Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Getting on the Same Page

Although I'm a planner and list maker, I love when God takes my preparations and launches them in an entirely different direction. This happens most often during the hour I spend each week with the ladies at the Correctional Facility.
I never know who will be in the meeting, or what they will share. Each lady is given the opportunity to read a verse from the Bible they have chosen and briefly discuss its importance.
I'm often amazed when their selections perfectly link to the topic I've chosen. At other times, the Scriptures they read tie together, God drops a story or another verse into my heart, and we go from there. I love it! I enjoy preparing as much as I can, surrounding my plans with prayer, and watching God's plan unfold.
Not too long ago, the best lesson came from an error. As one lady stood at the podium, she announced her verse and waited for everyone to find it. After she read a few words, I watched the group as they turned to one another, looking at each other's Bibles, whispering, and becoming increasingly more confused.
"She's reading something different," someone announced, and we realized her mistake. She simply said the wrong verse, which sent the group to one part of the Bible while she read another.
I quickly used the experience. "How did you feel when she told you to find one verse, then read something totally different?" All agreed they thought they had heard the wrong thing, felt mixed up, and couldn’t grasp what was being read because they were trying to figure out what was going on.
"That's what we do to people when we say one thing, then do another. If we instruct others, then live our lives contrary to what we've taught, it brings confusion. Anything we say after that, regardless of how good it is, is lost. I want to remember this the next time I try to tell my children what to do."
The experience reminded me of the time I called my sister, Ann. "Want to meet me at Waffle House?"
"Sure," she said. "I'll be over in a few minutes." And although I said Waffle House, I really meant to say IHOP. I went to IHOP and sat in a booth where I waited and waited, not knowing Ann was enduring the same experience across town at Waffle House. Not much fellowship happens when you send someone in one direction, then take off in another. Once I realized my mistake, Ann and I met and had a great visit.
And once all of the ladies in the Correctional Facility got on the same page, literally, we were able to listen and learn from the speaker.
Practice what you preach is the adage that reverberated in my heart as I drove away that afternoon. And as is often the case, the lesson was as much for me as it was for anyone else in the room that day.
Ronny may be reached at

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Christmas Story

I checked the last name off of my Christmas list, waited for Monique and Victoria to get tired of trying and buying skirts, and even squeezed in a brief visit with my niece Brittany. Next on my agenda: dinner.
"Would you like to start with an appetizer like our Bloomin Onion?" the waiter asked.
Before my daughters could stop me, I answered, "Oh, no, we can't. Every time Victoria and I order one, we eat a few pieces, bring the rest home, and no one finishes it."
"But they are good," Victoria added.
"Maybe you should reheat it. It's just not good cold," Monique said.
"We do have other appetizers," the waiter suggested.
"And we probably have a story about each one, " Victoria answered, causing all four of us to laugh. Victoria was correct. We have many stories, but fortunately our repertoire extends far beyond appetizers. One of my favorites is the Christmas Story.
Life must have looked pretty good to Mary before the angel's visit. Her engagement to Joseph was probably the fulfillment of her dream. Then the Holy Spirit surrounded her, the power of God overshadowed her, and Jesus, the Word in flesh, was implanted in her. Her dream was about to take on incredible new dimensions. The Word inside of her caused her to grow, but not just physically. He changed her plans, and challenged the thinking of those with whom she was in contact.
A few months later, while most of the world was sleeping, she brought forth Life. Because there was no room elsewhere, Jesus, the Light of the world, was humbly born in a stable. The One Who had already changed her was about to shake the community, and eventually the world.
While the story of Jesus' life on Earth begins with Christmas, it doesn't end there. He didn't remain in the manger. Jesus grew, leading a sinless life as He taught, healed, delivered, and loved. He then became the ultimate sacrifice as He willingly died on the cross for our sins.
As this story is told and retold, I am always challenged. Have I made room in my heart for Jesus? Will I allow Him to change me, enlarge my vision, and challenge my thoughts?
Just as in the time of Mary, there are many people living good lives, dreaming good dreams, and making commonsense plans. But do they know the story? The entire Christmas story of the Greatest Gift? Will I take the time to tell them?
Will you?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gift of LIfe

