Thursday, December 18, 2014


           I’ve spent two Christmases away from home. The first time I was 33 years old and receiving chemotherapy in an isolation room in Houston’s M. D. Anderson hospital. My husband Michael was home with our four young children, and my dad flew to Houston, courtesy of Anne and Emile Bergeron, to spend Christmas Day with me. No one knew he didn’t have the money for a hotel, so thankfully his plan to sleep on the sofa in the hospital’s lobby worked out. We spent Christmas Day visiting through the glass window that sealed me in a sterile environment. I know, I know, so far it sounds sad, but hang on, it really wasn’t.
          We talked, laughed, prayed, and paused as I received Christmas calls from far too many people to name. While on the phone, I watched as he either read the Bible or ate from the cookie-filled shoe box that a friend had dropped off. Although we were without the comforts of home, or the company of family and friends, we had a really great day. It was so very peaceful. I wasn’t depressed, angry, or visited by self-pity. I was alive. My family was healthy and safe, and I was secure in the knowledge of God’s infinite love and His ability to perform the miraculous.
          The second time I spent Christmas outside of Louisiana was a little farther north. At the time, my daughter Elise was twelve years old and dreamed to walk the crowded streets of New York City. She had never dreamed of becoming ill. How odd that a dreaded disease would somehow give way to the fulfillment of a dream.
          After bravely enduring chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma, she was contacted by the Make A Wish Foundation which grants wishes to children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. When she shared her wish to visit New York, her father suggested Disney World instead. “Daddy,” she replied, “I’ve been there, and that’s a place you and Mom will take us again. I don’t think you’ll ever plan a trip to New York.” (Besides being brave, Elise was also very wise.)
          Although we tried to imagine what it would be like, none of us were prepared for the actual adventure of New York City at Christmastime. We toured the city and marveled at the sights we had only seen in pictures and on television. As we walked to view the tree at Rockefeller Center, the young man on the side of us dropped to one knee and proposed to his very excited girlfriend. We went to the top of the Empire State Building, visited Central Park, Times Square, Fifth Avenue, saw a Broadway play, and didn’t let the freezing rain stop us from running around the Statue of Liberty. We were excited and determined to do and see as much as we could, but were unprepared for the emotions we felt as we stood at Ground Zero and re-lived the September 11th tragedy.
          On Christmas Day, we sat very near to the front of the stage at Radio City Music Hall and watched the Christmas Spectacular, a show beyond our expectations, especially the conclusion with the dramatic living Nativity scene. As we exited Radio City Music Hall, it began to snow.  Elise walked ahead of us, confidently navigating the crowd. Although I couldn’t speak, my heart exploded  as I watched my daughter experience her dream of walking the crowded streets of New York City, and I thanked God that my wish, my prayer, my daily plea for her life, had also been granted.
          This Christmas will be spent at home, with lots of people and presents and food. However, in the midst of all the activity, my heart will beat with the rhythms of peace, faith and gratitude that I learned through my two out-of-town Christmas experiences.
          No matter where we are, or who we’re with, Christmas Day and every day, may we be found utterly dependent upon, and thoroughly grateful to our God Who "so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas is Coming

           “Tree goes outside.” My granddaughter Olivia is quite confused as to why her normally sane parents would haul a large tree into their home and cover it with lights and ornaments.
            Monique, her mom, needs to tell her, “Because Christmas is coming Olivia, that’s why. It’s also why I  bring you to the store to see if there’s an Olivia-sized bicycle for your grandmother to buy since she insists on giving you one for Christmas.”
            It’s true. I want to give her a bicycle because I’m giving one to my other granddaughter, Adeline.  Monique wants me to give Olivia a 17-piece musical instrument set.
            “She loves music,” Monique said.
            “You’re having another baby in March and you want Olivia running around the house with 17 noisemakers?” I asked.
            “Well, no,” she said and continued the bicycle search.
             While scholars argue the actual birth date, I am quite content to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th. The end of the year is a wonderful time to remember the fulfillment of God’s promise, the birth of our Savior. Although trees, lights and gifts have become a part of that celebration, may we never lose sight of that first Christmas season.
             Life must have looked pretty good to Mary before the angel’s visit. Her engagement to Joseph was likely 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 when Jesus, the Light of the word, was humbly born in a stable. The One Who had already changed her was about to shake the community and eventually the world.
           Although the story of Jesus’ life on Earth begins with Christmas, it doesn’t end there. He didn’t remain in the manger. Jesus grew, led a sinless life as He taught, healed, delivered and loved. He then became the ultimate sacrifice when He willingly died on the cross for our sins.
           Every time I reflect on the first Christmas, I am challenged. Have I made room in my heart for Jesus? Will I allow Him to change me, enlarge my vision and challenge my thoughts? And do the people around me know about that first Christmas?
           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 entire Christmas story of the Greatest Gift?
           I think Olivia’s right. We should take the tree outside; take the celebration of Jesus out of the confinement of our homes and into our communities. And Olivia will lead the way with 17 instruments.
Ronny may be reached at