Friday, December 28, 2012

Which road to travel during 2013?

The day's agenda included a trip to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to pick up my daughter, Elise. Two hours there. Two hours back. Knowing the trip home would be spent hearing about Elise's Atlanta visit, I used the time driving to Hattiesburg to think, pray, and read the signs. Although I didn't need a thing, after learning of the places I could eat, shop, or fill up my tank, I became tempted to stop. A few billboards later, I began to think of these little towns along the way. Places I had never visited. Points of interest I have previously zoomed by. I began to wonder if I was missing out on anything. Then, in the time it took me to whiz by another announcement of a nearby McDonald's, I began to think of my trip a little like my life. Well, all of our lives.
Sometimes it's easy to stay on that straight and narrow path, never ever deviating, eyes on the prize, full speed ahead. At other times we may stray, momentarily distracted, but never veering too far, and quickly returning to the main road. And then there are those times when we lose focus and leave the path, sidetracked by the next pretty sign promising another adventure. Once there, disenchantment sets in. Or boredom. And the place seems as flat as the billboard which lured us. Then we move on to the next new attraction, the main road growing smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror, destinations, missions, goals delayed and sometimes forgotten.
It's almost time to turn the calendar page to 2013. The optimists among us view it as a huge gift which will slowly reveal itself. The pessimists are waiting for social, economic, or personal disaster. Others are just surprised that the Mayans were wrong and the world didn't end.
How do you view the New Year? Which road will you travel? What's your goal for 2013? Restoration of a relationship? Starting or finishing a degree? Losing weight? Gaining financial freedom? Reading a book? Writing a book? Completing repairs on your home or taking a trip? What is it?
Write it down. Read it in the morning. Take daily steps toward your dream, and do not wander from its completion. How much faster it is to arrive at our destination when we stay on course. Let's enter the New Year with a purpose, a vision, a definite goal.
If 2013 goes as well as my trip to Hattiesburg, I will not only complete my objectives, but arrive at them on time. I'm ready. Are you?
Ronny may be reached at

Challenges at Christmastime

The unthinkable has filled our minds. The unimaginable has not only become our reality, it has placed our nation in a season of simultaneous mourning, probing, questioning, and arguing over both the cause of the attack and the method of preventing another. While security guards were watching over designer fashion filled boutiques, pretty rocks in jewelry stores, and Dorothy's ruby slippers, twenty-six defenseless lives, thought to be safe in an elementary school in the idyllic town of Newtown, Connecticut, were tragically ended. If the existence of evil was ever questioned, it has been clearly answered. But we didn't need this massacre to reveal the reality of darkness for in John 10:10, Jesus warned us of the intention of the devil, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
While satan seeks to destroy, Jesus brings the fullness of His life. Especially at this time of the year, my thoughts return to His arrival on our planet, and I cannot think this without regard to the woman chosen to be His mother. 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.
May the fullness of His life envelop ours. Maybe we be ever challenged to make room in our hearts for Him, to allow Him to change us, enlarge our visions, and challenge our thoughts. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, may we model our lives after His and seek to be a light in the dark places.
So while those in authority strategize, and they should, and parents question the security measures of the schools their children attend, and they should, some have suggested we agree in prayer for our nation. And we should.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Making A List

My family has taken group texting to a whole new level. Ann, my youngest sister, sent a message to ten of us suggesting a time and place to pull names for Christmas gift giving. 166 text messages later (I couldn't believe it either!) it was done. Not only did we break a family, and possibly a world record for the longest group message in the shortest amount of time, we have taken our tradition of pulling names to the internet.
            Brittany, Ann's daughter, registered our family's information on, a site which does the name picking for you. There's even a place to specify immediate family members so that they don't get each other's name. Once the information is logged into the system, an email sends you the name you (or the computer) picked and a link to their wish list. The best part is the ability to view everyone's gift list.
            Frank's list was quite revealing. Normally a Home Depot gift card is the perfect present for him. Still in the midst of repairing their home from Hurricane Isaac's visit, it seems as though he's ready for a little diversion. My son-in-law requested a gift card from Academy, an LSU or Saints shirt, and, I quote, "socks, because Monique doesn't wash mine."
            My niece Mattie's list was the perfect ending to the night. After listing a few of her favorite things, she concluded with, "Don't stress… grateful for anything. J" It made me smile, too, Mattie.
            Gift-giving shouldn't be stressful; it's truly one of my favorite things. Gift-receiving, on the other hand, has occasionally induced stress. A recent text message from Lauren read, " You'll love your Christmas present. I've been saving up for it." Now that scares me. Please, Lauren, please put that money away for Adeline's education. Trust me, you'll need it.
            At least Lauren's text was better than the comment I've occasionally heard while being handed a gift, "When you open this, you'll cry." What? Talk about pressure! Their expectation of a dramatic reaction leaves me wishing the gift was the ability to weep on demand.
            In the midst of all of the Christmas preparations, I am often visited by the questions, how much of this celebration is really about the birth of Jesus? How many parties have completely ignored the guest of honor? At how many birthday celebrations have I arrived empty handed? What would be on Jesus' wish list?
            Maybe one of the answers would be daily communication with His children. Reading my children's text messages, answering their phone calls (including the one Lauren accidentally made to me while dropping her phone in her boot while at work) and real, live visits with my family and friends are gifts I hope to never take for granted. Even those 166 messages. I'd like to think I've met my personal goal of praying and just talking to Jesus as much as I interact with others, however I'm sure I've fallen short on many occasions.
            So what am I going to do this season? I'm going to continue to enjoy the decorations, attempt to make pralines, buy a few more gifts, savor the family moments, continue to search for the white mesh ribbon I put around the front door last year, and most of all, I will lengthen and strengthen my communication with the One for Whom we celebrate December 25th. I hope to take my relationship with Jesus to a whole new level