I don't want anything for Christmas. Well, other than the shelf I asked my son-in-law, Frank, to make for me, there's nothing else I want. And except for that bedside organizer I showed Lauren while we were shopping. "Why do you need this?" my daughter asked.
"I could put my phone there at night. Right now I shove it between my mattress and box spring." She gave me the 'are you serious' look, realized I was, yet wouldn't let me buy it.
"Surely I can find a nicer one than this," she said. Lauren gave me frequent updates of her quest until she finally found one she wanted me to have. But really, now there is nothing else I want. I have much more fun selecting and giving gifts to others, and have found Act 20:35 to be true in my life, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
If there's anything my children want to do for me this Christmas, I'd like them to donate blood. I've read December is one of the slowest months for blood donations. This is likely due to the hectic Christmas season, and people running around looking for things like cute bedside organizers. I will always be grateful to the people who took the time to donate blood when I needed it, even in the month of December.
Eleven months of chemotherapy often left me in need of blood. I have no idea how many pints of blood and platelets my body desperately sucked out of those plastic bags that hung securely on the metal poles near my hospital bed during that time. Due to the generosity of blood donors: some family, some friends and many anonymous, it was always available.
One night in particular stands out in my memory. I was feverish, exhausted from throwing up, too weak to pick up my hair that was falling out in clumps, and agonizing over my hands and feet that were painfully burnt due to the chemotherapy. Michael took me to the emergency room where I sat in a wheelchair with many others in need of immediate care. Suddenly, I turned my husband and said, “I’m about to faint.”
That whisper took me to the front of the line and before I knew it, the doctor was examining me. She took one look at my pale face and announced, “You need blood.” That night I received the blood products which my body lacked.
Somewhere today, while you are reading this, someone is in need. No amount of vitamins, antibiotics, or superb medical care will take the place of a blood transfusion. Nothing replaces blood but more blood. According to the American Red Cross, only three out of every 100 people are blood donors. If you are one of those three, thank you for your gift. You will never know the lives you've helped.
So really and truly, I would be thrilled if my children passed up the mall and donated blood this week. But if Frank already made that shelf, I will graciously accept it.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, December 8, 2011

College Nightmares

I smile when one of my children calls me. It happened again as I was ending a conversation with Lauren before sitting down to lunch with a friend. I just had to answer this call from Elise. Well, actually, what appeared on the screen was Lil Lise, a nickname given by a friend and adopted by me because I love it. For some reason, Lil Lise, evokes the picture of the happy one-year-old blonde baby who would stand in the foyer, point to her jacket hanging on the coat rack, and use her big brown eyes to plead with me to take her somewhere. Anywhere. The child just loved to be on the go. Not one to be denied, when her older siblings were involved in an activity, or headed out of the door, she would run after them saying, "Me, too. Me, too."
As soon as I took her call, her sobs stopped my happy memories. "I missed my final," she began. "I thought it was for 1:00, but it started at 10:30."
My heart sent out a quick Thank You to Heaven that although serious, it was not one of the terrible things that race through a parent's mind when a child calls crying. "Email your teacher immediately," I said.
"I already did."
"Then we'll pray. You walk in the favor of God. Let's pray for the teacher to be merciful and allow you to take the exam." Without waiting for a response, I prayed as she wept, then said, "Elise, do you know what it's called when you think an exam is at 1:00 and you miss it because it was at 10:30? A mistake. I've made tons, and your teacher has probably made a couple, too. I'm going to continue to pray that she'll allow you to take the test. Now, set your timer for three minutes while you cry it out. When the timer goes off, dry your eyes, and continue with your day as you wait for your teacher's response."
At that point, it would have been futile to analyze the error. She made a mistake and for rest of her life, or at least the rest of college, she will carefully confirm the time of scheduled events. I just hope that's not the only lesson she remembers from the day she missed her medical terminology exam.
I want her to always call someone when she hurts. Only God knows the number of times I've told a friend, "Don’t try to fix this; just let me tell you what happened." Somehow it always helps when I verbalize what I'm experiencing, and I've often received treasured advice from faithful friends.
I pray she always, always forgives and extends mercy to others who make mistakes. May she respond like her teacher who allowed her to make up the exam the following morning.
And when someone calls her, I hope she always directs them to God, her Father. I believe He always smiles when one of His children calls Him.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Once upon a time, many, many years ago, my husband and I decided to buy an above ground pool and have it installed a couple of feet into the ground. Before it was even filled with water, I knew I wanted a small deck. Eight by ten feet. Just enough to give the kids a place to wipe the grass off of their feet before jumping into the water. Michael agreed, but only if my brother Matt could build the deck. Michael knew Matt was a gifted carpenter, but I think he forgot how creative he was.
I told Matt about my idea. You know, the eight by ten platform.
"No," he said, "I will build it all around the pool."
"Uhmm, okay," I agreed.
"Can we put lights on the step?" I asked.
"That can't be done," Michael said, already regretting the whole pool/deck idea.
"Matt?" I said, turning to my brother.
"I can do that," Matt said. "And I'll put a spot for a small table on one end. On the opposite end will be an open area for plants…" And it was all over. Michael and I had lost control and it was now Matt's project.
Board by board, we watched Matt's vision become our reality. His ideas were so much better than ours, and we were grateful for our decision to let him build what he wanted us to have. I'm not sure we had a choice.
As I look toward my future, I refuse to limit God by what I believe is possible. In my life, and especially the lives of my children, I trust God will do so much more than I can imagine. Day by day, I pray I am faithful to the tasks God places in front of me, and open to receive His plans. Jeremiah 29:11 never fails to encourage me, " For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." How foolish I am to ever want to take my future out of God's hands and place it in my own.
Ronny may be reached at

