and date at all. I was still very protective. I didn’t wanna go out with anyone. And I met, if I had not met him in work, I don’t think that we would’ve ever talked, you know? And he we, we actually didn’t like each other when we, we first met. We were fighting, we were fighting with one another and he said, he was just like, man, I don’t know whoever marries that girl, he said, I’m gonna pray for him because, because she, she is a load of work. And now I laugh about that all the time. you were praying for you, buddy . And so, but I, I remember what was the turning point that made he and I talk more. We were talking, we were, we were at a work conference together, and I remember I was standing up standing up, you know, trying to find a seat and there was no seats in the restaurant. And I remember he went and got a chair for me and he said, here, you could sit here. And he stood the whole time while I, while I had the chair. And I was just like, well, that was very nice. And I said, well, and I remember I was being like, well, I’m not sure, you know, what is, what’s the other motive, you know, to this? And, and so that was the first thing. Then I had a lunch ticket or a voucher that they gave you when you were at the conference. I lost my voucher. And so, he came to me and gave me his voucher and he said, Hey, you can have it. I’ve already eaten and things like that. But he actually hadn’t eaten. He just gave his voucher for me and I heard his stomach growling.
Meg Glesener: That’s sweet.
Rhonda Hollins: And then I said, are you hungry? are you hungry? And he goes, no, no. And I was just like, . I said, you can, you can have the other half. And so, we ate the sandwich and were talking and, and, and there was another, then he asked, he was like, Hey, do you wanna go out on a date? And I was nervous. So, I stood him up on the date. And it, it, I know now was just cuz other things I was feeling, you know, triggered. And so, I was like, no. And I stood him up a total of five times. Five times. And he kept on just saying, I’m, I’m gonna take you out. He said, what would make you more comfortable? And I said, well, maybe I’ll drive and I’ll meet you. And so, we met and we, we sat and we talked and we ended up talking for hours and hours, and I just really thought the conversation was so amazing. And, but I still, you know, I was like, I don’t know. And so, then he said, well, let let’s, you know, what would you like to do? I said, I’d like to go dancing. So we, he took me dancing. And we went dancing and then he said, well, if you want, we can go to movies on another day. And then we went to the movies. And what I liked is when we were watching the movie, I end up falling asleep on his shoulder, which is unusual for me and everything. And I fell asleep on the shoulder and I remember he left me up really nicely tapped me on the shoulder. And then he said, I, I just wanna make sure it was okay. I didn’t wanna, you know, touch you, you know, anything. And I, and I just thought like, you know, he was just such a gentleman. And even on our wedding night, if I can say this, it was the fact that he asked, he said, he asked me for permission. You know he was like, You know, I just want your permission. And it just, I was just so, like, so different experience.
Meg Glesener: It’s like he was winning your trust too. And part of healing that you didn’t know, you know, what something different was like.
Rhonda Hollins: No, no. And it was just a completely different perspective. And I think about it all the time. I think about it’s just so funny that my, my God gave me not only a wonderful husband, but he gave me three boys. He wanted to make sure that I loved loved men afterwards. And I, and I do, I, I just, I look at them and I just see these wonderful little human beings and I just see how much they love the Lord and I see how much God love them and, and loves them. And, and I just say, This is what it’s, what, what a, a real man of God looks like.
Meg Glesener: Absolutely. So, it sounds like as you started your relationship out with Conell, and then getting married, he was winning your trust and the Lord was healing some of those broken places as you just learn to open up more. How did marriage change you and what did those first several years look like?
Rhonda Hollins: So, I would say how it’s, it’s still changing me. I still think it’s you know, we’re, we’re getting to know each other every day. Conell and I both always say this, that we’re getting our PhD in one another, you know? Like we’re, I’m, I’m going for the next degree. You know, we got my master’s degree now working, cuz we wanna get to know one another. And still, you never know every aspect of someone, but over time it comes out.
But, I will say that initially I was extremely independent and it was very hard for me to yield in, in, in ways, you know? It was very, very difficult for me. I remember when it was time for us to merge our finances. That was hard for me, cuz I was just like, well, why? You know, you just, you do your thing and I’ll do my thing. And then we’re married, you know and I just thought it was that simple. And I remember I had my own place and my dad, he gave me such great advice. My dad was like, why don’t you all go get something together on your, you know, as your own, you know? That way it’s no remnants of your old place. It’s no remnants of his place, but you just get something together, build together, you know? And he’s like that way, no one can say that’s my spot. That’s my spot. So, and that was such great advice that my daddy gave me and I said, I said, okay. All right, let’s go get this house, but I still try to section off and make things just mine. I was, well, that’s mine. This is mine. And I was just trying to do all these things in a me type of, you know, standpoint.
And so, it was really very I, I would say that first year was, was difficult.
Meg Glesener: I know you have three precious sons. So what was it like when the Lord brought kids into the picture?
Rhonda Hollins: You know, we, I think that just bef well, so let me give you some context. So , it may seem like it was a whole lot. So, when we, we got married and when we got married in September, and when we got married in September, Conell’s dad was very, very ill during that time. And so, he had leukemia, which we later found out. And so he was too ill to make the trip to come to the wedding. But we had went to go see him like just the week before. And I had said to Conell, cause I was having this feeling. And my spirit, like he wasn’t going to make it. I, I didn’t know. I didn’t know how long, but I just felt like it was close. You know? I said to Conell, I was like, Hey, are you sure? Do you wanna go on our honeymoon? Because when I look at everything with your dad, it just, I, I don’t wanna speak negative. You know, I’m just saying just, I want you to spend as much time with him as possible, is how I put it. And he was just like, no, my dad wants me to go for my honeymoon. He doesn’t want me to be sitting out here. It’s gonna be okay. Everything’s gonna be fine. He’s been getting better. Cuz he was, he was sick for a while and then all of a sudden he gotten better. But it just still felt like it was like better, like he was making peace with things, you know, before.
So, we go on our honeymoon and we go to Jamaica and we, we had a ball while we were out there; had so much fun. And, and then we were planning and talking about our lives. And I remember just before we were about to leave, Conell in front of me, I just watched, he just got so sad. And I said, what’s wrong? And I said, are you okay? He said, I just, I feel so sad. And I remember I was, I was rubbing his head and I said, well, you want, you wanna go check on your dad and everything? He said, yeah, let’s check on, on my dad. And so we were gonna go check on his dad. He’s like, no, I don’t wanna call yet. Let’s let’s, let’s go and have something to eat. And then I said, no, just go ahead, give him a call. He said, no, Let’s go get something…
Meg Glesener: it’s like, he knew he had that check in his spirit. yeah,
Rhonda Hollins: he, he knew he felt it. And, and when I go back and think ,of it, I know he knew it, but he didn’t, he didn’t know how to articulate it. And so we went and got something. We were getting ready to get transported to the airport from the resort, and he calls and I, I watch him on the phone and he just leans on the pillar that was right next to where we were, and I just knew something was different in, in it. And I just walked up and I remember hugging him from behind and he, he just cried so hard, so deeply. And so, that was just, it was just hard because, you know, we had…
Meg Glesener: on your honeymoon. Wow.
