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