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Past

On Thursday mornings, I wake up a little earlier than usual to write this column. Normally, I commit to paper the thoughts that have been stewing in my heart for the past week and pray for clarity to get the message God is trying to teach me. But sometimes my heart gently, but firmly tugs me back to something I've already written, and I hope you agree, bears repeating. Although I wrote what follows two years ago, it's a story which began Christmas Day, twenty years ago, in Houston, Texas…
            I’ve only spent two Christmases away from home. The first time I was 33 years old and receiving chemotherapy treatment in an isolation room in Houston’s M. D. Anderson hospital. Michael was home with our four young children, and my Dad flew to Houston, courtesy of Anne and Emile Bergeron, to spend Christmas Day with me. No one knew he didn’t have the money for a hotel, so thankfully his plan to sleep on the sofa in the hospital’s lobby worked out. We spent Christmas Day visiting through the glass window that sealed me in a sterile environment. I know, I know, so far it sounds sad, but hang on, it really wasn’t.
We talked and laughed and prayed. We paused as I received Christmas calls from far too many people to name. While on the phone, I watched as he either read the Bible, or ate from the cookie-filled shoe box that a friend had dropped off. Although we were without the comforts of home, or the company of family and friends, we had a really great day. It was so very peaceful. I wasn’t depressed, angry, or visited by self-pity. I was alive. My family was healthy and safe, and I was secure in the knowledge of God’s infinite love, and His ability to perform the miraculous.
The second time I spent Christmas outside of Louisiana was a little farther north. At the time, my daughter Elise, was twelve years old, and dreamed of walking the crowded streets of New York City. She had never dreamed of becoming ill. How odd that a dreaded disease would somehow give way to the fulfillment of a dream.
After bravely enduring chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma, she was contacted by the Make A Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children diagnosed with life threatening illnesses. When she shared her wish to visit New York, her father suggested Disney World instead. “Daddy,” she replied, “I’ve been there, and that’s a place you and Mom will take us again. I don’t think you’ll ever plan a trip to New York.” (Besides being brave, Elise was also very wise.)
Although we tried to imagine what it would be like, none of us were prepared for the actual adventure of New York City at Christmastime. We toured the city, and marveled at the sights we had only seen in pictures and on television. While walking up to view the tree at Rockefeller Center, the young man on the side of us dropped to one knee and proposed to a very excited young woman. We went to the top of the Empire State Building, visited Central Park, Times Square, Fifth Avenue, and didn’t let the freezing rain stop us from running around the Statue of Liberty. We were excited and determined to do and see as much as we could, yet were unprepared for the emotions we felt as we stood at Ground Zero, and re-lived the September 11th tragedy.
A Broadway play and the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall were both beyond our expectations, especially the dramatic living Nativity scene which concluded the Christmas Spectacular. As we exited Radio City Music Hall, it began to snow.  Elise walked ahead of us, confidently navigating the crowd. Although I couldn’t speak, my heart exploded that Christmas Day as I watched my daughter experience her dream of walking the crowded streets of New York City, and I thanked God that my wish, my prayer, my daily plea for her life, had also been granted.
This Christmas will be spent at home, with lots of people and presents and food. However, in the midst of all the activity, my heart will beat with the rhythms of peace, faith and gratitude I learned through my two out of town Christmas experiences.
No matter where we are, no matter who we’re with, Christmas Day and every day, may we be found utterly dependent upon, and thoroughly grateful to our God, “Who so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Ronny may be reached at

Saturday, December 1, 2012


I love a project. My daughter's latest one has me finding my way back to the sewing machine. Monique's search for nursery bedding, conducted throughout the world wide web, has resulted in a box filled with beautiful fabric. Pastel colored lovebirds, paisley, stripes and dots stare at me, begging to be taken out, measured, cut, and pieced together to form a comforter, dust ruffle, and pillow to surround baby Olivia with warmth and beauty.
            If you could see the pictures in my mind, you would be surprised by the coarse sketches I've made to guide me through this latest endeavor. I do have a plan, which is gradually taking shape, but only I know it. Even when questioned by Monique, my response is, "Trust me. I know what I'm doing."
            Washington Roebling had a much greater plan to carry out. Upon his father's death, he became the chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge. An injury confined him to his home where he shared his plans with his wife, who took it upon herself to learn the art of bridge building. Daily she carried his plans to the site and took over many of the supervision and project management duties.
            When at last the great bridge was completed, Roebling was placed on a cot and carried to the bridge. After allowing his eyes to examine every facet of the structure, he joyfully exclaimed, "It's just like the plan; it's just like the plan."
            An even greater plan by an infinitely greater Architect is being carried out today. We may not see the full picture right now, but God does. Jeremiah 29:11 assures me of that, " '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.' "
            We may not understand or even appreciate the simple day to day tasks we face, but if we remain diligent and focused and faithful to complete each one, we will gradually see the bigger picture. The events we call coincidences, the people we meet, and the situations we face, when treated as Divine appointments, all work toward God's plan. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28.
            Although I'm sometimes tempted to question God, I've decided to wait it out. Besides, I'm sure I'd hear Him say something like, "Trust me. I know what I'm doing."
Ronny may be reached at