Mr. Huey

I am not afraid. Although some are counting down the days until Christmas, and others have begun to put up their holiday decorations, I will not fear. Even when I walked into WalMart last week and saw a tall Christmas tree in the center of the aisle, I did not flinch. I will not panic. I will remain calm.
Have I completed my Christmas shopping? Hardly. I am a last minute shopper and no longer even entertain thoughts of shopping for Christmas before the mood strikes me. Besides, I have a plan.
My tree has been ordered through a fundraiser for my nephew's baseball team. A few pieces of costume jewelry were purchased at another fundraiser, and thanks to my cousin, Julie, I already have ideas for some of the people on my Christmas list. Julie recently sent me an article which suggested the purchase of gift certificates from local businesses. Hair cuts, pedicures, massages, gym memberships, car washes, oil changes, lawn services, or cleaning services are all options to be explored. Gift cards to local restaurants and coffee shops top my list of gifts to give. As much as possible, I want to support the business owners in my community. I always look for and welcome gift giving ideas. Except when it comes to Huey Louque. I have purchased the same gift for him for the past eighteen years. A box of cordial cherries.
It all started when my son, Geoffrey, was in third grade. He surprised me by asking, "Can I give Mr. Huey a gift for Christmas?"
"Sure, but he's not your teacher. Why do you want to give him something?"
"He lets us play football at recess."
And that's when the cordial cherry tradition began. The following year, Mr. Huey was Geoffrey's teacher, so in addition to the Christmas gift from the class, Geoffrey gave him another box of cordial cherries. Maybe it's because habits are difficult to break, but probably because Mr. Huey was such an important person in my children's lives that we continued this Christmas tradition. It's a simple reminder to a past teacher that we still think about him and appreciate his part in our lives. My daughter Elise best summed him up when she said, "It's obvious that Mr. Huey likes to teach and it makes me want to learn."
Although he is no longer teaching, his impact on my children, and hundreds of others, has remained. His kindness, generosity, love of teaching and love of learning continues to resonate in those fortunate enough to have once been his students.
We have thought about him a lot this past year because his Christmas 2010 box of candy is still sitting on the top of my refrigerator. The small brightly wrapped gift never quite made it to Mr. Huey, but it's generated many conversations and more prayers. I admitted it to him in a recent phone conversation. "Huey, I didn't forget about you last year. Every time I see your gift, I pray for you." In typical Huey fashion, he laughed and thanked me.
This year, I will buy a fresh box of candy, wrap it, and deliver it to my former colleague, one of my children's favorite teachers, and a faithful friend. I know it's not much, but it represents so much more than the couple of dollars it costs. It's a sweet reminder of the past; of a tradition born from a child's gratefulness to a selfless teacher.
As we approach the celebration of the birth of our Savior, I hope you have a list of people whose lives have impacted your own. Whether or not you buy them a gift, I hope you take a moment to make a call or write a note and thank them for their role in your life. I hope I remember to deliver all of my Christmas gifts, and for the first time in eighteen years I just thought of something, I hope Huey likes cordial cherries!
Ronny may be reached at