Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thrift Store Treasures

"Ohhhh! Do you see what I see?" I groaned as I spotted the metal object which had caught my daughter's eye. "Yes, I think I do." "Isn't it perfect?" "Perfect," I said, jumping onto Victoria's bandwagon as it traveled through the first thrift store stop of our well planned day. "It looks like a medieval candle holder." "It's exactly what I need in my room." "Actually it's a Mexican lamp," informed the sales clerk. "I'm pretty sure it still works." To prove his point he put in a light bulb and plugged it into a wall socket. It's illumination quickly destroyed our medieval candle holder story. I bought it anyway. It was cheaper and easier to carry than the cabinet with the turntable. Down the road a bit, we enjoyed almond macaroons and mocha cupcakes bought from a farmer's market, visited two more thrift stores, and finally stopped for lunch. Victoria insisted we support a locally owned restaurant, rather than a large chain, and I happily went along with her plan. The really fun part of our day was watching my husband's expression as we unloaded the trunk when we returned home. "You really let her buy this stuff?" Michael asked. "Yes," I said. I wanted to say, "She has no money. Technically you bought this. Just be grateful I didn't buy everything she wanted." And there was so much. So many things from which to choose. Furniture, toys, dishes, shoes, books, tons of clothes, and a Mexican lamp. I wonder what the sum total of those items were when first purchased. How much was bought on credit? How many items were things the original owners didn’t think they could live without? How many pieces of clothing were worn only once? I could ask those same questions of every item in my house. And while I don't think we should feel guilty for enjoying material blessings, I want to always keep them in perspective. None of them will follow me into eternity, and few will even be with me the length of my short life here on Earth. I long to find balance in every area of life. Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 8:7 urge us to, "see that you also excel in this grace of giving." Seeking, desiring, buying, and acquiring may all have their place, but giving should always be factored into life's equation. My modes of giving should involve investing time, energy, attention, and even money into the lives and the areas where God leads. This is how I begin Jesus' command to store up treasures in Heaven. Whenever I walk into Victoria's bedroom, her lamp instantly reminds me of the day we found it, and the lesson I took from our experience. That lesson burns in my heart even brighter than the candle on the lamp. Did I mention she converted the lamp to a candle holder? She says it makes the lamp look medieval. Ronny may be reached at

Friday, May 25, 2012


Victoria was oblivious to the seconds ticking by. I watched as she calmly and purposefully moved throughout the house, gathering the items needed for one of the final days of her junior year of high school. Book bag. Check. Cheerleader bag. Check. Letterman jacket. Check. Two bags of garbage. Wait! Stop! Two bags of garbage? "Where are you going with that?" "I'm going to stop at the recycling bin before school." Yes. The recycling project she began last month continues. "Why, Victoria? Why the sudden interest in recycling?" "Just doing my part." Actually Victoria was doing more than her part. She worked for all of us when she snatched up the empty cans and water bottles we habitually threw in the trash. What I thought would be a passing phase in her never dull life has quickly become her daily routine. Motivated by nothing more than guilt over not supporting her latest endeavor, I've joined in and even made a couple of trips to the recycling bin without her. Once she got me started, I began to realize how little time and effort it takes to put aside paper, plastic, and aluminum for recycling. To exchange what is no longer good, for a usable product. Before I knew it, I was going through garbage cans in the bathrooms and bedrooms, salvaging plastic bottles to add to our growing recycling bin. At first, I thought recycling was a new activity in our home. It's really not. God has been at work recycling, reusing, restoring, and recovering for quite a while in my life. He takes my mistakes and turns them into life lessons. He dusts off the dreams shelved in discouragement and breathes new life into my renewed efforts. He instructs me to convert my worries about children into prayers, which then develops into a deeper trust and faith for their future. And He takes moments in my life, like a tiny slice of Victoria's morning, and freezes it into another memory. So, thank you, Victoria, for the lessons recycling has brought. May you always look for opportunities to redeem what others toss and find value in places others walk past. But don't start with me about being a vegetarian. You're on your own with that one. Ronny may be reached at

Friday, May 18, 2012


My Mom, who cries whenever she hears Pomp and Circumstance, claims she can still remember my high school graduation thirty-five years ago. She would likely agree with Mark Batterson who wrote, "Time is measured in minutes; life is measured in moments." Watching your child graduate is one of those moments highlighted on the timeline of your life, and will be experienced by many parents this month as their child dons a cap and a gown, crosses a stage, and receives a diploma. Whether that ceremony marks the end of Pre School or Graduate School, the event bears significance and should be celebrated. To the Class of 2012: Congratulations! You have anticipated this for a very long time. The years devoted to your education will be crowned with a well deserved degree, and as soon as that paper is in your hand, your parents will likely breathe a huge sigh of relief. While some may view this day as an end to education, I pray it is only a step to the next level of learning. A survey revealed that one-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives and 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college. I hope the Class of 2012 does their job to improve these statistics. Be good stewards of the brain God issued to you, and never stop learning. Above all, place the Word of God on your "Must Read" list of books. Just as important as the lessons you’ve learned in the classroom are the ways you’ve grown as a person, the friendships you have formed and the deeper understanding you have acquired of yourself and others. Remember the love of your family and friends. Remember your own sacrifices and hard work. And remember God has a special plan for your life. God has blessed you with unique talents and abilities. Use those gifts well. Eric Liddell discovered one of his talents on the track. Running was his favorite sport and he excelled at it. He said, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." Scheduled to run the 100 meter race in the 1924 Olympics, he was Britain's hope for winning a gold medal. However, Liddell dropped out of the race because it was scheduled on a Sunday and he refused saying, "Sunday is for worshipping God, not sports." Instead, he qualified for the 400 meter race. He not only won that race, but set a world record in the process. This graduation milestone marks another leg of your race; the end of one endeavor and the beginning of your next. May the future hold many new joys and accomplishments and be a continuation of all of the good things you have already achieved. And parents, it's okay if you cry. My Mom would.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