Rhonda Hollins: Yeah, yeah. the honeymoon. And we were, we were at this high high, and, and then it was this low, low, and, and it was, it wasn’t just a low, low, it’s a, you know, it’s a parent. And, and him, his daddy, he was just so close with his dad. And I remember his dad said to me just beforehand, and it was a conversation that he and I only had, and I shared it with Conell as we were going back. And I say, your dad told me to look out for you and to watch you. And he was like, you know, my son is supposed to be in ministry. He said, I don’t know that I’ve always showed him the right way. But if you can, you know, can you help him through it? And I said, I said, yes, sir. But you know, you’re gonna be able to help him too. so I, and he was just like, yeah, you know, I think my time is gonna conclude. And so, I was just like, well, don’t speak like that. And I remember telling him that, he said, you know, you’re, you’re a good, you’re a good lady for him, Rhonda. You’re a good lady for him. And I was like, yeah, he said, he’s a good guy for you. And he said, I didn’t always raise right. His mama did that. And then we laughed. And I remember we just had just a really good conversation and I told Conell that, and Conell cried. And, and we, you know, and then I found myself just being launched into cuz they were so all heartbroken of course. And so I was making the arrangements for the funeral and, you know, making sure he had time off. It was, it was a lot. And you know, all of his family members were like, you know, there were some family members, they were like, well, you know, you, you don’t let him see you cry. You know, you have to stay strong, but it was hard. I didn’t know how to, I didn’t, I didn’t know how to be a wife let alone, you know, carry him through. But I was trying my very best. I just knew I loved him, you know? So, we went through that and, and Conell was like, you know, I’m just, I’m just so sad. And I was just like, okay. I said, but I said, we’re just, we’re gonna get through this. We’re gonna get through this. And so, you know, we were starting to, he was starting to get better and things like that. And then, you know, two months later we found out I was pregnant. I remember him leaning on my stomach and he just cried so hard. And he was just like, my dad’s never gonna meet him. And he was like, he, he said, I just thought about this… he said, my dad’s never gonna meet any children we have. And I said, well, I said, how do you know that in heaven, they didn’t pass one another by, you know? Oh. And I said, how do you don’t know, how do you know that? Not know? Oh, you got me all in tears over here, Megan. you got, you got me. Wow.
Meg Glesener: Well, you got me too. I, I always keep clean. I’ve got Kleenex.
Rhonda Hollins: So, this is one, this is one of these great conversations you need to have so we, we were you excited for the pregnancy and, and Canel always wanted to name Ethan, Ethan. And so, now his middle name is my, is Conell because Conell is named after his dad. Cuz Conell always said that everyone gets his name wrong. You know, even my mom did for the longest, she would call him Cunningham. I don’t know how that goes along with anything, but everybody would call him Cornell, Cordell, everything but Conell. Right? And so, he said, I don’t want my son to go through that. I want his name to be Ethan. And then I want his middle name to be my dad, you know, like Conell so that the name will still go on. And I said, absolutely. I said, whatever you want. And so, we were just so excited. And then when, just to know that he was a boy, it was just so it felt like my, my husband just felt like, you know, what’s, this is just God allowing that, that legacy to continue.
Meg Glesener: Amen.
Rhonda Hollins: And when Ethan came out and we saw him, he looks like my father-in-law. Wow. Like they’re very, they’re they look very similar. It’s, you know, complexion everything. They look very similar and I was just like, wow. You know? And it, it brought such a healing to the family. I, I felt like it brought everyone. Everyone came to his baby shower. I’ve never had a baby shower with that many people there. But there was so many people there and Conell’s father had left and it was so funny, it was like just before he, he went back and changed his, his will, his last will Testament. And he he put Conell, but he put me on there and he said, and their future children.
Meg Glesener: Mm.
Rhonda Hollins: And it was just, it was, it was, it was beautiful because it was such a conscious, you know, decision yeah, to do that. And I remember we had all these different we had bills, we had bills to pay from our wedding and things like that. And when he left us those that, that money, we were able to pay everything off. And I was extremely happy about that. We paid everything off, but we, we didn’t have a lot, still afterwards cuz you know, it took, we had a lot of bills and we probably went too far on the wedding in general. But you know, we, we took care of all those different things and, and I would just say like, this is probably, if I may say this is. I would say where we had another challenge, you know, as being married, was it was two months after Ethan was born and I was holding Ethan and my baby just like slumped into my arms, you know? And I could tell he, he, something was wrong breathing right. Yes. Something was wrong.
And so, I, I remember I rubbed his chest, rubbed his chest and he came too, but his coloring was off. And so Conell was outta town for work. And I, I had went to the doctor office and I went to the pediatrician, you know, we didn’t have a strong relationship cuz this is my first baby. And so, I go in and I, I tell the pediatrician like, Hey, he’s something isn’t right. He’s not breathing. Right. And he was like, oh, that, that happens with, you know, babies, you know. Don’t worry about it. Just let him sleep it off. And you know, he’s exhausted from the, from the travel of the womb. I said, no, no, something’s not right. I said, I need someone to look at him. And he was like, no, I don’t have time. I have a full day today. And I said, well, can you refer me to another doctor? He said, no, I don’t have time. You, you know, if you think it’s something wrong, come back tomorrow. I said, I’m, I’m not leaving. And so, I said, I’m gonna sit over here. And when you get a moment, we’re gonna see the baby. And he said, You know, you, you gotta understand you’re a new mom. And I said, but you know what? God made me his mom for a reason. So, I know something isn’t right. And so, I sat over there and I was just rocking him. And I was there for maybe four and a half hours, and then he came out and it was another doctor that was coming to help that day. His name is Dr. Unger, and I will never forget. And he said, well, if you don’t mind, can I look, you know, at him and, and we’ll go from there? Cuz I don’t want you to sit out here and wait. And I said, yes, yes. And I would love that.
Meg Glesener: Yeah. Four hours later. Yes please.
