Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mother's Day

I expected groans of disapproval as I informed my family of my desire to attend the early church service on Easter. When they readily agreed, I still wondered if we'd make it on time. Despite my lack of confidence in my three youngest girls, we pulled out of the driveway closer to 8:00 a.m. than I had anticipated. Lauren did cause a slight delay. She hates wrinkled clothes and refused to put on her blue linen dress until the rest of us were headed to the car. I believe people who hate wrinkled clothing should stick to polyester, but because I choose my battles, I said nothing. Besides, I was still celebrating my victory of getting them to the early service.
Elise quickly climbed into the third seat and closed her eyes. I expected the same from Victoria. Instead she asked, "Is it weird to have kids?"
"You mean to give birth?" I wondered.
"No. To have them around. To see them. To talk to someone who came out of you. Who started as a tiny speck and is now living around you. What does that feel like?"
As I turned to talk to Victoria, I became a little distracted by Lauren. She was looking in Michael's rearview mirror, arranging and rearranging her necklace, and fluffing her hair.
I thought of what it was like to watch a piece of my heart walk and talk and move independently from me. To be overwhelmed by the desperate desire to prevent a child from repeating my mistakes, to experience the burden of trying to download everything I think I know, painfully realizing they just might make mistakes of their own, and praying their gradual independence from me will lead to a lifelong, growing dependence upon God.
In the midst of all of these thoughts and emotions, the only words to come out of my mouth were, "Wow. I never thought about it like that. It is weird to have kids." I'm now embarrassed that this was the best I could do.
Motherhood! Nothing I've done has been more difficult, or more rewarding. Fortunately I've been blessed with an excellent role model, for my own mother is patient, loving, and unselfish, not just with her family, but with everyone she knows.
Many of us will spend the coming days in search of the perfect gift to express our love for our mothers. May I suggest you share your heart with her through a letter? Not a text message or a facebook post, but a real handwritten, heartfelt note of appreciation. If the relationship needs mending, attempt to do so before any more time elapses. If your mother is already gone, write a note to a young mother in need of encouragement. You may even want to thank someone who has been a mother figure to you.
And to all mothers, I want to remind you that motherhood is, without question, the most important job in the world. From the moment of your child’s conception, you have accepted the responsibility to care for their miraculous life.
A mother has the incredible challenge to be available to their children 24 hours of every day. A wise woman realizes this task is impossible without God’s continual assistance, and she seeks His guidance daily. No one but God realizes the amount of time and energy you put into raising your children, and only He can equip you for this lifelong commitment.
I honor you for the job you’re doing with your children. But I know your impact reaches far past your own family. You often go beyond your borders and touch the lives of all of the children you love… nieces, nephews, grandchildren, students, children of friends and your neighbor’s children, as well.
I want to speak for them, for all of the children you have mothered, and thank you for a job well done. I want to stand, representing them, and applaud your unselfish and often sacrificial gifts of time, energy, love, and, yes, money. And I want to kneel in their place and ask our Father to strengthen you, to energize you, to fill you and allow you to overflow with His love, joy, peace, mercy, wisdom, and blessings.
I know I'm a little early, but I'd like to be the first to wish you a Happy Mother's Day. Psalm 127:3 beautifully declares, "children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward." May God continue to pour out His grace on all mothers as we daily care for our precious gifts.
Oh, and if I could have a redo with Victoria, I'd simply say, "Having kids is wonderful; watching Lauren get ready for church is weird."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter 2011

Although my Grandmother always told me to wait until after Easter to plant flowers, this year I couldn't resist. Justifying myself because Easter is at the end of April, my backyard is already filled with my favorite flowers. I couldn't wait.
Another temptation I've had difficulty resisting is the large glass canister of jelly beans on my kitchen table. I thought it would make a pretty display. It just looks a little different now that I've picked out most of the yellow and orange jelly beans.
While I reserve this time of the year for planting spring flowers and eating more candy than I should, I don’t wait for it to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. That’s something I think of daily. As a child, I never understood why it was necessary for Jesus to die. I had a difficult time wrapping my mind around the idea of a sinless man dying a brutal death. Now, when I think of Easter, my thoughts go back to the Garden of Eden.
Created in the image of God and clothed with His Glory, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. Once they disobeyed God, they realized their nakedness. Their guilt brought shame so they attempted to clothe themselves with fig leaves, and then tried to hide from the presence of God.
Before banishing them from the Garden, God made them garments from the skin of animals. Animals were sacrificed to cover for the guilt and shame brought on by the sin of Adam and Eve. For many years after that, people sacrificed animals to atone for their sins, while prophets predicted God would send a Messiah to redeem man.
John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. God had sent His Son to be the sacrifice for the sins of the people. Although tempted in every area, Jesus was without sin, yet He willingly became the final sacrifice for our sins. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” I Peter 2:24
I could make a lengthy list of the sins from which I’ve been forgiven, the sicknesses from which I’ve been healed, and the freedom I’ve found from financial difficulties, fear, and mental torment, all as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice. As difficult as each one was to bear in my life, they were spread out over a fifty-one year period. What astounds me is that Jesus bore not only the contents of my list, but the lists of everyone at one time. This is a pain I cannot imagine, endured by a Savior I will not deny.
Although my sins were enough to nail Jesus to the cross, they couldn’t keep Him there. Easter Sunday marks His triumph over death. May we daily experience the results of His sacrifice, and live in the freedom He so willingly purchased for us.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Baseball... and Life