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Victoria's day began with a cup of vanilla caramel cream coffee and a heavenly hash brownie. I don't even pretend. Sure it would have been healthier to bake biscuits, cornbread, or quiche, but the first thing I saw when I entered the kitchen was the pan of brownies so I took it as a sign.
            My justification of breakfast  (for those who would require me to have one) is that the Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations will offer many opportunities to deviate from our normal diet, so we might as well get our stomachs used to it now. Besides, it's her last year of high school and… well, it's her last year of high school. Next year at this time, Victoria will be preparing to come home (from the college she's yet to commit to) for Thanksgiving.
            Although our details for this year's celebration have not been finalized, I've asked Monique to repeat what she did last year. She took a small chalkboard and wrote, "I'm thankful for…" across the top. We took turns writing our own message on the board, then holding it to pose for a photo. The sentiments ranged from heartfelt to hilarious.
            This year, my heart spills over with gratitude for three things. Since they won't fit on Monique's chalkboard, I'll squeeze them in right here.
            First of all, I’m thankful for the past. My sister, Kay, and I have a pact. We will not become people who long to relive those days gone by. Although the past holds many wonderful memories, there are also times tucked between the good which were bad. To be honest, some were awful days we never wish to repeat. Kay and I agree to be thankful for the blessings of the good days, appreciate the growth resulting from the bad ones, and forever be grateful for God’s ability to weave them all together for our good.
            Next, I’m thankful for the present: the gift of today. I only have this moment, so I’m going to squeeze all of the life I can out of every minute. I want to live in such a way that the people in my life have no reason to doubt my love. Before most of them even open their eyes in the morning, I have already brought their names before God in prayer. In addition, today I am going to work diligently to complete the projects I have begun so I can start new ones. This gives me little time to weep over the past, or worry about the future.
            And speaking of the future brings me to my third area of thankfulness. I am so grateful for the days to come. They are all in God’s hands, and I trust Him. I commit the unknown future to the well-known God, Who said in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” As the days are revealed, He will provide the wisdom and grace to live each one to the fullest. I am sure of it.
            One of the few areas of the future I'm quite sure about is Victoria's next school day. It will begin with a cup of vanilla caramel cream coffee.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sweet Potato Vines and Faith

It started with one small vine.
            Last summer, after planting a few flowers in a pot, there was still space to be filled.
            "Get a sweet potato vine," Aunt Judy said. So I did.
            The vine lasted throughout the summer, but succumbed to the winter temperatures. This past spring, I was surprised to find the little plant come back to life. I fertilized, watered, and watched the vine as it grew to fill the pot, then spill over the edge.
            I clipped off a few pieces to add to other planters, window boxes, and an empty clay pot in the flower bed. These newly transplanted vines, tended almost daily, survived, then one day they took off and quickly grew to twice, thrice, then many times the original size. The vine in the flower bed did exceptionally well, probably because it put down roots where it touched the dirt, securing it to the ground and enabling it to draw additional nourishment from the soil.
            Anything you feed will grow. Anything. Sweet potato vines. Amish friendship bread starter. Stray cats and marriages. Attitudes, fear, and faith.
            Conversely, stop the nourishment and watch it go away. Plants shrivel up and die, relationships disintegrate, cats leave, and fear withers. So will faith. My challenge is to feed only what I want to grow in my life. And I'm not satisfied with only healthy plants and the starter for sweet bread.
            My daughter Elise spends many college classroom hours studying psychology, and eagerly shares what she learns. She says even if you force a smile or a laugh, you benefit from the results. The facial movements release endorphins in the brain, reduce stress, cause pleasant feelings, boost the immune system, and lower the blood pressure. Just think of the added benefits of being genuine and having the good thoughts to accompany your cheerful expression. Growing and maintaining an optimistic attitude can begin by feeding it with positive thoughts and even a forced smile.
            What about faith? It's been said that if you feed your faith your doubts will starve. The best way I know to feed my faith is by reading the promises of God, the things He has done in the lives of others, and by remembering the victories He's brought in my own life. Faith also grows when shared. As much as I want my faith to grow, even a little is powerful. It's good for me to be reminded of Jesus' words in Matthew 17:20. He said faith the size of a tiny mustard seed can move mountains.
            Start with a tiny seed of faith.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Sounds of Yesterday

Ssshhh… can you hear it? Basketballs bouncing in the driveway. Giggles and screams and a blur of children running across the front lawn. Coos from a little one in a high chair working patiently and purposefully as she tries to bring a Cheerio from the tray to her mouth.
            Listen. The phone's ringing, the doorbell's dinging, and the oven timer's buzzing. The stack of mail silently begging for attention must wait because it's time for homework to begin.
            And finally, the noise moves upstairs and becomes muffled as baths are taken, teeth are brushed, and prayers are prayed. Then, a quiet voice from a gentle child (Elise) utters the words that set my world in motion all over again. "I need a current event report for tomorrow." Even this memory makes me smile, for it brings me back to a season of my life that is quickly coming to an end.
            What do your memories sound like? Don’t worry. I'm not really hearing things, and this is the first time I've thought about the sounds of my yesterdays. This past week, as Victoria and I searched for a childhood photo suitable for her high school yearbook, the pictures I had carefully preserved brought the past back to life. In addition to the stories captured by those prints, I began to remember what was going on beyond the boundary of the picture, the things I would have captured with a wide angle lens and a tape recorder. This avalanche of memories included the sounds from days gone by.
            As I write this, Victoria, my last child, has just celebrated her eighteenth birthday. I'm telling myself to just breathe in and breathe out. It's going to be okay. The same God Who guided me through raising five children will gently usher me into the next phase of His plan for my life. 
            When my first child was only a few months old, I looked at her and prayed, "God, let me enjoy every stage of Monique's life. I don't want to rush her to sit up, crawl, and walk. Neither do I want to mourn the past and wish she was still a newborn. Let me just enjoy and fully appreciate every day."
            This prayer is being prayed again. I'm determined to squeeze every moment out of my last year of having a high school student, realizing that the pictures I presently take and the stories I tuck away in my heart are the memories I'll savor as I move toward the future. 
            I hope to always be able to recall the sounds of the precious past. In fact, I think my corner of Heaven will echo with these melodic memories.
            Except for that whole "current event" conversation.
Ronny may be reached at

