Thursday, July 24, 2014

Yellow-Flowered Curtains

            I’m all for celebrations: weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, showers… any event that calls for cake. But nestled in between those red-letter days are the fragments of life that surprise you with a moment you never want to forget. Here’s one of mine:
Lauren, my middle child, has a wonderfully active and creative mind.  A dozen years ago, during the summer of her thirteenth year, she vigilantly fought mosquitoes and was responsible for protecting my family from the West Nile virus. She sprayed insect repellent on us and never went out after dark without wearing thick socks and pants.
            She turned every creative writing assignment, regardless of the topic given, into a story of romance, and decided to devote her time to writing a novel. At least it made her forget about the mosquitoes.
            Later that fall, she gave us daily reports of the D.C. sniper’s activities. We were all very thankful when the killers were caught, and Lauren’s thoughts turned closer to home.
She was concerned that her orthodontist would neglect to remove her braces after her teeth were straightened. Dr. Maldonado assured her that she would not be forgotten. Satisfied with his response, she used the ride home to address her next concern, eternity. 
“Isn’t it weird to think about eternity, Mom?  It’s so hard to imagine. What am I going to do with all of that time?” Unknowingly, she opened up the door to one of my favorite memories. As I continued the drive forward, my mind raced back to the first decade of my life.
Remember the first decade?  It’s the decade when birthdays seem as far apart as the east is from the west. The decade which transforms backyard ditches into moats, empty lots into Yankee Stadium, and trees into apartment complexes to house the neighborhood children. And it was during this first decade of my life that I made the lifelong connection between the yellow-flowered curtains covering my bedroom windows and eternity.
            My sister, Kay, and I were settled in our beds when we heard my Dad call out his ritualistic bedtime questions. “Did you brush your teeth?”  Without waiting for an answer, he continued, “Did you say your prayers?”
            The second question directed my train of thought past the act of praying to my image of God. It continued on that track to thoughts of Heaven, and finally came to a stop as I pondered eternity. Even then, as a child, I knew eternity never stopped.  Without warning, I found myself trying to imagine the concept of forever, a time when there would be no time, an endless day with no night.
            These thoughts of Heaven and eternity continued to roll over and over in my young mind, each producing a new layer of fear, increased confusion, and an inability to grasp these eternal concepts.  I stared at my yellow-flowered curtains as I began to sink deeper and deeper into my thoughts.  When I could no longer bear their weight, I began to cry. My cries did not go unnoticed for soon my father was at my side questioning my tears.
            “I was thinking about Heaven,” I managed to say.
            “Why would that make you cry?” Daddy asked.
            My young mind faltered as I attempted to attach words to my insecurities. Unable to do so, I chose to convey my abstract ideas with the nearest concrete item. “It’s just that… well…” I stuttered, all the while staring at the curtains my mother had sewn especially for my room. “When I go to Heaven, I’m gonna miss these curtains.” Despite their inadequacy to reveal my true feelings, the words released my inner struggle. The battle to understand was no longer mine, but my father’s. Free of that burden, I collapsed into his arms.
            Try as I might, I cannot remember exactly what he said. However, I do remember the comfort that his words produced. As he spoke, fear loosened its grip on my mind and peace pushed out the confusion that had clouded my thoughts. I settled down in my bed, assured that my God had control over the things that were too lofty for me to understand.
            Many, many nights have passed since the yellow-flowered curtain incident.  But, occasionally, when I think of Heaven, I can see them in the corner of my mind. And as I look at them, I’m reminded of a young child’s questions of eternity and a loving father’s comfort.
            Now, when questions of my future flit around in my mind, it’s my Heavenly Father Who rushes to my side and settles my soul. I’m convinced that even my wild imagination (or Lauren’s) cannot stretch to include His plans for eternity. But I wouldn’t at all be surprised if somewhere in Heaven, there are yellow-flowered bedroom curtains.
            Oh, and Lauren, I agree with you. It would be nice if God puts your mansion inside of mine so that we can spend lots of time together.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Beach Times

Right before sunset. It’s the favorite part of my beach day. Sunbathers, motionless during the heat of the day, have disappeared in search of nourishment, aloe lotion, or both. Children who tirelessly played in the waves have deserted the beach, likely gearing up with flashlights and buckets before returning to look for sand crabs. And then there’s our family.
            Through the years this has been our time for family photos (including snapshots of the little ones dressed as mermaids), challenging another family to a volleyball game, grilling and eating dinner outside, or walking swiftly in the pool until it becomes a whirlpool. My sister Kay and I brought two dozen people to join us on the Gulf coast this year, but last summer the number was almost double that. As I sat by the edge of the water last week, wishing for time to slow down, I thought of the people who have joined us in the past, and the unique layer each added to our beach memories. And then, like I do every year, I write my worries in the sand and wait until every letter is lapped up by the salty water which mixes easily with my tears.
            The beach is my preferred place of  prayer and I recently read something which helped me to understand why. “Go outside. Sometimes improving your connection with the living God is that simple: go outside and pray. The Kentucky farmer and writer Wendell Berry once commented, ‘The great visionary encounters (in the Bible) did not take place in temples but in sheep pastures, in the desert, in the wilderness, on mountains, on the shores of rivers and the sea… I don’t think it’s enough appreciated how much an outdoor book the Bible is… it is best read and understood outdoors.’”
            I’ve never regretted a trip to the beach. The sun, the fun, the food and even the day I’m forced to take time for pictures. But my most loved part of all are the sweet moments I spend praying at the coastline. Right before sunset.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, July 3, 2014

I Just Want Painless Compassion

So my knee started hurting. I blamed the bouillie cake I made. To be more specific, I blamed the two servings of bouillie cake I ate. One of the ‘interesting only to me’ effects of sugar is pain in my knee. My husband said that since the muscle (yeah, right) above it hurt, I likely twisted my knee. My daughter Elise’s diagnosis? “It’s just sympathy pain.”
“What?” I asked the child whose study of Counseling should have made her more understanding.
            “Mrs. Jackie just had her knee replaced. You went to visit her and now your knee hurts. Sympathy pain.” Yes, my friend had knee surgery. Yes, I went to visit her, but no, I am not so compassionate as to actually feel her pain.
            Whatever the cause, a little rest, ice, and Aleve worked to get me up and almost running, and Elise’s comment got me thinking. What if I did experience the same hurt, physical or emotional, as the people I care about? How differently would I act?
            On several occasions, the Bible lists the actions of Jesus after he was moved with compassion toward those in need. He healed, delivered, fed, and even brought a boy back from the dead when he saw the grief of his widowed mother. (Luke 7:12-15) But Jesus was able to do those things; what can we do? Maybe we could live by the Golden Rule and treat others the way we’d wish to be treated. Or take the advice of Mother Teresa, “If you can’t feed 100 people, feed just one.” And always pray.
            If there’s one thing I did while resting my knee, it was pray for Jackie’s. Every time it hurt to walk, I prayed for her to be free from pain and when the area above it hurt (yes, Elise, in the same exact place Jackie’s hurt) I prayed for her complete recovery and mobility.
            Even though I’m feeling much better, I still need to be more compassionate. To be moved to respond to others’ needs. To feel their hurt in my heart; but please not their pain in my knee.
Ronny may be reached at