Rhonda Hollins: Yes. It was, it was wrong. And, and he looked and he said, well, you know, they did a x-ray, they did a MRI. And then I remember him looking at his x-rays and he was going back and forth and he put the stethoscope back on him again. And I knew something wasn’t right. Cuz he wasn’t saying anything, but he kept on checking and he would listen. Then he said, can I listen to your heart? And then he went to listen to my heart. Then he went back and forth and he just went back and forth and he said, I want you to go… there’s another doctor I’m gonna call right now. He’s a specialist, cardiovascular. I’m, I’m hearing a click when, when I’m hearing your, your son. And, and he said, and, and you’re not supposed to hear that. He said, but I’m not an expert. And I know someone who is, and his name is Dr. Sun thorn. And so, I want you to go there. And I said, okay, I don’t wanna wait a day. I wanna go now. He said, no, he’s waiting for you. You can go right over.
Meg Glesener: Oh, good.
Rhonda Hollins: And he’s waiting. And I said, thank you so much. And so, I go over there and they do all the procedures looking at him and he goes to say to me, he said, well, I wanna explain to you the heart. And he starts breaking everything down to me on the HeartWise and my heart start beating, because as he’s explaining what it is, I’m recognizing that the severity of it. He, he explained everything very well. And he had what’s called pulmonary stenosis. And it’s a narrowing, narrowing of the pulmonary valve that goes to the oxygenates the blood, that goes to the lungs, which helps you breathe, which helps your lungs contract.
So, basically he wasn’t getting enough oxygen in order to breathe his heart, wasn’t able to pump it.
Meg Glesener: Were you able to talk to Conell on your way over to the other doctor?
Rhonda Hollins: When I was leaving there, I called him and he left his meeting and I was like, “emergency emergency.” And I told him, and he said, what? You know? And then he just started crying, and then I’m crying. And then I said, I, I said, I know what I’m gonna do. I know what he is I’m doing. So, I went right to my church and… no it was church wasn’t open cuz this was, I think this was a Thursday. And I went in there and I called my pastor. His name is Pastor Paunder. I called him and I, I said, I was telling him everything was happening. And I said, I just gotta get to the altar. And so, I went to the altar and I put Ethan on the altar and I was like, Lord, I don’t know how you ever did this and sacrificed your son, but I can’t do this. I need you. And it was the same way I’ve called Him before. And I was just on that altar, crying out from my baby. I was like, Lord, please. I love him so much. I love him so much. I don’t know what to do. And then I started like, what did I do wrong? I was thinking like, did I eat the wrong food? I, I, I was just thinking all these things, like, what did I do? What did I do? How can I, you know, and I was in a, I went back into a blame mode of myself. And I remember my pastor came to me. He said, Hey, why are you so hard on yourself? yeah. He was like, why, why do you think that God is, is that way. Why do you think that he’s gonna believe he, he wants the worst for you? He wants the best for you. He said, you’re putting this on the altar. And I said, yeah, he said, okay, leave it there. and I said, I said, but I don’t know what to do. He said, leave your cares, everything, leave it here. Give it to him. He said, don’t go back and get it, Rhonda. And he said, and leave it. And I was just like, okay.
And, and Conell flew back. He flew back emergency fly back. His, his, his company flew him back right away. We needed to decide what was gonna happen for Ethan. And, we go to the hospital out there, the pediatric hospital out there for cardio cardiovascular surgery, and they said, well, we’re gonna try and, you know, maybe do a balloon stint through his leg first to maybe balloon open the valve. Because they were, since it was narrow and they were hoping they could open it and stretch it. Well, he had, it was just too thick. It couldn’t get through. And so, that procedure, at the time cost $22,000 and the insurance company wouldn’t agree to it at first. They were saying, well, we don’t know, you know, and then also it didn’t work. So, since it didn’t work, they were basically saying we were gonna have to pay for it. And we didn’t have $22,000. We had literally in our account $212. I will never forget. And we had $212 in our account. And I said, well, that’s not gonna cover, that’s not even gonna cover his medicine. And so, but we, we still, it still needed to be done. And so, I had went, I, I was, I was praying and I was like, you know, Lord, I don’t know what to do. And I heard in my spirit, and I don’t know what everyone else’s relationship is with the Lord, but like, I’ll hear him clearly say something. Or it’ll sound like my voice or it’ll sound like his voice, but sounds really calming. And it was just like, Check into the doctors, you know? Like, and I, and I said, checking the doctors checking.
So, I start looking at all the different doctors that were out there. And I found this one doctor that specializes in, in pulmonary stenosis. And I saw his name and I felt like I should just call him, you know? So, I called. And they were like, well, he’s, he’s in surgery right now. And I said, oh, so does he work out of there? And they said, he works out here. And he also works out on the, they said the Southeast. And I said, okay. So, I drove with, with Ethan, me and Conell and the baby, and we drive up there and we wait in the waiting room and the receptionist said he can’t see anyone without an appointment. And I said, I just, I gotta, I have to meet him. I just feel that if he knew what was going on, he would care. And I, I, I really would like to wait . And so she said, okay, I mean, you’re gonna be waiting a long time. I said, this is worth it. I’ll wait. And so, I waited and I sat there and, and so I waited and then she said, oh, she said, don’t sit, stand because he moves real quick.
And I said, okay. So, I stood up and I’m waiting. And then he comes through the door and I was like, doctor. And then he said, yes. And I said, I really wanna talk to you about my son, Ethan. He needs surgery. You’re the person that’s supposed to do it. I feel it in my heart. God told me that you should do it. And I really wanted, and he said, wait a minute. What, what and everything. And he was like, Wait a minute. What? You’re saying a lot. And I said, let me show you his record. And I was, I was talking super fast. I didn’t know really what to do. And I said here’s, here’s his, my son’s records and everything. And he said, wait a minute, are you a patient? I said, we will be like that. And then, then he said, okay. And he’s like, alright. So he opens it up and he looks, and he was like, wait him, how old is he? And then I, and I told him, I said, he’s two months. He’ll, you know, he’ll be three months in another, you know, three, you know, weeks almost.
And he was just like, oh, he’s such, he said, he’s such a cute little guy and everything. He said, well, you know, I have a lot of people on my docket. And then I stopped him again. And I said, I don’t have the finances. I don’t have the money. And I will work every day if you’ll just take care of him. If you’ll just make sure that he gets what he needs. I don’t care how long I gotta work. I don’t care what you need me to do. If you want me to, I’ll pick up the trash here. I don’t care. Just if you’ll just take care of him. And I said, please. And he said, you don’t have to say that you don’t have to beg. You don’t have to. He said, okay, okay, hold on. He was like, and he turns to the reception. He said, who do I have max? She said, you have another 15 minutes, in between. And we turn back around and we go into his office and he says, okay. He said, You know, there’s different parts where he, his heart needs to be patched. I want you to understand what happens. He doesn’t have, what’s called pericardium around his heart. So, based on this last x-ray you need pericardium, it’s a heart casing around the heart, and we would need that to patch the parts that are the, the holes that he’s having, you know, from the stent. And I said, wait a minute. There was holes that were created? And, and I didn’t even know this. And I said, oh my goodness.