Friday, October 26, 2012

Do Not Complain About What You Permit

What do a bonsai tree, moisturizing exfoliator made with salt from the Dead Sea, a photo of the St. Louis Cathedral on a foggy night, and a praline have in common? (I was going to add candied pecans and honey mustard salsa, but I thought the list was already too long.) Give up? All were items  purchased by my daughter, Victoria, during a recent craft show at Oak Alley Plantation.

            Way too soon after our arrival, we were loaded down with merchandise the craft vendors were anxious to part with.  My Mom, sister Ann, daughter Lauren, and granddaughter Adeline were with us, and Adeline's stroller quickly doubled as a shopping cart. Nevertheless, I somehow got stuck with, and by, the bonsai tree. Those little leaves are sharp! But we kept walking.

            Turning the corner, we found a booth filled with wooden signs, yet Victoria and I were drawn to the same one. "Do not complain about what you permit." We talked about it briefly, walked on, and now, days later, those words replay in my mind.

            I've thought about how the simple message applies to raising children, choosing friends, workplace situations, and as I headed out to vote early, I realized it even applies to choices we make at the polls.

            Yes, I vote. As soon as I was of age, I have exercised my civic responsibility to choose the candidate I felt was best for the job. I thought everyone did. I recently researched the topic a little and was surprised to read that 1 in 5 self-professed Christians are not registered to vote, and of those registered, only 60% voted. I wonder if anything would be different if all Christians participated in the voting process. Would abortion still be legal? Would the ban on prayer in schools continue?

            If you haven't seen the movie, Monumental, presented and produced by Kirk Cameron, you can borrow my copy. It traces America's beginning and reveals the true 'national treasure' that made our country great.

            There are many who would like to forget our Godly foundation, and remove the name and principles of God from the public arena. Voting for candidates most likely to preserve the freedoms not afforded in other countries is one small act, which when united with others of like mind, significantly affects our future, and Adeline's.

            And speaking of Adeline, thanks to yet another craft show purchase, we will be able to record her height with a pink princess growth chart. Even though she isn't born yet, I bought one for my granddaughter, Olivia. Over five feet tall, those charts proved to be more awkward to carry than the bonsai tree. I guess the motto, "Do not complain about what you permit," applies to craft show purchases, too.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, October 18, 2012

and that's the Truth

Decisions. Decisions. Or rather, Monique and Frank's decisions, decisions. There have been scores of them as my daughter and son-in-law plow through the process of bringing their hurricane-flooded home back to live-in condition. Because they are living with me during this restoration, I have the fun of listening to their plans and watching them choose flooring, paint colors, and kitchen cabinets. The very first discussion centered on a certain wall separating the kitchen from the dining room. We all thought it should be removed to create a large, open space. There was only one question. Was it a sustaining wall? If it was necessary to support the structure of their home, removing it would open up the home a little too much.
            Walls, nails, and in my house, super glue are responsible for holding things together. Belts, too. And while the belt on your pants may hold your outfit together, the belt of Truth described in Ephesians 6:14 provides an important function for the Christian.
            The apostle Paul's instruction to the church of Ephesus remains a foundational lesson for us today. To explain spiritual warfare, he chose the analogy of a soldier's armor. The belt was a crucial part of the Roman soldier's armor for it had a place for the sword, strips of leather to protect the lower body, loops for lances, ropes and a rations sack. In addition, the belt held together the other parts of the armor. No soldier would race into battle without his belt. Spiritually speaking, Paul admonished the Christians to wear a belt of Truth.
            So what is Truth? In praying to God, Jesus said in John 17:17, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." God's Word, each and every instruction, commandment, warning and blessing is the Truth. That Truth is what sustains, protects, keeps everything else together, and prepares us for the spiritual battles we face daily. I believe that without Truth, things fall apart and we are rendered helpless. As a belt wraps around a waist, Truth should encompass every part of our lives. 
            Unlike the little wall in Monique and Frank's house which was discovered to be unnecessary, Truth should never be removed from our conversations, schools, government, and every other part of our lives. It's not always easy, and sometimes painful to face, but Jesus said, "the truth will set you free." (John 8:32)
             Monique and Frank are sure to feel free once they are able to get back in their own home, but I will miss them. And that's the truth.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Olivia Renee Roth... we think