I'm not going to say sports are important to my family, but before making an appointment for her surgery, my Dad asked my Mom to consult the baseball schedule. There's just something about baseball that I love. You start from home with the intention of rounding the bases. To do so means you must face everything the opposition throws at you. Curve balls, fast balls, sliders. They all come flying as you attempt to bat that ball as far away from you as possible. When you do, your teammates cheer as you venture away from home and run out to make your mark. All the while, the other team still attempts to put you out of the game. Your goal? To make it back home safely, where your teammates run to greet you.
During a recent baseball game, my Dad approached me with a question. "Do you want to come with me to Fountainebleau Treatment Center tonight? Mrs. Lola is bringing some of the ladies from the prayer group." Although I had gone to the park with the intention of staying for two games, I welcomed the opportunity to watch my Dad minister to the men at the treatment center, and to visit with the ladies.
Mrs. Lola Mahler started the St. Francis of Assisi prayer group thirteen years ago. These devout women meet every Sunday evening to pray for many people, including my parents, and the ministry of Get High on Life. Seven members of the group were taking the ninety minute trip to Fountainbleau and they were bringing food. Dirty rice, corn, biscuits, 200 pieces of Popeye's fried chicken, and more desserts than I can name. Yes! The decision to accompany them was an easy one.
As I sat at the treatment center and listened to another of my Dad's inspiring talks, I wasn't just impressed by the words, but by the sincerity, love, and commitment he has for the people at Fountainebleau. He speaks with the same excitement and zeal he exhibited when he first started his weekly trips there, over seventeen years ago.
Just as impressive to me was the prayer group. They were attentive during the meeting, served food until not one more man could eat one more bite, then visited and encouraged many of the clients who are seeking to better themselves, and eventually return home. As they went about talking to men, I thought of the prayer the ladies pray at their own weekly meeting.
"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
"O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen."
As I watched them interact, I realized these ladies don't just pray the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, they live it out. By interceding for the people at Fountainebleau, they have placed themselves on the same team. They pray for them to be successful, to be able to handle the temptations thrown their way, and for them to eventually make it home safely. And if I am allowed just one more baseball analogy, may I say that last week, my Dad and the St. Francis prayer group knocked it out of the park.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Painting Party

"Hey, are you going to the painting party?" read the text from my friend, Beth Hitt. I was anxious to attend, but reluctant to go alone, so I quickly made plans to join her.
In the meantime, I convinced myself that surely we would be given a stencil of the fleur de lis to trace. I should have spent the time convincing Bonnie McKenney, the art teacher, for when I arrived at the class, I found no stencils, but I did find some great company. Joining Beth and I was her mother-in-law, Rosemary Hitt, and sisters-in-law, Rachael Hitt and Margo Brockman. Margo's daughter, Amanda, and her friend, Margaret Hassell were also there, as was Rachael's friend, Mrs. Frances Troxler. My Mom, Aunt Judy, and my sister, Ann, showed up, too, but our group was not exclusively female. Joey Brady and Eddie Jouty completed this anxious group of artists. "It's like a family reunion," Rachael said, and I had to agree, while realizing I would be quite content spending the evening visiting, rather than painting.
Marie DuPont, St. Charles Catholic's Development Director, interrupted my thoughts as she got the party started by showing us to our tables. We were each given
a blank canvas, a palatte of paint, and three paint brushes. That's it! And by the end of the night, we were to transform these simple items into works of art. Suddenly I was stressed. And hungry. Fortunately Cherie Accardo arrived with food. (Cherie chairs the After Prom Party Committee, and the proceeds from the evening of art were directed towards this group, which provides a fun and safe environment, free of drugs and alcohol, for the students after the prom.) Plates piled with salad, shrimp pasta, and crab cakes were passed around, and since I had no intention of being a starving artist, I accepted a plate. The food did provide some comfort as I began to draw.
Because Bonnie broke down the drawing into small, easily manageable steps, even I was able to complete a sketch of a fleur de lis. I didn't spend much time looking around, but became more than a little curious when Joey said, "I'm going to paint what Jesus tells me to paint." We ate, we talked, we sketched, erased, sketched, and we laughed, and soon we were ready for the paint. Something about filling in the sketch with paint was so soothing to me. Choosing the colors and the intensity with which I would use them had me so focused that I put down my pasta, after eating all of the shrimp, and devoted most of my attention to my art. I could stop eating, but I wasn't about to ignore the conversations that flowed nonstop.
Before I was ready, the party came to an end as we admired the new artwork we had produced in just a couple of hours. They all looked wonderful, but I must admit Joey's was the most creative. I guess he listened to Jesus.
Since the party, I've been thinking of Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago." I've often thought of my life as a sketch God provides, and directs me to fill in a little at a time. I view every season of life as a new space, and aim to completely and obediently fill in one before moving on to the next. It doesn't surprise me that sometimes, even in the midst of doing all I know to do, God allows a little pressure to be applied. This no longer causes me to stop and worry, but to go on living and doing and trusting His direction. Later on, as I look back upon those times, I find the pressures provided a richness and a depth to my life (just as deeper colors do in a painting) that I would not have otherwise experienced. And in His mercy, He always gives me ample times of airy, light, fun times to balance things out. The painting party was one of those times.
When I look at my painting, still perched on the stairway of my home, I don't just see a fleur de lis, I remember the process. The instructions, the effort, the choices, the food, the conversations, and the laughter. I still hear the laughter, and I'm so thankful to God for placing so many of His priceless works of art in my life.
Ronny may be reached at