So, he said, yes, they, they created, when they tried to it, it didn’t work, and so it stretched in, it created a hole as well. So he has some leakage there.
Meg Glesener: Oh my goodness.
Rhonda Hollins: He said, that can be fixed. He said, but I don’t want you to focus on that. Let’s focus on what we’re gonna do to get Ethan better, okay mom? And you kept calling me mom, you know, to calm me , you know, and I said, okay, okay. And then he said, so he said, well, I think we need to move on this quickly. And everything he said, and I want you to know that there’s a possibility that we may have to put a prosthetic piece in there. And if so, we may have to, you know, revisit additional surgeries because the prosthetic piece will not grow with him. So, we’ll have to replace it, but I’m just letting you know that, you know, it’s a possibility that quality of life may not be there. And I said, I just don’t believe that, but you do your best and then I’m gonna pray and we are gonna get our best, you know, going. And then he was just like he said, oh, he, he goes, I love when people have such faith, you know, their kids do so well when they have faith. But I could tell he was not an active belief. Mm-hmm , you know of the Lord. I could sense it, but it didn’t matter. I told him I had enough belief for both of us we would get it done. Amen.
And and so then Conell was like, what do you need us to do? You know, and he said, I know my wife is the main one talking, but you know, what else can do you need us to do? What do you want us to learn? What could we study? What so that we can make sure that we’re as proficient as possible. And he said, he said, you just be here, you hold up mom; and mom holds up dad, and it’s gonna work out. Right. And we said, okay. So, he went in it, his schedule, his surgery was scheduled from two weeks from there. And it was just before he was gonna become three months. And so, we go in for the surgery and the surgery was expected to be six hours and it ended up being four, four hours. And so, we’re sitting there and that, that was hardest amount of time in my life. Mm-hmm and I, I think a lot of people don’t recognize that they literally bypass the heart. All the organs are put on machines and they open up, you know, the chest cavity of your, your child. And and they stop the heart while they, why they do this. And so, I didn’t recognize all of this. And so, I was just a nervous wreck, you know. And I remember going into the chaplain area to pray again and just saying, Lord, just, just save my baby, heal him. I know all will be, well. I just wanna say it again. , you know, and, and prayed. And so, came the, we came out and, you know, the doctor said, okay, so we’re gonna go and take a look at him. And he was like, but what I will say is this mom, I, I was looking at the x-ray earlier, and when I looked at the x-ray earlier, I, I, I know I shared with you that there was no pericardium, you know, around it heart. And I say, yeah, no, I, I remember. He said, well, when we opened, you know, his chest cavity, there was an abundance of pericardium around his heart. He said, and i, I know… like look at this x-ray it’s, it’s not on here, but it was there in my eyes, you know. He said, I don’t understand how the x-ray didn’t pick it up. He said, and then when we did the x-ray, after we could see it. And he’s like, so I don’t, he said it’s, it’s just… and I said a miracle? And then he is like, he said, it’s just, I’m not used to seeing… I said a miracle, and I just started screaming and I, I fell on the ground. Me and Conell were on the ground crying. We were just so happy. And he said, he said, I don’t often say this, but he ,he’s he’s not gonna need another surgery. He said he is not, he said, I’m just, I’m just very happy. And it went very, very well. Mom, you’ll be excited. And he said, I also got a plastic surgeon in there. And so, he won’t have the normal you know, the scars where it’s, you’ll see scar on each side of the incision. There was none of that. It looks like almost like a thin little line. Wow. Like almost like he scratched himself. It’s so thin. And I just, I was like, thank you. Oh my God. Oh my God. Thank you. Thank you. And so, he was like, yeah. And he was like he said, so I want you to you come in my office and everything. And I said, oh, oh, I gotta, I gotta start… I made a joke, and I said, I gotta start cleaning trash that soon. And he started laughing. I says, is the bill that big? And I said, I don’t care. I’m just so happy. He’s like, okay. And so, you know, we laughed about it and, and Conell and I laughed.
And then we get a call when we took Ethan home for that week home, and we get a call from the same receptionist. And she said, Hey, Rhonda, I need you to call because a part of your, your insurance may cover part of the surgery. And so, you know, maybe something, you know, work from there. And she’s like, she said, so just give it a call. And I said, well, you know, they told me that they wouldn’t be able to cover it. She said, Rhonda, would you give them a call? Like that. And I said, oh, okay. Oh, okay. Done. I’m doing it. Yes. Okay. I was like hand hint. Okay. Got it. so, so I call over, I call over and then the insurance company said, well, the only thing, you you’ll just, you know, we don’t see a, a fee in here. And then I said, I said, no, you know, you guys have to cover it. I, I wanna make sure that you have. She said, no, there’s no fee in there. She said, hold please. And they had us home hold me and Conell were sitting there. We was like, what are they talking about? And so, then they come back to the line. She said, Dr., Our doctor’s name was Ilbowie. She goes, Dr. Ilbowie waived the charges for both surgeries. You know, for the, for the first procedure and the second procedure. Wow. Come on. Like, I just like what in there? So, what? What? What? What? I just, I said what? And they were like, all you have to do is pay for the hospital stay and that’s covered under the deductible. So, you only, it’s a thousand dollars deductible. Did you guys want us to split up the payments? We said, yes. Split up the payments. praise, Lord. Wow. And so we split up the payments and, and I just, I don’t, I know, I mean, I can tell you forever in the day, but then after that I get a call from my company and they tell me, and this was now two weeks later, they said, Hey, we made a mistake on your pay. and we, we, we have to go back and pay you retroactively. And I said, oh, okay. For how long? They said, we went back, it’s almost a year, Rhonda. Like, we’ve been paying you wrong. And I was like,
Meg Glesener: When does this happen, right? I mean, you know, it’s the Lord.,
Rhonda Hollins: I said, what? I said what? Like that? And I said, are you kidding me? And then I was like, wait minute, let me see it. And then they said, no, we really did. Like, and then they showed me and it, and it was literally almost $50,000. And, and so I was just like, oh my God. Oh my God. And so, then we, you know, we, we put, we, we saved and everything, and it was just, it was a supernatural covering and grace and favor. And I, like, I told you how I, when I hear his voice, it’s this comfort that comes over my spirit and my soul. That he, like, I got you. Like, I love you. I, nothing, I’m never gonna let anything happen to you. And, and I was just like, You never fail me God. And I said, I have failed me. You have never failed me. you’ve always been there and you’ve always brought me through. You always will. And it’s just like, that’s why I want people to know who he is. Cuz if they knew him, like I know him and, and how others know him, I just I’m telling you, you would never be able to break yourself away. He’s just so amazing. He’s so worthy of praise and it’s not for what he does for us. It’s just who he is. And just, just how he loves. And his example, his leadership as is the king of Kings. I’m just, so I’m just in awe of who He is. I just saying? I’m just in awe of who He is.