My prayers are changing. They still begin almost immediately after I silence the alarm.
            Time Out. Let's stop right here. Who ever named it an alarm clock? The word 'alarm' is defined as "sudden fear caused by the realization of danger." I don't want to be jolted from sleep by fear due to danger. I'd rather receive a phone call greeting, or a gentle nudge, or have the scent from a fresh cup of coffee lure me from my dreams to reality.
            Once in reality, despite my method of entrance, I arrive on the scene grateful for another night spent resting comfortably, and another day filled with opportunities yet to be discovered. My eyes and thoughts race to see which will focus the fastest as I begin to talk to God.
            Because I am easily distracted (see paragraph 2), I have chosen to write down the names and issues I sent to Heaven in prayer. I don't pray out of sudden fear, or even the realization of danger, but because God has granted me the privilege of downloading my heart to Him in prayer.
            The top of my list is Kassidy Terrio. I was teaching first grade in 2006 when Kassidy was diagnosed with cancer. In our morning prayers, the students and I would pray for the little girl whose story touched our hearts. Although I no longer share prayer time with first graders, Kassidy remains in my heart and prayers. Since her diagnosis, this brave young soldier has battled the disease and its two recurrences, and has been in remission for eleven months! Whether or not you are privileged to know Kassidy, I hope you join me in praying for her continued health.
            After I pray for the people in need of healing, I pray for people I know who are looking for jobs, comfort for families still grieving loved ones, and then those expecting babies. And this is where my prayers have recently changed.
            My daughter Monique and her husband Frank are expecting a baby in early February and have elected to find out the gender before the due date. The day after an ultrasound gave them a peek at their baby, the couple gathered a few friends and family members together to reveal the news. On an afternoon that couldn't have been any sunnier, Monique and Frank lifted a lid from a large white box and smiled as pink heart-shaped balloons gently floated to the sky.
            It's a girl! More specifically, Olivia Renee Roth. Olivia, because they like the name, and Renee, in honor of Frank's deceased mother.
            And while you would be correct in suspecting the change in my prayers is the inclusion of the name of my grandchild, that is only half of the story. Twice in the past week, we have received news of women who were given incorrect information during their ultrasounds. One friend, ready to greet her daughter, was surprised with a son. Another went into delivery with visions of blue which had to be quickly replaced with pink. So, when I pray for Olivia Renee, I also pray for the doctor who informed Monique of her gender. If he's wrong, he will need much prayer when he speaks to Monique. I may be the one to sound an alarm for him.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ready, Set... Slow

I was first in line to welcome the cool fall breeze that blew through last week. I was ready to put on a light jacket for my early morning quiet time on the patio swing. I was anxious to turn on the oven to bake sweet potatoes; and I thought I was prepared to turn off the ceiling fans until I looked up to see what had accumulated since the last time those blades were motionless.
            During the heat of the summer, my ceiling fans work constantly. Only when they wobble or make a noise do I pay attention to those much needed appliances in my home. And only when a fan is still am I able to make the necessary adjustments and clean the blades. As I stood on a chair, armed with a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels, the parallel to my own life was a lot clearer than the glass globes which protect the fan's lights. Maybe you can relate.
            Everyone is busy. You may have to leave your house way too early in the morning and return much too late in the evening. You may be unemployed, yet overworked as you pick up after children or grandchildren, drive carpool, and keep the troops fed and in clean clothes. Or your relentless search for a job may have you drained. I know you have a lot to do, but I want you to stop. That's right. Stop long enough for the wheels in your wonderfully complex, Divinely constructed mind to find rest. Let the blades stop spinning. Walk away from the whirlwind of activity around you for just a moment. Cease from thinking of the next thing you are going to add to that heavy plate you are trying to carry. Ignore the voice that says just one more email response, just one more bill to pay, just two more hours of television. Ready, set, slow. Slow down. Quiet yourself and take a few moments to reflect, assess, and pray, and in the words of the classic railroad crossing sign: Stop, Look, and Listen.
             Even Jesus sought solitude. He left the crowd to grieve the death of John the Baptist. He chose a quiet mountainside to pray to God after a hectic day of teaching, healing, and feeding a multitude with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread. If spending time alone with God was important to Him, it should be my top priority.
            Only in these quiet moments before God am I recharged. Sometimes He shows me how to become more balanced, or less noisy, or work more effectively. Other times He points to the dirt (wrong ambitions, anger, worry) that has accumulated in my quest to move faster and faster. A few minutes spent before God fills me with strength for my day, peace for my troubles, and direction for my confusion. 
            Regardless of the season, or the season of my life, spending time with God in prayer should begin and end each day. It's much better than cleaning ceiling fans.
Ronny may be reached at

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Decade Ago...

