Thursday, December 26, 2013

Removing Logs

I have a gift. I can walk into any room of my home and not only spot an object that is out of place, but I can name the person to whom the item belongs. Much to my family's dismay, I do this on a regular basis.
            I’m not worried about the box of framed photos that has been in my living room since June. That doesn’t bother me at all. Until I decide which ones I will rehang and which photos I will add to albums, the large brown box barely able to hold all of the frames will remain in plain sight. Surely I’ll get around to emptying it one day.
            What about the storage bin of fabric in my bedroom? That doesn't upset me, either. Those beautiful pieces will be made into dresses for my grandchildren, scarves, and maybe even something for myself. The bin has been there so long that Michel and I have learned to walk around it. As soon as I can find a spot in the garage, I’ll move it.        
            I'm not even disturbed by the growing stack of papers tucked between books on the side of my desk. Don’t ask me what’s written on them, but I’m sure each one is important. Besides, when we are expecting guests, I pick them all up and put them in my computer bag next to the box of photos.
            My messes don’t aggravate me. In fact, I hardly notice them at all. It’s the faults of others that I focus on, and that’s wrong.
            When I take a look inside of my heart, I must admit to messes that I’ve overlooked there as well. There are thoughts that I shouldn’t be thinking, impatience that I’m trying to ignore, and pockets of pride that need to be emptied.
            Jesus addressed this issue of ignoring your faults when He said in Matthew 7:4, “How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?”
            Today, I’m going to start removing a few logs.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Reading Christmas Cards

It’s a beautiful  picture. An angel trumpeting the arrival of the Baby Who brings joy to our world. All of the Christmas cards are beautiful. Whether engraved, glittered, colorful or monochromatic, the messages of good wishes, personal stories and family photos have been filling my mailbox. What should I do with these cards once the season has passed?  I have an idea. I’m going to share them with my grand-daughters all year long.
Both Adeline and Olivia love books, though rare is the time they allow me to read one from start to finish. They prefer to flip through the pages and point to the pictures, especially when it’s a picture of a baby. When the first few Christmas greetings arrived in the mail I immediately thought of how much the girls would enjoy the cards, especially the ones with pictures of family and friends. The sentiments on the cards are much shorter than books. Sharing them will be a good way to retell the story of Christmas while remembering people who are dear to us.
Admittedly, my ideas don’t always play out well in real life. Hopefully this one will go as planned. If so, this time next year, Adeline and Olivia will be as familiar with the Christmas story as they are with Corduroy the Bear.
I love 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? Adeline and Olivia will. And they’ll see the beautiful pictures.
Ronny may be reached at

Friday, December 13, 2013

Calories and Memories and Christmas

I’m not joking. There are three items on my list of Things I Never Want to Know:
1.      How much money I’ve spent on disposable diapers. (Each one was worth it.)
2.      How much money I’ve spent on photographs. (Each one was worth it.)
3.      How many calories were on the table at the Christmas Treat Swap I recently attended. (Each one was worth it!)
Weeks before the actual event, the topic of a Cookie Exchange resurfaced. My cousins’ wives, Nowanna and Tammy, Aunt Judy and I decided this would be the year we would do more than talk about it. We set a date, time, and accepted Nowanna’s offer to host the premier party. My job was to find out the rules for such a gathering and the internet was filled with advice.
1.      “Invite 8 to 12 people.” (Too late. We had already spread the word.)
2.      “The main ingredient of each recipe must be flour. Only cookies are allowed.” (Go without my niece Brandi’s Ooey Gooey dessert bars? Rule #2 was quickly struck down along with the title, Cookie Exchange.)
3.      “Bring copies of the recipe to distribute.” (Take up valuable table space with paper? Instead guests were asked to email a copy of the recipe so that booklets could be made and distributed at the party.)
Guests arriving at the Christmas Treat Swap were welcomed by the warm glow of a fire in a fire pit, an artfully decorated front porch, and a wreath on the roof. The work my cousin Tait had done outside set the stage for their home Nowanna had beautifully dressed in the colors of Christmas. Knowing I would want to look back on the night and try my best to copy her decorating ideas, I sent a text to my daughter Monique, ‘bring camera.’ Tait and Nowanna’s labor of love was enjoyed by all who gathered to talk, laugh, and eat.
Personally, the night was more than a party. It was visit back in time, for Tait and Nowanna live in my grandmother’s house. They have restored and enlarged the home in such a way it feels as though it was never altered. My grandmother would love it! What a privilege I have to walk through rooms that have seen every stage of my life, rinse my hands in the same kitchen sink my grandmother washed my hair in, and stir a pot on the stove I can still picture her using. Memories created at the Treat Swap were stored with a lifetime of other moments spent in that house. I’m sure those memories even outnumber the amount of calories on the table. And I’m not joking.

Friday, December 6, 2013

God has Prepared My Tomorrows

            I don’t have a plan. Not yet. But then again, maybe I don’t need one. My children are all adults. Do I really need to shop in secret, hide their presents, and put fake name tags on their brightly wrapped Christmas gifts?
            Yes. I probably do.
            My deceptive name tag system began years ago. Because I am not an organized , methodical shopper, I would sometimes buy and wrap all of the gifts for one child while another’s list remained untouched. To avoid possible discord created by gifts for only one person under the tree, rather than writing the recipient’s name on the gift  I chose numbers, names of animals, candy, gems, or reindeer to label their presents. To my knowledge, no child has ever correctly guessed which gifts were theirs.  On Christmas morning, I would reveal the names. Throughout December I had almost as much fun listening to them trying to figure out their Christmas identity as I had watching them open their gifts on Christmas morning.
            Although my husband would disagree, I do not go overboard buying Christmas gifts, but I do put a lot of thought into what I purchase. I love to supply a need or fulfill a wish, but I especially enjoy finding something I think they’d enjoy.  So I buy, wrap and wait for the right time to reveal the gift I’ve prepared.
            As I recently sat before God, embraced by the quiet early morning, I began to release my concerns, questions, and petitions to the One Who soothes my soul.  At the end of this written prayer, ( which began “And on a serious, sobering note…” Who prays like that?!) I added, “Thank You for the future You have planned, prepared, and tucked away until it is time to be revealed.” Then right there, following my unconventional prayer, scenes of my past Christmas gift giving practices which I’ve previously described flashed through my mind so vividly I could almost hear the young voices of my now grown children.
            Through those precious memories, God funneled His Heavenly peace. I’m always amazed by God’s method of using snippets from the past to comfort me. During the seconds it took to relive the memories, I rested in the knowledge that my Heavenly Father has already given the greatest gift, His Son Jesus, “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:14) Additionally, He will always provide what I need at the proper time and maybe even add a few blessed surprises as He’s done in the past. In the pureness and power of His love, He has prepared my tomorrows.
\He always, always has a plan.
Ronny may be reached at