Meg Glesener: Before we seal up the envelope on this letter of encouragement, we have prepared little treat for you that we like to call the PS. So you can see more of the heart and personality of our guests. Here is your PS. Are you ready for some bonus questions?
Rhonda Hollins: Okay. Yeah.
Meg Glesener: How’s Ethan’s health today?
Rhonda Hollins: Ethan is fantastic. Like I told you, or I don’t know if I even mentioned it, but Ethan was told that he wasn’t gonna be able to do sports. He wasn’t gonna be able to have quality of life. They said he wasn’t gonna be able to do a lot of things. And because they said he wouldn’t be able to breathe or have the exertion to do so. And let me tell you, my son is in baseball. Has been in baseball has come in number one. Wow. He’s been the fastest runner. He would love for me to tell you about all his RBIS, right? he’s an excellent swimmer. He’s on track everything, those high level exertion sports. He comes in very first. He’s top of his class, he’s a math, math athlete. I could just talk about it all day, but most thing I’m most proud of is he’s a child of God. And I I’m just, and his he’s gave his heart over to the Lord and. And I just look at this young man and he is in excellent health. Yeah. So, so no, everything’s been great. And Conell and I have been married 13 years. It’ll be 14 years in September, on September 7th. I’m just so happy. We’ve been doing our ministry 13 years. They threw us right in, right away. But I thank God for it.
Meg Glesener: Yeah. Say something quick, something special about each of your precious boys.
Rhonda Hollins: Aiden is my joy baby. Okay. So he gave me reprieve. He was the one that when I was nervous about having a child again, he was, it was the easiest pregnancy I have ever had in my life. He, by far is a, a party. We call him party all the time. Right. Because he is happy all the time. Aw. He is dancing all the time, singing all the time. and so, so he is my happy party all the time son. But so smart. So wit.
Meg Glesener: And I know you’re a little Avery precious little Avery, almost one.
Rhonda Hollins: Yes, he is. He is like very calm and then extremely a laughing baby. He laughs all the time. Like he has the deepest laugh. I think he’s gonna have a deep voice like my son, Ethan. He’s he is going to have a deep voice too. Cuz he is a laugher. You know, when other people are like, oh he was crying. No, we woke up to him, cracking up in the middle of the night. That’s what he does. Laughing, holding his feet laughing. So, I would say he’s just pure joy, you know, pure joy.
Meg Glesener: All right. Conell. Thanks for popping in. She just shared like a bunch of stuff and we were both crying and I’m blowing my nose and so it’s beautiful to see what the Lord’s done in your life. Are you ready for some bonus questions?
Conell Hollins: Okay. Miss Vanna white. Yes ma’am. I’m here for it. Yes.
Meg Glesener: So now, now we have the privilege of having Conell and Ronda said that, you know, when you were dating, she rejected you five times Conell. So, I wondered. I mean, we know she’s a gorgeous woman, but what is it that you saw in her where you continue to pursue this woman?
Conell Hollins: That is crazy that you say this. Okay. So, it might have been five times. It might have been two. It might have been three. However, you who really knows. Why do we have to put a number or a label on thing to?
Meg Glesener: Yeah, let’s see. Who’s right.
Rhonda Hollins: Anyone know that he did that. He took it that many.
Conell Hollins: It’s fine. It’s fine. I’ll take an “L” five times to win at life. To win at life. No, I mean, like for, just for the simple fact, like, I don’t know if you sure, really explained how Florida was for us. Like that was our. Ultimate first date for the free. Yeah, like the company took us down to Florida. It was just so amazing. And I thought that when we got back, we had this, which had such an indepth conversation that we’re on the phone for hours. And I, like, I really saw something with this young woman. And I, and I took it to a place that I never really had taken it at that point with any other woman, from the standpoint of just being vulnerable and, and, and letting my guard down. And so I thought we were there. And I thought something like magical was taking place. You know, we went to the, the, how, how do I say the, the funnest place on earth or what say?
Rhonda Hollins: Oh, the, the most magical place on earth.
Conell Hollins: We made magic in Disney and we brought it home.
Rhonda Hollins: Yeah. Yeah. Our meeting was in Disney. Yes. I didn’t give her, I didn’t tell her that part. Okay. So we went down for a work conference and that’s where he gave me his lunch voucher. Where he gave me he got me shares. Oh, the happy, yeah, the happiest. That’s it. The happiest place on earth. That’s it.
Conell Hollins: So we, we, we brought that happiest place on earth, back home and, and we had this great, I think it was like a week of conversation. She ghosted me, and then like my little heart was broken, so I had to go find my heart. Like I had to go chase her down. Like I need to know what happened, because like I said, I was, I was in a place of vulnerability that hadn’t been with any woman before her. And like, I wasn’t ready to do that again for anybody else. So, I was like, what went wrong? So either I’m not gonna do this again. Or we gotta figure this out because I really like you. And I know you like me because, like you said it, or I felt it . And so, yeah, I took five, maybe five L’s, maybe two, maybe three.
Rhonda Hollins: No, it wasn’t. It was like five.
Conell Hollins: No, no, but when you, when the heart knows, it knows. So like I really, she was worth chasing down, right? No, she was, she was very charismatic. I, I really liked her. I’m gonna use the word tenacious. like, like she’s, she’s such a go getter. Like I fell in love with her, her work ethic. That, that really captivated me because you know, I’m so laid back in chill like that. She brought it out in me, like, Hey, like I just said, you wanted go get it. Like I wanted her, I had to go get her. And we, we approached that to everything in life. Like she tell, almost set the part where she told our boys, like, we don’t sit back and wait for it. We build it, just like Noah. You build your ship. so like, you really like, you really gotta like go gun-ho for something that you really want.
Meg Glesener: All right. Well, I wanna ask you something a little more serious. So she, she really went into the abusive situation that she went through before marriage, and Conell with all that she went through. What was your perspective and how did you win her trust?