It's May! Flowers are blooming, children are counting down the days to summer vacation, and I just celebrated my 53rd birthday. It's okay. Really. I'm not upset about getting older, or about anyone knowing my age. I intend to always celebrate birthdays and never stop counting them. Each bears its own significance and I'm eager to see what experiences this year of life holds for me. In addition, this is the month in which we celebrate Mother's Day. I've been blessed with an excellent mother, Jeanne Keller, who is the most giving person I have ever known. She's the quiet strength that balances my Dad's outgoing and impulsive nature; the role model for every decision I make; and the ever-available grandmother to fifteen grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Though none of us live lifestyles of the rich or famous, Mama has shown us how to celebrate every day. She excels in turning the ordinary into extraordinary and the mundane into magnificent memories. She loves unconditionally, shares unselfishly, and exhibits patience my husband only dreams of being mine. The fastest she ever moves is to pick up the check when we dine out. Despite her tremendous example, nothing I've done has been more difficult than parenting. Or more rewarding. Mothering five children has been one of the greatest joys of my life. It's incredible to watch pieces of my heart walk and talk and move independently from me, overwhelmed by the desperate desire to prevent a child from repeating my mistakes, yet painfully realizing they just might make mistakes of their own. I'm in the process of trying to download everything I think I know, and praying their gradual independence from me will lead to a lifelong, growing dependence upon God. If you are a woman blessed with a child of your own, you will probably agree that motherhood is, without question, the most important job you have ever held. From the moment of your child’s conception, you have accepted the responsibility to care for this miraculous life. Mothers share the incredible challenge to be available 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, and 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. 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. Whether you have yet to celebrate Mother's Day, or if it was a few days ago, it's never too early or too late to call, write, or visit your Mom. If she's anything like me, the more unexpected the contact, the greater it is appreciated. If your mother is already gone, write a note to a young mother in need of encouragement, or someone who has been a mother figure to you. Now, please excuse me. I have a call to make. Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Victoria's Life Plan

Although I still keep a journal, much of my life is also recorded in email, facebook, and text messages. Of the three, my daughter Victoria chooses to send me text messages when either of us is away from home. These nonverbal conversations are often ridiculous; however, some offer a peek inside of my youngest child's thoughts. "Keep your eyes open for an international hiking/backpacking summer camp." If only my phone had a sarcasm font, I would have responded to that message with "Of course, Victoria. You must have read my mind. That's exactly what I'm doing." "Can you turn off my straightener?" Or I could sell it. She can't use it while backpacking through Europe. "I'm bored." My default response for this and other random comments is "clean your room." "I wanna see the Northern Lights so bad." Sounds great. Make it happen. "Why don't we recycle?" If you've seen my garage lately, you would understand my hesitation to collect trash. However, guilt over the possibility of setting a bad ecological example caused me to support, rather than shoot down her request to recycle. "Remind me to review my life plan with you later." Now this got my attention! Life plan? My seventeen year old has a life plan? I asked for, and received additional information. "Major in psychology and philosophy. I wanna work in a psych ward. Or be put in one… wherever the wind blows." She typically uses levity to lighten a serious discussion. When I returned home that evening, Victoria and I continued our conversation. Live. In person. My favorite method of communication. We spoke about the one short year remaining in high school, her college options, and the need for me to find a suitable apartment for us to share. "You probably won't want to be away from me during your first year, so I'll just move wherever you go." I typically use levity to lighten a serious discussion. And since I have no desire for international, or even local hiking and backpacking, the least I can do is accompany her to college. We also discussed the possibility of her goals changing in the near or even distant future, and I assured her this would not only be normal, but even expected. I shared my belief that dreams and desires are used to motivate a person to take a step in the right direction. Once that step is taken, once that next level is reached, then you assess and reassess and figure out your next move. It's okay not to have the total picture right now, but each small decision brings you one step closer to your destiny. The importance of staying tuned to God and praying for wisdom in each and every choice should never be minimized. I should have told Victoria the many times God has led me, not just with open doors, but with doors that closed. I would have said, "Never force those doors open, even in the most bitter disappointments. Trust God's guidance and don't look back." I certainly wish I could go back and tell her those things because Victoria admits she rarely finishes reading my columns. She said she reads the beginning, then drifts off to do something else. I guess I'll send her a text message. Ronny may be reached at