Ten years ago, my daughter, Elise, was diagnosed with lymphoma. She was ten years old.
            As a cancer survivor, I should have been prepared to handle the experience. I wasn’t. Knowing terminology and procedures meant little when I had to enter Elise’s hospital room to tell her she had cancer. I had to dig deep and hold on tightly to my composure when she looked at me with those big brown eyes and said, “Momma, I don’t want to die.” Then it happened. The depths of grace, peace, and faith I had experienced throughout my own ordeal with cancer guided our conversation. Elise faced her future with calmness, maturity, faith, and tenacity far exceeding her age. An ambulance later transported us for the first of many trips to Children’s Hospital.
My husband was able to be with Elise most of the time, but one rare day he had to be in the office, so I brought her to the hospital for another dose of chemotherapy. On the menu was the drug I had begged the doctors not to administer. It was the one which, years before, made me lose my hair, and everything I ate or drank. It was the one that caused severe burns on my hands and feet. So severe I couldn’t even pick my hair up off of the pillowcase.  So severe I had to crawl to the bathroom on my knees when I became sick.
As the nurse donned her thick protective gloves and connected the chemicals to my daughter, I began to crumble inside. I watched the red liquid enter my baby’s body, and fought for control over both my emotions and the contents of my stomach. Then I raced to the exit door, ran out of the building, and called my husband to desperately cry, “I can’t do this. I’m not strong enough.”
“I’m leaving now. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Michael said.
“No,” I insisted. “It’ll be over before you get here. Just pray. Promise me you’re praying. Promise me you won’t stop praying.” Being fully aware of my frailty has taught me to lean heavily on my Jesus, and the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
I re-entered the room, and if Elise noticed anything odd about my behavior, she never expressed it. That night, she became ill and a few days later, I found chunks of her hair in the bathroom garbage can. Soon after, she ditched the wig, and began wearing her brother’s baseball cap to cover her scalp.
“How do people go through this without Jesus?” she asked. It is one of many questions for which I have no answer. I cannot imagine going through anything without leaning on the strength of my Savior.
This past week, I accompanied Elise, now in her fourth year of college, to her yearly checkup at Children's. I dropped her off at the entrance, found a parking spot, then joined her in the waiting room. No longer led by me, my strong and independent daughter spent the day before her 21st birthday filling out forms, leading the way to the heart scan, almost sprinting to the lab for blood work, then bringing me back to the clinic to meet with her doctor.
But our yearly visit to Children's is about so much more than forms and tests and doctors. It's about returning to the sights and the smells that instantly bring me back a decade. It's about feeling my heart fill to the top with gratitude for present health, humility at the thought of God's deliverance, and pain for the parents pushing wheelchairs, holding infants, and adjusting caps covering precious little bald heads. And it's about allowing the tears to flow as I pray for those I know still battling sickness and for these new little faces who have found a place in my heart.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Looking Like Ann

A few spots of skin cancer in the past provide ample motivation to keep my appointments with the dermatologist. Last week I expected a quick visit and a good report. What I didn't expect was a case of mistaken identity.
            He walked into the room, greeted me, and looked at my chart. He looked at me again, this time clearly puzzled, and said, "I'll be right back. I have the wrong chart"
            I glanced at my name on the chart and said, "No, that's my chart."
            "Are you sure? Aren't you Mrs. Watson?"
            If only I had a tank of gas for every time I heard that. "That's my sister," I explained.
            "Are y'all twins?" he asked.
            "No, but we are often mistaken for each other even though Ann is younger, thinner, and cuter."
            I should be used to this confusion. A clerk at the grocery store once said, "You changed your shirt."
            "What?" I asked.
            "You were just in here wearing a different shirt." And once again I had to explain it was my sister.
            Ann's co-workers and my husband's friends have also been baffled, as well as our parents who cannot tell our voices apart on the phone. Looking and sounding like Ann is effortless, but I would really have to work at having her patience, kindness, and thoughtfulness.  
            And while I'm listing qualities to emulate, I must look at the character of Christ. If I am to follow Paul's instructions in Ephesians 5:1 to be an imitator of God, I should study His word, hear His heart, and live by His example. Overwhelming? Yes! At least for me it is until I break it down and realize I just need to start with what Jesus said. " Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself."
            That will surely keep me busy! The time will just fly by. Before I am ready, three weeks will pass and I'll be back at the dermatologist for my follow-up. Would it be wrong to send Ann in my place?

Hurricane Isaac

My daughter Monique and her husband Frank now share our home, and that's a good thing. We love their company although we don't often see them. Between working at their jobs and working on their house, they are always going somewhere. I tried to cheer her up by suggesting that at least this very hectic time in their young marriage will cause her pregnancy to fly by. She is less amused by that than she is by the early morning commentary Frank and I provide as we discuss world events. She groans when we tell her we are going to start our own show, and she doesn't even appreciate Frank's suggestion of the title: Wake Up, America.
            What Monique does appreciate is spending more time with her niece, Adeline. As far as Adeline is concerned, Monique and Frank are just two more people available to spoil her. And two more voices to protest the enormous hair bows her mother, Lauren, forces her to wear. Whether Adeline is going to church or to the zoo or staying home with me, Lauren places a bow on her head.
            Time must have stood still for Lauren recently as she dressed Adeline for the day, then called to me with a voice filled with urgency, "I can't find Adeline's lime green bow!"
            I wanted to respond, "And there are people in Frenier who can't find their houses, others who are forced to toss out everything they own, and children whose worlds have changed overnight." Instead I just looked at Addi, who just sat there smiling, perhaps at the thought of her first bowless day.
            Lauren's frustration over a lost bow was no match for what I've been feeling concerning my community. The job of rebuilding seems enormous and I've found myself daily burdened by the needs. Rather than compile a list of the things I am incapable of doing to help, like installing sheetrock and laying ceramic tile, I've decided to do the tiny things that I can. A little cleaning here, a little cooking there, and in between it all, a whole lot of prayer. Even as I hold my grandbaby on my lap, I move her bow to the side so I can see her smile as I pray and ask God to form a healthy, prosperous future for us all. The promise of Galatians 6:9 has never seemed more appropriate than now as I trust God to reward all who labor now just for themselves, but for their friends and neighbors in need. "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
            P.S. Lauren must have found that lime green bow. Sorry, Addi, I'll hide the next one in a better spot