Conell Hollins: I mean, I think the one thing that she always tells me is so, you know, we waited to marriage and the, the one thing I asked before we did anything that day I asked for her permission. I was like, is it okay? That you know, we do this. Is it okay that we proceed, even though we’re married is I asked permission. And she told me that that made her feel, that they made her so vulnerable because no one’s ever asked. Especially coming from that situation, when someone just takes. Like, for me to just ask permission, like that meant the world to her. And that, that solidified the fact that I was the one for her. And so, no, I mean, for the most part, I was always just trying to be a gentle soul to her, and treat her like, you mean, your mother tells you, you know, treat a woman, like not so much, like you wanna be treated, but you know, respect. You have to get respect to get respect. Right? So I respected her as a person. A woman is my wife. Is my, the future mother of my children. Is the person I wanted to be with. And I just always like came from a place of like, I, I respect the fact she even told me what she went through. Cause some people even hold that in. And she was always been an open book with me. So like I’ve always tried to be respectful of what she’s dealt with and make sure that, you know, I just wasn’t that same person.
Meg Glesener: Amen. Well, I know that there’s many listeners out there that are young men in their late twenties and thirties, and young women. What would you say to people who are wanting to get married and they’ve met someone and they want to pursue a relationship in a healthy way in 2022?
Conell Hollins: Okay. Well, first one I would definitely say pray about it. Make sure they ask God, is this the one for them? And, and hopefully they, he spoke, he spoken back to, or they saw the sign. Like this person makes me better. Cuz that’s what it has to be. Like, it can’t just be somebody that you’re with for the moment. This person literally has to make you better or not complete you though. Mm-hmm cause no one can complete you, but God mm-hmm . But when he brings two people together, there’s some, there’s some work to be done. Mm-hmm like we tell you all the time, like there’s, there’s good work out here and you gotta get it in marriage. And, and there’s more to be done, especially when you multiply this, this number. But I would definitely say that, make sure they prayed about it and just make sure they’re doing it for the right reasons obviously, and that, you know, It’s really what you, what you want. Not something that you’ve been kind of finagled into. Or something that you’ve been given the ultimatum to be in. This really has to come from a place of the heart, because if it doesn’t, it’ll eventually crack and it will show. Yeah. Like the char the true character, as far as what you want from this relationship will show at some point, if it’s not really, really, really what you want.
Rhonda Hollins: May I add, please? I also think that sometimes, and I’m speaking to men and women on this, I think that you think that it’s only. It’s like this one moment, like you’re gonna have this Eureka moment and then they’re it. That’s it, you know? but it’s actually not God will give you multiple mm-hmm examples and ways to confirm if this person is for you.
And a lot of that takes time, you know, it’s asking questions. Yes. It’s having deep conversations. Yes. If you can’t be your full, transparent self, if you can’t say the good, the bad and the ugly, this might not be a person for you. If you can’t be who you are and be naked and not ashamed with this person…
Conell Hollins: Facts.
Rhonda Hollins: …that person may not be the right person for you. They could very well be a really good friend. They could very well be someone that was only meant to be in your life for a moment, but you have maybe unfortunately extended it for a lifetime. Don’t do, make moments lifetime decisions, you know? Mm. And we always say that with the couples. But I, I just don’t want people to think that it’s a one time thing. Marriage is a discovery and you should be able to ask some really deep questions. But you can’t be afraid to answer them in return.
Meg Glesener: Absolutely.
Rhonda Hollins: You know a lot of people don’t wanna be who they really are. They wanna put up a facade or it’s like, my husband says, oh, you’re being a representative of who you are. You’re, you’re showing your very best. But I think marriage is when you’re able to show, unfortunately, sometimes you’re very worse, you know? Sure. And, and can, can you be you?
Conell Hollins: So to her point, Take some form of premarital. Yeah. absolutely. I should have learned with that. I would definitely encourage premarital because in our community it’s something that’s not really put out in the forefront. Mm-hmm but we we’re making it sexy now.
Rhonda Hollins: You are.
Conell Hollins: One, couple at a time we’re making it sexy. So, now we’re bringing it back. We’re just making it sexier. But no premarital is, is a, is something we definitely recommend for any couple that’s looking to get married. Just for the fact, like, if you can’t ask those tough questions, let us, let us do it for you or let some coach or counselor do it for you. That way you’re getting the answers you need.
Rhonda Hollins: Absolutely. Yeah. And we, and we actually say we have a lot of people that come in our class that are single. That aren’t even in a relationship yet. And we actually find them to have the best results, because now we always tell ’em, oh, you got the great job. And they’re like, what? And it’s like, you get to be selective. You can be choosy. Now you know, all the parameters and now, you know what you wanna go look out for? You know, this is your best time in your season. So, we have that. Or we have people who, who are just dating. They haven’t even said they want to be married, but they’re just dating and they happen to be in the room. And, you know, we always tell couples, and this is what we say the first class. And you tell me what, if you agree, or you wanna chime in, okay. But we say this all the time, we say, we’re gonna throw everything at you and the kitchen sink, because our job is to break you up. And they’ll go what? And it was like, yeah, our job is to break you up. And they’ll say why I say, cause if you can’t take this class and Conell say, if you can’t take this class, you’re not ready to be married. If we can’t say all these things, if you can’t be you, then you’re not ready. Yeah. And that’s okay. Okay. You know, like it’s okay if you don’t make it. We would rather you break up from someone in the dating phase than for you to get married and look at that person across the courtroom in divorce court. We would prefer that any day. So, it it’s a win-win for us on that situation. Oh man.
Conell Hollins: Facts.
Meg Glesener: That’s so good. Well, I mean, you can hear how much love and fire and wisdom that Conell and Rhonda have. They have a great podcast. If you know, wherever you’re listening to Letters From Home, if you just wanna look up me to we podcast and just subscribe, so many great topics that just dive right into the real stuff of marriage, and it’s been super helpful for me. And I know they’ve got a great book. They’ve got a, a great workbook. That’s gonna be coming out the howtos to your I dos. Who doesn’t need more help with all of that. And maybe you can just give one quick teaser for your howtos to your I dos.
Rhonda Hollins: Oh, I was always gonna steal your thunder about Tuesdays, but I’ll let you, cuz I could see his face. Like you better not say that one. But I would say one that we do is called, who has the mic? Miscommunication is the number one cause for divorce. And we always make an unfortunate joke, but we say that’s what irreconcileable differences is. It’s a miscommunication. So, so the most of our book, as well as the workbook, have nothing but communication exercises in there. And one of them being the who’s got the mic. And so, that everyone has equal time to speak and to be heard. And whoever has it in their hands, you have three minutes and it’s your job to get your points out as you’re, as you’re speaking. And as the listener, your job is to write down the main points that you’re hearing, so that you can give it back to them.
Conell Hollins: Yeah. Cuz the point of it is like the game imitating life, from the standpoint of like, we want you to start out fun about it for the sake of like, if you think about it, when people are talking or trying to have a, a conversation, or we don’t even, or an argument per se, but we call it heated fellowship.
Meg Glesener: Heated fellowship, love it.
