28 December 2010

(musing)


Our lives are picture books for all to read. I pray mine is full of both delicate water-colored flowers and messy scribbles - the story of a Love well-lived.

27 December 2010

Reminders of Communion.


In the midst of celebrating Christ, I’ve missed Him. Like crazy. I’ve missed just sitting and basking in the warmth of His presence and writing. I’ve missed the liberty that comes in communion with Him.

Today I wanted to breathe in His presence, as I craved the tender-hued hush of words falling onto the page. Even if the words are just those - words. Phrases aren't necessary any more. And paragraphs? I don't know if I'll ever see them again. But words can be enough in this season. Anything to commune with Him. So I prayed He would speak as I ran on the winding roads overlooking the lake, I prayed He would speak as I drove to meet friends for an afternoon outing. I prayed He would speak in the quiet places and in the chaos.


And He did.


He spoke through birdsong and dancing leaves in a grocery store parking lot. He reminded me beauty and song can be found in discarded places.




He spoke in a pink-dappled afternoon gathering as I watched friends savor the quiet peace of a pedicure. He reminded me all good gifts - including those friends - come from Him and are for His glory.



He spoke as I made a pot of soup for dinner, reminding me of His power in working all things together for good.




And through it all, He reminded me of His attentiveness. His love. His presence. His communion.




26 December 2010

Just a Little More. Christmas.



I awaken with a familiar pang - my mom used to talk about it every holiday. She felt the blues so strongly in the days following - she hungered for the days of family and love and togetherness to stick around. But for our family, those days were rare. With an alcoholic husband, parents who never came to visit, and relatives and friends who needed more than they gave, my mom's everydays were difficult days.

Things are different for me. I have a good husband, a great son and daughter-in-love, a precious grandson, friends who have become family and family that
reminds me of my roots. But the blues are

just as strong, and I find myself needing just a little more Christmas, just a little more kindness and togetherness. Just a little more holiday. Just a little more holy day.


The more I ponder the season, the more I hunger for holy moments that begin earlier and linger longer. I long for candles and choirs and whispered prayers of loved ones. My heart hungers for the awe that comes in a night sky blazing with starlight and the angels singing. And my soul needs to feel the joy that comes from the surprise and delight of unexpected gifts - gifts given not out of obligation but out of love.



I’m ready for Christmas to be here - again.



18 November 2010

Senses.

I love how God has woven our senses together so beautifully – and how a photo or a fragrance can say things no vocabulary can begin to touch. Today, I am in a “no words can adequately describe” place – and I couldn’t be more thankful. Because today my heart is so very full of tender moments triggered by sight, sound, smell, touch.

Smelling these

Peanut butter miracles, being baked at CasaRock.

makes me remember this

Peanut butter miracles being served at Evita's house in Guatemala. The girls made them!

Seeing this

Special art on the jeans I'm wearing today to paint wooden Christmas trees at church.

reminds me of this

The school in Santiago that is making a difference in the lives of children - and the village. We painted classrooms there.

And listening to this



takes me here

Little Ana at the Orphan Hospital in St Petersburg. We danced. I didn't want to say "goodbye."

What treasures are in your heart, just waiting to be revealed and shared?

We’d love to know.

~Ronne

11 November 2010

The Dance (James 1)

It's no secret how much I love to dance. The picture is from our last trip to Guatemala - my sweet friend Tricia and I were a blur on more than one occasion.

This morning, I read some of my favorite passages of scripture from James. JB Phillips paraphrase, which encourages us to embrace trials as if they are friends, has always resonated with me. This time, the Lord revealed another precious picture of the beauty of hard times. He's good that way - to paint His own words in beautiful ways, using whatever medium He chooses to point us to His timeless truth. Today, He paints with dance.
------------
Be sure to dance just a little when trials come to court you. They are there for good purpose, and they shouldn't be anything you fear. Your faith will breathe in new life when you take their hand and begin to move in unison.

There's a rhythm to be found in the awkward stumbling, and with a little patience you'll soon discover it.

The dance is precious and tender, like sixth graders at Cotillion or a little girl in red velvet and shiny shoes following every step her dad makes just a bit smaller while they move to the band at a fancy restaurant.

And if you have two left feet, you simply need to ask the Lord of of the Dance. He knows the steps and the music and even the trials that have asked for your hand in the first place. He will cause those feet to move in time. He will place His hand under your chin to keep your eyes set on Him rather than the dance floor. And he will place a smile on your face - like a crown.

01 November 2010

The Margins.

