Thursday, January 26, 2012

Faithful Memories

I gave up on perfection a long time ago. It was a conscious decision made while at a studio selecting photographs to purchase. There were ample shots of Monique, then a toddler, calmly striking a pose for the camera. However, the one that caught my eye, the one the photographer assumed I'd toss, was my first choice. The close up revealed a Cheerio in her mouth.
"I've got to buy this one, " I said, "Otherwise, I might forget I put Cheerios in her white eyelet purse so she would have a snack in case we had to wait a long time before taking the pictures." Apparently we had to wait long enough for her to get hungry, but not long enough for her to finish eating.
I'm not sure which I prefer, the photos in the albums which are causing my shelf to bend, or the stories behind them. I just hope never to have to choose.
But it's not just photo albums which evoke our favorite memories. Mention Disney World, or Powerade, and a member of my loving family will tell you about the time this tired mother practically stumbled to a concession kiosk in that Magic Kingdom to buy a specific drink for her thirsty, yet picky child. Unfortunately for me, there were witnesses as I blurted out, "Boo Powade Peese."
And travel down Airline Highway to an intersection which was once the location of a fried chicken restaurant. A large sign, meant to entice customers, boldly proclaimed, "Tastes just like Mama's."
My children thought they were really funny when they cringed and cried out, "Oh, no, that place must be terrible! Please, mama, never take us there!"
Even shampoo bottles cause me to turn down memory lane to remember the day I discovered young Victoria was using shampoo to bathe. When asked why she thought that was okay, she said, "Look at the bottle. It says Extra Body. I thought that meant I could use it for my body, too." She was just acting on her interpretation of the shampoo's claim.
After I finished laughing about the incident, I thought of how many times I've bought something which boasted, "New and improved," "Freshest Flavor," or "Best Value." I even believe in the ability of hair conditioners which promise to take my hair from frizzy to smooth. And it's at this point I question myself, "Do I have at least this much faith in the promises of God?"
I'd love to immediately, and without reservation, answer, "YES!" However, I find it much better to examine my heart, not just for the right answer, but for the truth. Matthew 17:20 records Jesus' encouragement to the disciples that even if their faith in the power of God was as small as a mustard seed, mountains could move.
It's not the amount of my faith, but the power of my God, that makes the difference between success and defeat.
Is my faith perfect? No, but my God is flawless. And I don't need photo albums, or relatives, to remind me of the times He's been faithful to me in the past. Those memories are forever engraved upon my soul.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Recess with first graders during the winter was always a challenge. Whenever the temperature took a plunge, the students ran around the playground, awkwardly trying to balance themselves while wearing extra sweaters covered by bulky coats. Hands warmed by thick gloves clumsily tugged at hats and played with scarves. I sent my own children to school the same way; protected from the cold despite the time it took to layer the clothing.
After spending a few minutes in the bright sun, the shedding process would begin. No longer needing the many layers which they claimed hindered their play, hats, scarves, gloves and coats were piled onto a nearby bench.
Layers. How many have I worn to protect me from the cold? Not from falling temperatures, but from icy stares, a cold shoulder, or a chilly reception. How many layers of worry, rejection, or pride have I put on in an effort to insulate myself? How bundled up am I in my own insecurities? How often has the chance of failure caused me to become frozen in fear? How many barriers exist between me and the people in my world?
Rather than continue to be bound by old habits of self-preservation, I seek to find freedom by taking a lesson from the children. But instead of warming up by running around in the sun (although an appealing idea) I'm going to bask in the love of the Son. The only thing I really need to be wrapped up in is His unfailing love, which according to Psalm 32:10, surrounds me. It's the only layer I need. When the world around me seems to grow cold, I'm going to allow His unconditional love, continued presence, and amazing grace to melt my heart.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, January 5, 2012


"Victoria, help me hold this steady so I can label it," I said as I lifted a new Christmas storage bin onto the sofa.
"Of course you're labeling it," she said. "You just love using your Sharpie pen."
Victoria's right. I love to label things. My family has grown accustomed to labeled plastic containers in the cabinets and pantry, but was surprised when I took my trusty Sharpie to the refrigerator door.
"You can't write on that," my husband protested.
"Why not? The drawers are already labeled: deli, crisper, meats. I'm just continuing what Kenmore started."
"Who writes on their refrigerator?" my shocked husband continued. And now we all know the answer to that question. I do. When you open the door to my refrigerator, you will not have to wonder where to find relish, salad dressing, and condiments. It's clearly marked.
Because of this, no one was really stunned to open the dishwasher and find "steak knives," "butter knives," "forks," etc. neatly written in Sharpie black, on the door above the silverware basket. But that's where it ends. I do not label people.
People are not generically, mass-produced products, but divinely created individuals who should never be judged and grouped into categories by others. When tempted to form a critical opinion or predict someone's future based on their past mistakes, I'm reminded of Matthew 7:1, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." I find it so much easier to recognize bad habits and traits in others, than to admit those same tendencies in myself. Right before I judge someone and assign them a negative label, I stop and take a long, hard look at myself. Then I repent and rediscover God's infinite mercy.
Mercy. It's been defined as compassion towards an offense and if it was visible, according to Psalm 23: 6, you'd see it following me. God's goodness and mercy follow me to mop up my mistakes and show His faithfulness. Mercy lines the tracks I leave behind, and when my children follow my trail, they will see my footprints outlined with God's mercy. They will see how even when my path went through difficult circumstances, sometimes when I chased after things I shouldn't have, God was still there to rescue me when I called out to Him.
So while I will continue to sort, organize, and label my possessions for easy access, I will use my Sharpie to draw the line at labeling people. Instead of seeing faults, may my eyes be open to see the possibilities in others. May I see the permanent marker of God's goodness and mercy following them, too.
Ronny may be reached at