Conell Hollins: People tend to talk over each other. Right. we tend to talk over each other or we tend to out, there’s always one person that talks more. Right. Mm-hmm so it also forces the conversation out of that person who doesn’t talk, because they’ve got the mic. You’re gonna either stand there for three minutes and not say anything, or you’re gonna really get your point across because you have this moment where you can feel heard. Because that’s all it is. The person who doesn’t talk much, just doesn’t feel heard, or doesn’t feel like they have the, the platform to do so, so they don’t say anything. They sit there like a wallflower. So, it definitely engages the conversation. So, that’s a very good thing we like to do when it comes to communication, because that’s all marriage is, Meg. Marriage is one conversation. One long, long, long conversation, lots of ways, checkered by disputes. Cause even the Bible says, you will be offended by this person. loves you and you gotta take it. Absolutely. Come on now.
Meg Glesener: What are your thoughts on, how can people keep the fires going for marriage? You know, if they feel like they’re in a rut.
Conell Hollins: I mean, the, the simplest thing to say is how you say in the beginning, do what you did to get her, to keep her. Yes. You know, and that’s simply saying like, whatever you all did when you were dating… Keep that going. Why does it have to stop? Yeah, it only stops because we allow it to, we become stagnant or we become lazy. Just being honest. Yeah. We get lazy in love. Mm-hmm instead of being fiery about this love, we have. Mm-hmm. And then once you get lazy and, and complacent, it’s hard to get out of it, meg. It’s hard to get back to something that’s special. Get back to something that’s fiery because , you you’ve allowed this person or you, or you’ve allowed each other to be lazy so long. Mm-hmm that it’s a habit you have to break. Yeah. But it can be done.
Meg Glesener: For so many families they let the kids you know, they let their family just revolve around the kids and they don’t, you know, it’s very easy to let that happen.
Rhonda Hollins: You know, when he was talking about lazy love. So you have to actively pursue and, and we have date your mate nights. Mm-hmm I know you guys do that too, cuz you guys are always having your dates. But we don’t miss our date and it doesn’t have to be something that you’re spending money on all the time.
Meg Glesener: You know? I know one of your big emphasis is starting marriage off strong. So, what can you say for newlyweds?
Rhonda Hollins: Oh, that’s our favorite part. We always say don’t get caught up on the wedding day. Get caught up on the marriage, right? You know, a lot of times we’ve seen people come in and we are saying, do not literally go broke for your wedding day, because that’s your first test as a couple. Is the way that you keep your finances leading into your marriage. So, your wedding day. So really think about those things. Think about what your long term plan. What is your midterm plan? And then what is your plan B? Right. Mm-hmm and so and then they were like, oh, okay. And then we say, and then what’s your plan C? And you’re plan C is Christ. We’re we’re saying like every time, those things that are happening, are you ready for each one of those stages? Cuz those things may happen, correct? We’re really big on couples just understanding and asking questions. I know it sounds simple, but questions are such a powerful arsenal in a newly wed tool belt. It really is. Ask questions. Ask good questions. Funny questions. Mean questions, sad questions. Happy. You know, ask, just ask them, but just make sure you ask and make sure you get answers.
Conell Hollins: Facts .Facts. And I would also say that we like to tell couples that make sure they know that this is a marathon and not a, not a sprint. Like, you’re gonna go through some things and, and you’re gonna grow together and learn together. Mm-hmm but don’t try to just get it all at one time. Yeah. For like, for instance, like the big house, the big car, this, that, and the other, trying to keep up with the Jones. Versus staying in your lane, and running your own race. Yes. So, make sure you’re not focused on that race, not focused on the other side of the fence where that grass is greener, but watering your own grass. Yeah. And running your own race.
Rhonda Hollins: Yes. I like that.
Meg Glesener: that’s good. Is there a verse that maybe just means so much to you and that has kind of shaped your heart and home?
Rhonda Hollins: Yes, it it’s Matthew 6:33: Seek the kingdom and his righteousness and all things will be added to you. We’re, you know, we, we say that all the time and it’s, it’s our mantra. It’s our mantra in, in our class. But we tell him that seek him first and just watch, you know. Like we’re not trying to, we’re not trying to perform miracles. Our goal is to watch him. He’s the miracle worker. We’re just able to watch it happen. His majesty happen face to face.
Meg Glesener: And so Conell, I’m gonna ask you a question. This is you may or may not have an answer to this, and I just wanna see what you have to say.
Conell Hollins: Come on, man. Okay. What you got?
Meg Glesener: it’s not marriage related, but it’s. Is there something special about your name or a name of anyone close to you?
Conell Hollins: I mean more or less, I would say the boys, if anything. Fiery one is Aiden. And Ethan is
Rhonda Hollins: Firm, strong and faithful.
Conell Hollins: Fair and strong faithful. And then what is Avery?
Rhonda Hollins: It means king power. Okay.
Conell Hollins: But so Avery hasn’t come into his own yet, but even just the first two. It it’s crazy how a name is so significant because the, their names like, literally are who they are. Like Aiden is our party all the time. Fire, everyone who, who, who can make a friend anywhere, let’s be clear. He doesn’t, he doesn’t need friends, because he, he can do all he’s big and bad by hisself.
Meg Glesener: You’re afraid he’s gonna walk off of strangers every day. But yeah.
Conell Hollins: Right. he’s never made a, he, he’s never made a stranger that he doesn’t know. And he tells me all the time, I’ll, I’ll talk to the cashier at the, at the store and he’ll be like, you’re over here talking to strangers. I gotta keep you safe. but nevertheless, like he is the fiery one. He keeps us going mm-hmm . And our, our oldest Ethan, is so analytical and strong minded. And he has an opinion about everything and, and he, he he’s very good. Like for he’s, he’s a kid, Meg, but I promise you, he, he can jump in an adult conversation and talk with the best of them. and we gotta, we gotta check him on that. We tell him to stay of adult conversation because we let him in sometimes and he wants to be in all time, give him the highlight but it it’s so important. Like a name means so much. And there’s like, like it carries so much weight within them. Mm-hmm and even the boys together, like, so for, for Christmas, we have each, our initials on the stocking. So before we had our youngest son, our name spelled care. Mm-hmm so now it still spells care, but it’s C-A-A-R-E. So, it’s two A’s.
Meg Glesener: All right. Okay. Last question. So, how has the pandemic changed you?
Conell Hollins: The one thing I think it did really though, it made us sit back and slow down. Like, we would get busy with just doing busy things for no reason. And I still do it sometimes. And Rhonda has to check me like, , I’ll have a free moment and I’ll start trying to clean up or do something like, just chill. just calm down. Just, just sit by me. You only gotta talk, just hold me. But with the pandemic, like we, we made ourselves busy because that’s what we have been so used to.