I’m in grad school. Yes, I am the OLDEST student in my class this semester at St Edward’s University, a wonderful private institution that sits on the crest of a hill overlooking the stunning state capitol of Texas and the much-larger University of Texas. Returning to school to pursue a graduate degree has been a passion for years (or perhaps two decades, if one wants to be precise), and finding a program in Global Issues was an answer to prayer. Even if I don’t ever receive the pretty piece of paper at the end of the road, I know the steps I’ve walked have been focused and good.

The class this semester is entitled “Perspectives.” Our professor has defined that as “what it means to be human,” and has walked us down roads of social and political philosophy, psychology, art, and spirituality. I’ve written journals about seeing things from an eternal perspective (something I can’t NOT do) and the beauty of redemption. This journal is a bit different. Thankfully I have an instructor who allows us to speak using more than words. Yes, this video is my assignment. To be perfectly honest, I don’t really care about the grade – the beauty in the margins is far greater to me. God is Father to the fatherless. And He makes beautiful things.




23 October 2010

My Maria.

‎Be persuaded, timid soul, that He has loved you too much to cease loving you. ~Archbishop Fenelon

My Maria

She’s 12 years old, and she has just moved to a new home. For the first time in a long time, she feels freedom.

Maria has a smile that lights up the world around her. She is talkative and loves to dance. Though she’s new to her community, she is making friends quickly. She is a blur of movement and activity – until it’s time to be hugged. It’s a new thing to her, but she is already a master at it. Her hugs defy her size. They are big and powerful, and they linger a while.

Chances are, you wouldn’t consider her new home a beautiful place. In fact, Courtney and I heard a speaker once liken orphanages to Hell. But for children like Maria, an orphanage can be a little more like Heaven.

Her father was an abusive man. As part of his ritual, he forced Maria to drink alcohol daily. Thankfully, someone noticed. Someone notified authorities. Now, Maria lives at Hogar Solidario, under the care of a wonderful Christ-loving woman named Evita. She is now drinking in love and acceptance, and she is thriving.

Maria is a great photographer.

I received the precious gift of those lingering hugs from Maria on Thursday. We laughed together, and I taught her how to use the camera on my phone to capture the moments. We danced. She played with my hair. And we hugged some more.

She asked when she would see me again; I promised to send photos and a letter to her so we could see each other every day. And I promised to pray for her every day – because I know what it feels like to be abused. And I know what it feels like to be healed. I’ll also pray she’ll be surrounded by both women and men who show her Godly love. And I’ll pray to return to Hogar Solidario, so we can dance again.

Maria was with me yesterday as we purchased a microwave and stock pots for Cerecaif. She was with me as I jotted down all notes to tell the team when they arrive from the US. This morning, she was with me as I awoke to the sunshine peering over the mountains. I close my eyes and see her smile, and if I try very hard, I can feel those sweet arms wrap around my neck.

Gosh, I am craving one of those hugs right now.

Hugs.

~Ronne

21 October 2010

Descent.


There is a particular beauty in the descent.

It starts high above the clouds. There’s a calm, steady repose to the soaring.


Volcanoes peeking through the clouds in Guatemala.
Then, it happens. The sensation of descent. Of being lowered to a destination
far better than the sky can offer.

It’s hard not to cry.

Because it’s the first descent of many.

Descents to joy. To pain. To a hunger and a filling. A descent into the very arms of God.


Strange that descent should look just like elevation. Then again, Christ has been there – is still there. He knows what it is like to soar, and to intentionally descend. The joy, the pain, the offering of b
etter. He knows it all. Perhaps that’s why it feels so natural, and the expectation of seeing Christ in the faces of the poor and orphaned is so strong.

For He, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to His prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped Himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born a mortal man. And having become man, He humbled Himself… Phil.2:5

Courtney and I now sit, breathing in the afternoon like it was the finest of perfumes. Birds are singing and a bell rings in the distance. The countryside is full of color and the sky hangs heavy overhead. We’re ready for the next descent.

You can read visit our blog, wordpainters.com, to learn more about our passion for the discarded.

19 October 2010

Soundtrack.

In less than 24 hours, Courtney and I will be on a plane headed to a land we love. If you’ve read my blog before, you know there’s something precious in the smell of dirt and diesel – it’s a fragrance that says “life is abundantly less – and more – than it seems.”

I’m working on our team playlists right now. Yes, there will be a classic ’80s list (because “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Livin’ on a Prayer” should be sung loudly by everyone), and there will be a list of songs we’ll sing (albeit poorly) with the orphans – songs like “Sapo Sapo” and “Open the Eyes.” But the list that I love the most is the list of songs that become anthems for the moment – songs that become embossed with the images of faces and places, become mixed with the sound of laughter and weeping and whispered prayers.