Friday, August 17, 2012

Prayers for My Parish

In retrospect, it doesn’t really matter what I intended to write for today's column. The notes I had made during the week and the anecdotes lodged in my frontal lobe were shaken from their place of importance when my son Geoffrey and I sat down to watch the news early on the morning of August 16th.  It was then we learned of the assault on four St. John the Baptist Parish deputies which resulted in the deaths of Brandon Nielsen and Jeremy Triche, and the hospitalization of injured deputies Michael Boyington and Jason Triche.
            The news jolted my community and almost every conversation I've engaged in since has included a reference to the tragedy. Sometimes, many times, I talk too much. Whether speaking to friends or praying to God, I use my ability to just go on and on filling up the empty spaces with more and more noise. The early morning shoot-out left even me at a loss for words. My heart still aches for the families and friends of the victims, for our Sheriff Mike Tregre and the men and women he leads, and for our parish as we grieve. And at times like this, my prayers become very, very simple and are most often whispers of 'help' amidst tears.
            I didn't need the command from 1 Timothy 2:1,2 to remind me to pray, but the timeless instruction found in those verses bears repeating: "I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.  Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity."
            May our prayers for the victims, the families, and our law enforcement only increase.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I'm not sure what I'm going to do when the Olympic games are over. I'm not even joking. In the short time since the opening ceremonies in London, my family has logged in many hours watching athletes compete for the Gold. The entertainment value of the games only dims when compared to my family's conversations during the events.
            The tension of a backstroke swimming race was shattered when Elise blurted out, "I can't believe we're all sitting around watching people swim backwards."
            When a member of the US gymnastics team stepped out of bounds during her floor exercise, our disappointment quickly turned to confusion as Lauren explained, "Those Chinese girls won't step on the line. They're Communists."
            Geoffrey, who remains quiet during the Olympics, and throughout life, was unimpressed as the announcers boasted of a rider in the Equestrian event. "So who gets the medal? The rider or the horse? The horse is doing all the work!"
            I managed to avoid the Olympic spoilers Geoffrey sought. He knew the results of most of the competitions before they were shown. Michael usually did, too, except for one day. It was the day Michael Phelps was swimming for his record-breaking 19th Olympic medal. My husband asked that no one inform him of the results of the race beforehand. He spent the day without the news, radio, or internet. He should have just avoided Elise because she walked into the living room soon after the race started and said, "Is this the one he wins and breaks the record?" My family will never, ever, not in a billion years be allowed to work as sports commentators.
            I have an immense appreciation of these world class athletes, I thought as I finished off a bowl of ice cream after another gym-less day. I hold my breath when they swim, gasp when they fall, and lean forward as though my efforts will help them to cross the finish line victoriously. But although they are the best of the best, they are not perfect. While I anxiously await the judges' scoring of the performances, I thank God that He does not judge like the judges for the Olympics.
            It must be frustrating for the Olympic athletes to have trained so long and worked so hard, then judged on a performance of just a few minutes, or even seconds. I'm grateful that God is with me everyday, constantly aware of my actions, thoughts, and even my motives, then judges me accordingly. If I fall, I don't get a deduction like the gymnasts. I have the opportunity to get back up and go on, not even getting penalized if I ask for help.  The important thing is that I admit my mistake and try again. It isn't always easy to stay balanced on a narrow path, but with my God at my side, all things are possible. I also find such peace in knowing God will not choose only one winner. I am judged independently, therefore there is no need for me to compare myself to anyone else.
            What am I going to do when the Olympic flame is extinguished? I may not be sure of my life after the Olympics, but I am quite certain of life after death. In the words of 1 John 5:13, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." We are all capable of winning the Gold. In fact, in Heaven, the streets we walk on will be paved with it.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Elise's Moving Day. Take Five.

Elise is moving. Again. This is her fifth move in three years. I can't believe it, either, but her fourth year at Nicholls will be spent at yet another address.
            My daughter's packing style mimics my own. She sorts as she goes, verbalizing both her thoughts and actions. Although there to help, I spent a few minutes observing.
            "Where do I begin?" Elise began as she scanned her large bedroom. I was hoping she had a plan that was better than mine. Or at least more honest. I told her to put all the stuff by the side of the road, tell her Daddy she was robbed, and go shopping. Now, don't judge me just yet. If you had seen her room, you'd understand. It looked a little like a crime scene, and a lot like my sewing space when I'm in the middle of a project. I get it. School, work and friends leave little time for cleaning, hanging up clothes, and organizing. In the midst of this clothing chaos, a Scentsy warmer, prominently displayed on an otherwise crowded nightstand, filled the room with a sweet fragrance. I continued to watch the fifth episode of 'Elise's Moving Day.'
            "This is Victoria's. This is Victoria's. This, too," she repeated over and over as she handed me her sister's clothes. Items belonging to friends were placed in a plastic bag for later distribution. Suitcases and laundry baskets were filled with her things, and although we were far from finished in the bedroom, we moved to the kitchen. What was not thrown or given away was transported to the condo she'll be sharing with Nikki, her best friend. I was little surprised, but a lot more pleased as I watched her clean up to leave the house ready for the next tenants. (Or to get back her deposit, but please let me just believe she cleaned because it was the right thing to do.)
            If you've moved lately, you can relate. Maybe your residence has remained the same for decades, but it's likely you've still made a few moves to a new job, church, ministry, relationship, or a different season of life. Some moves we direct ourselves, many are beyond our control. Births, deaths, and other people's decisions often force changes we neither want nor welcome. It doesn't really matter. Moving and adjusting to new circumstances are part of the journey. My prayer is always for smooth transitions.
            I was a little sad about Elise moving from the larger than necessary house to a bedroom with half the space she's accustomed to. She's not. Elise is excited because she is looking at the benefits. She's moving forward and looking forward to this new chapter of her young life. When moving into a new area of life, I need to force myself to look at the positive changes.
            Elise sorted as she packed, throwing out what no longer works. Whether it's a broken hair straightener or a burnt pizza pan, unproductive methods or life-draining thoughts, only bring what you need to your next place.
            Stay flexible. To make the most of her new room, Elise's dresser will hold her TV, her desk will double as her nightstand, and her bookcase will be given to her niece, Adeline. Old relationships don't have to be discarded in new phases of life, but sometimes the nature of the friendship changes.
            And please remember to clean up. My goal is to leave every place a little better than it was when I got there. Thanks to Scentsy, Elise's old bedroom will smell fresh for a while after she's moved. May the essence of who we are linger long after we've left.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Picture's Worth