Yeah. And in essence, if you think about it in a certain roundabout way, the beginning of the pandemic was an eye open form of like early retirement, because you had to slow down for real. Yeah. For real, you had to slow down and they kept you at home for a little bit, and you really had to find other things to like really do. So, it gave you like a little eye opener to what retirement could be. And so how would you become less busy if you didn’t have to work? Like what would you do? Cause they were still paying you. So, that’s what it was. That’s how I looked at it. So, we that’s, when, you know, we sat down, we wrote the book, we. We made sure we spent more time with the boys. Got involved and what they, we were getting involved in because they’re getting older, turned around and had a baby, but it slowed us down. But then they spared us up when we had a kid and our youngest is the best thing we could ever done. Yeah. We were so scared and worried about, you know, being like 10 years removed and how the world has changed. Yeah. And we come to realize like, family was just that much more important to us. Yeah. And even, and, and, and, and then you, you fail to realize how important church was. For the fact they closed down, like our pastor says all the time, they closed the church down before they closed down on a liquor store.
Meg Glesener: Yeah. That’s true.
Conell Hollins: They wanted to make sure you could still go get your wine and beverages, but they said, no, you can’t go to church. Yeah. Right. So that’s when you really realized how much the church was just in you. Mm. And how you would go about making the church happen for yourself, whether it be online or whether it be in your home. Like I don’t even think Rhonda, she doesn’t reference this a lot, but we had a, a close group of friends. We actually formed a Bible study for, for like, I think like for two months we would like get together for like two hours and do Bible study every Sunday, because we couldn’t go to church and the church hadn’t figured out a good way to kind of do the online platform yet. Yeah. So we kind of gave it to ourselves. We had to feed ourselves. Mm-hmm. And so that’s another thing with the pandemic. You became more resourceful mm-hmm as well.
Rhonda Hollins: I will say with the pandemic, how did it change us? It was two things. One is initially you, you never want anyone to, you know, it was so much loss of life. It really had me just take in like, wow. Like, is Lord, like we’re still here. You know, so it’s something that you need us to do. Like, it’s something that’s still left. Or we have another opportunity to grow. So, I, you know, when I’m going through things now, and as I’ve gotten older, instead of saying, why is this happening to me, Lord? I go, what are you teaching me? You know? And so what I was learning is that I was putting too much importance on worldly things and material things. And what makes me rich is my, my family, my husband, my marriage. My children are definitely jewels in my crown. And, and I thought we were spending enough time with them, but honestly, We weren’t, you know? Not the way we thought. And so, when one day my son said to me, my oldest was just like, mom, I didn’t want the pandemic to happen, but I really now feel like we’re getting to know each other better now. Aww. And it was like a double edged sword. It was like, Oh, that’s so sweet. Then it was like, you don’t think that we know each other? You know, it was like, I went back and forth. Like, what do you mean? You know? So I was like, ah, you know, it was just two emotions that it stirred up. So we were just, we were baking cakes, man. We got fat during that time. I’m serious. We ate so much. I gained so much weight during that time, but we were having fun. Like we made, we were cooking dinners, we were making pizza together. We made homemade dough. We did so much stuff as, as kids and family. And, and that was one.
And then from a marriage perspective, and I promise I’ll sum it up cuz we, you know, Meg, I could talk to you all day.
Conell Hollins: I got one more thing to add too. I promise.
Rhonda Hollins: You do? Oh you do. I can’t gonna say no. No. So we, we we said at the very beginning of it, it, we had a, we even did a podcast on it too, but it was like, I love you, but I don’t like you right now. Like, that’s what was happening. Like with marriages and it was happening with us too. Cuz I was getting irritated with small things. Like, the way he was chewing his food. Like all of a sudden I could notice it. And I was just like, you’re still chewing it. Like swallow it. Like, are you done? You know? And it’s like, we didn’t recognize we were annoyed with each other so much. So, then we recorded a podcast and that’s still one of our top, listen to podcasts. People always go back to that podcast to listen to it. But we, we learned so much during that time period because people were getting sick of one another. And he’s so right when he’s talking about early retirement, because we were like, oh Lord, we gotta fix something because if you don’t, you know, there, that’s why a lot of couples are having, what we call silver splitters, right? It’s when the kids are gone and there’s nothing there. Then they split, you know, when, as, you know, having gray haired divorces, because they don’t have anything to hold them together, other than the kids. And we don’t want that. We said we don’t want that. And we said, we were, and we even refined our, our, our class. We had a class, we even had a prep for marriage class, too, that normally it lasts 11 weeks. It lasts 20 weeks in 2020, right? 20 weeks in 2020. And we did all these different things with these couples. And they, that is our best. Is that not, that is the best survival rates of all of our classes. Just the, it was, it’s a, it literally a hundred percent survival rate. All those couples got married. All those couples are still together. And, and, and it’s just, and it was, it was just like, wow, that’s amazing, you know, in regards to it. So, yes, 2020 made me value the life that God has given me a whole lot more than I did previously.
Conell Hollins: Amen. Amen to that Meg. And one last thing, Meg, what? It also taught us. Oh, is that teachers deserve everything they get . Yes. I want, I want every teacher in this country to get a raise. Yes. And I want them to be taken care of because having, having me be this child’s teacher for however many months I did it. No, I could not. You couldn’t pay me enough. No, no, I don’t have the patience. and I am thankful for all teachers.
Meg Glesener: Amen.
Rhonda Hollins: Cause they would’ve failed if it was left us, we were like it’s like what I don’t remember. What’s new math. I was like, what is this?
Conell Hollins: I’m just thankful they passed all the kids doing the first part of this pandemic. Yeah. Because I don’t think we did our kids any justice.
Rhonda Hollins: We did not. Oh my God. I’m so glad they made so much.
Meg Glesener: Oh man. And Conell, is there a verse that means a lot to you and your family, when you think of how the Lord’s led your family?
Conell Hollins: The, the one that always hits home me is, you know, when a man finds a wife, he has a good thing in favor. Because I, I don’t think I really recognize that what, what this favor really was, especially like looking at my parents’ marriage. Like it wasn’t the best. But it was such an example of what a marriage could be if really nurtured and, and grown. Right? Mm. So I, I definitely think when a man finds a wife, he finds a good thing in favor.
Meg Glesener: I trust today’s story encourages you as much as it encourages me. Can’t you just hear the joy and the love and the fun in their voice? And, you know, the journey to get there, it involves pain, it involves effort, death. It, all these things affect so much the foundations of our marriage. And it really spoke to me. And I’m praying for all of us today that we take some time to look at our marriage. To put a little more effort in to, do what we can to more reflect Christ in our day to day.
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