Here’s one of the songs that will be on that playlist. As you listen to it, pray for all the “beautiful things” He is crafting even now – pray each orphan will understand their beauty and worth in Him. And pray for us, that we’ll fully understand it in our own lives as well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sqy1a_Gz0zQ

07 September 2010

Grad School Ramblings - Journal: The Prism

I'm a school-girl. Again. After more than 20 years, I've returned to college to pursue a Masters of Liberal Arts in Global Issues. Yes, being accepted into grad school was on my "50 before 50" list - but acceptance without the journey would be empty. Perhaps one day I'll post my entrance essay, which featured writings from Tennessee, Texas, Russia, and Guatemala. But for now, I thought I'd post my first journal entry for a class simply known as "Perspectives: On Being Human." The first three weeks of the course focus on social and political philosophy. If you haven't read the essays of the men I reference, a quick Google search will provide an abundance of information. Your perspective may end up being far different than mine. I have a feeling my perspective is far different than most of my classmates. And that's OK. I rather like my prism.

_________________________


I sit in the same Tennessee porch swing that whispered inspiration almost a year ago, as I filled pages with words and phrases sharing my passion to be a change-agent for the discarded. Now I read essay after essay of other change-agents - Rousseau, Thoreau, Mill, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mussolini - and reflect on what it is in each of us that craves something more. There seems to be a constant tug between the “now” and the “not yet,” and we at once grasp both sides of the rope. I feel a connectedness to each author, longing to better understand the prism through which they see. And as I read, my own prism catches the words, infusing each with shape and color.


Though I try to be a mere spectator, stripping myself of all but the most academic of thought, I find it impossible. My vision is shaped through the prism of eternity. Christ is life in my veins, and that glorious obsession washes every moment, every experience. The storyline weaves through the bells that signify the passing hours on the campus of St Edwards, through the spirited discourse of the students hungry to be remembered as more than just a name on a page, and through essays that paint portraits of governments and societies longed for but never seen.


Rousseau dreamt of a world fueled by a common voice. He says, “Each of us places in common his person and all his power under the supreme direction of the general will; as in one body we all receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.” I read his writings and picture in my mind the body of Christ, comprised of individuals uniquely gifted yet at their best when moving in sync with others.


Thoreau also spoke of community, but understood the subtle difference between cooperation and compromise. He might have found company in people like the Israelites, Daniel, Paul, Peter - even Jesus. From refusing to bow down to idols to a conviction to preach even when commanded not to, examples of appropriate civil disobedience appear throughout scripture.


Mill reflects on the condition of man, and walks away with both the profound truth that we are by nature self-centered, and that any decision forced upon us is bound to ultimately fail - that true change comes from the heart. And Mill shares another truth that rings of the eternal: “A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury.” I hear Christ’s words resonate, “I assure you that whatever you failed to do to the humblest of My brothers, you failed to do to Me.” (Matt. 25:45b)


Marx, Engels, and Lenin also focus on the communal good, though the concept of an ideal “classless” society seems to reinforce the class struggle it rages against. I think about my visits to Russia, and then reflect on the second chapter of Acts, where “all the believers shared everything in common; they sold their possessions and goods and divided the proceeds among the fellowship according to the individual need.” Lenin quotes Marx as saying “While the state exists, there is no freedom. When there is freedom, there will be no state.” I wonder if the three men might have found their ideal society not through material and political revolution, but through faith revelation.


As I watch a wasp fight with a window that keeps it from catching the breeze of a warm September afternoon, I think about each of us and how we press against the forces that keep us bound, seeking the secret to true liberty. If only I could tell the wasp the window is open - that he only need to move eight inches down to experience the very freedom he desires. Again, the prism of eternity bends the light, and I think about the freedom that cannot be attained through political structure or social class. I think about a religion that’s more powerful than the doctrine of fascism preached by Mussolini, governed by a Sovereign who holds dictators and kings in His hand. His rule cannot be fettered by any system of government, and His liberty is offered to all.


For eternity.


Beautifully Messy. (book review - Permission to Speak Freely)

I'm normally the type to mingle with the pages of a book, then walk away from them for a time before returning. But to fall into those pages and want to camp there - that is a rare thing. Yesterday, I opened the water-washed cover of Permission to Speak Freely by Anne Jackson. And tonight, the book's final pages shared their whispers of confession's beauty with me. Its contents have captivated my heart and imagination.