One month ago,  my husband's parents were alive. It's difficult to believe he lost both of them so quickly. An activity which has helped to ease the pain of losing two loved ones is looking through the boxes of photographs found in their home. So many memories were released as those boxes were opened. Pictures of my father-in-law in the Navy, snapshots from various weddings, stacks of photos of the grandchildren, and even a print of a younger me which very much resembles my daughter, Victoria. Poor child.
            Thirty years ago, you might have heard me say that I would always keep up with photo albums and carefully arrange pictures in chronological order. Raising five children has erased such fantasies. Having all of my boxes of pictures in one spot is my new goal. Lofty, but I think I can do it.
            In this imaginary spot in my home, I hope to include a family photo taken on Father's Day 2012. My oldest daughter, Monique, handed a camera to her husband, Frank, as she gathered us together for a family photo.
            "Frank should be in the picture, too," I told her as we found our places in the corner of the kitchen.
            "He's in enough pictures," she quickly said.
            Before I could respond, Frank was instructing us to "look at the camera. One, two, we're having a baby!" And with a few clicks of the lens, he captured our reactions to the wonderful news.
            We weren't even finished with our congratulations when Monique asked us to keep it a secret until she was further along in her pregnancy. The secret lasted less than a week. Monique walked into Paw Paw Michel's hospital room bearing bandages from her blood work and three failed attempts to locate a vein. Without hesitation, her Maw Maw looked at her and said, "You're pregnant." I wish I had a picture of that moment.
            In the absence of a photograph, this memory will have to be recorded in the journal I've yet to begin for this new addition to our family. Actually, I haven't even bought it, but I will. Soon. Even before I start rounding up my boxes of photos. And in this new baby's journal, I'll be sure to include several stories about his/her great-grandparents.
Ronny may be reached at

Friday, July 13, 2012

Maw Maw Michel

Every week, I relate an episode of my life. I always imagine us sitting down with a cup of coffee and chatting for a few minutes. Silly, I know, but it's the way my mind works and I'm learning to embrace it. This morning, however, I find myself sharing something that, although factual, does not seem real. Since our last visit, my family, still raw from the death of my father-in-law, has buried my mother-in-law, Claire Michel.

            Prior to July 8th, had you asked me about my in-laws, I would have described their role in my children's lives. You would have heard me mention walks on the levee, spaghetti and meatballs, feeding the hunting dogs, gumbo, trips to Taco Bell, cheesecake, and many, many other things, but you would never have heard me say, 'a real life love story.' Not that it wasn't true, but I never thought of them in that way. I guess they were too busy showing love, and didn't find it necessary to sit down and discuss it.

            Minutes after Monique was informed of the death of her MawMaw, she did a little Math and sent me this text: "MawMaw and PawPaw were married for 23,867 days and she only lived 16 days without him." She used that fact in her eulogy, which I'm sharing despite being able to contact her for permission. That's okay. I'm not sure she reads my column.

            "23,867 – that’s the number of days my PawPaw and MawMaw Michel – or as you may know them, Charlie and Claire – were married. 23,867. A couple of weeks ago we were in this same church for a very similar reason. My MawMaw sat on that second pew over there. She may have greeted you. I know she smiled at you if she saw you. She was much braver than I ever imagined she could be. She was strong for 16 whole days- her first 16 days alone in 65 years. And 16 days is a long time to live with half of your heart already in heaven.
            "My MawMaw was one of the most nurturing people that I’ve ever met. She truly just wanted everyone to be comfortable. She was always ready to serve…always ready to put other people’s needs first…and always ready to cook something up for you if you were hungry. Actually, she was always ready to cook something up for you even if you WEREN’T hungry.
            "Sunday night brought the kind of news that made my eyes immediately sting. It literally just took my breath away for a few seconds. It just hurt. But you know my very first thought was, she's been with PawPaw for hours. Because if she can't be here with us...then that's where she's supposed to be.
            "I don’t know how time works in heaven. I doubt that in eternity there’s a need for clocks or calendars. It gives me great comfort as I think that, although PawPaw was gone from earth for 16 days, he must have just started to look around heaven when he found his bride. 23,867 days were a whole lot to be married…but nothing compares to an eternity together…and that’s what they have now.
            "MawMaw’s life, including her marriage, proved that the greatest joys in life aren't by accumulating more stuff, by having the most glamorous jobs, or by taking the fanciest vacations, but by simply taking the hand of the person that you quite literally can't live without and holding onto the only thing that you can take with you...your relationships.
            "I MISS her. And I miss him. And I can't wait to get to Heaven and see them waving through the gate in the only way that they knew how...together."
Ronny may be reached at