Perhaps it's the honesty and poetry in Anne's writing that makes the book such a comforting place to dwell. Or perhaps it's that I find myself in so many of the pages - dealing with the shame, the scars, the pain of being abused, rejected, and betrayed by the very people designed to bring love, comfort, and a sense of family. I've been silenced by those in ministry, and have worked for religious organizations where questions were seen as threats. Yet, I believe the Church can still be Christ to the broken, the needy, the hungry and tired. I believe it can still offer sanctuary for the soul.

Permission to Speak Freely is a collection of essays, poetry, and personal confession that focuses on fear, grace, and the beautifully messy act of redemption. The book isn't tidy - it's transparent and raw and brutally honest. It cuts to the heart of who we are, and offers healing through the act of Biblical confession and community. Anne understands the tension between the messy and the beautiful, and her book brings it to life in a real, unvarnished, much-needed way.

"It's time for us to put all we have out in the open - not for the sake of faux humility or self-deprecating exploitation or attention, but for recognizing the things the Cross stands for and left for us: ultimate love and undiscriminating grace."

Anne Jackson reminds us that God does give us permission to speak freely. And in her book, she reminds us of our need to speak - and confess - and allow Him to glory in both our brokenness and beauty.

21 August 2010

Living in the “Now.”

The season has been a long one - a difficult one - though only those who know me well recognize it. The waiting continues for the next chapter in my husband’s career (a waiting process that began long before his company made the decision to begin a downsizing process that ultimately included his position). There are glimpses into the “next,” and in those moments I am encouraged and hopeful. But the “now” clouds the “next” with its unknowing and questioning. Everything done - every step taken - is done with the lingering wonder of its place and even its worth. I eat dinner with family, bake cupcakes for a very special event, laugh with friends while perusing vintage shops, design worship environments for our church, or snuggle in to watch a movie on the sofa with my husband...

and wonder what those things will look like in the “next.”


I don’t want the “next” to rob the treasures from this long season of “now” - so much so that it became a prayer yesterday morning, written in my journal and posted on Facebook and Twitter.


I was reminded how powerful the “now” can be.


A few days ago, the “now” included beauty tips from the Estee Lauder lady at Dillard’s. Her New York accent made me smile, and her speed-of-light explanation of how to blend this and that to brighten and lighten was lyrical. Our conversation moved from make-up to ministry, and she listened intently to details of my upcoming trip to Guatemala. “I always thought I would be doing things like that when I got older and retired,” she shared, as her eyes filled with tears. “I moved here from New York, and got swindled outta my money by a bad broker. Now I’m working 60 hours a week, just trying to make ends meet. This isn’t the life I thought I would be living. I mean, I thank God I’ve got my health - but I wish I could do more.”


She said her son was a teacher, so maybe he was her legacy.


I made my purchase, and asked for her card. I promised to pray for her, and then hugged her before rushing out of the store to hop on a conference call.


Yesterday, a voicemail message was the reminder.


“Hey Ronne, it’s the Estee Lauder lady at Dillard’s, and I hope you are using your ANR serum and concealer to make you look young and pretty - which you already are, and - I don’t know - maybe your praying for me and hugging me has lifted some of my depression. I want to thank you on both accounts and hope I see you soon. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll get to travel with you. Bye!”


I listened to the message, and wept. A simple hug. A voicemail message. Both treasures for two women, sharing a season that is hard and unsure.


Oh, that I might not miss the treasures of the “now” in my eagerness to run to the “next.”

21 July 2010

Book Review: Taking a Slow Walk with Lucille

“I’m a living and breathing testament that life begins and flourishes at whatever age you become comfortable in your own skin and whenever it is that you fall in love with what you see when you look in the mirror each morning.”


I’ve been taking a slow walk through a book. I could have read it quickly - it’s certainly not a complicated novel - but getting to know Lucille O’Neal was something I wanted to savor. In learning about her life, I have learned to happily embrace mine.


In the book, “Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go,” Lucille shares the story of her challenging childhood, teenage pregnancy, relationship issues, struggles with alcoholism - and overcoming faith in God. Yes, she is the mother of NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, but her book doesn’t rest on his fame as her redemption. Lucille inspires women to look upward and move onward, no matter their circumstances. She shares, “Without a test, there is no testimony.”


Through her words, she has shown the beauty of a life lived fully - and a life that becomes richer after 50. Her book evolves from autobiography to a passionate and convicting challenge - to dream big, step out in faith, and choose to live victoriously in Christ. Taking a slow walk with her through her journey from mental warfare to mental health - and mental wealth - is a good journey indeed.

16 July 2010

The Journey to Home.

I know what it feels like.


Just before dawn this morning, after a very short night with little sleep, I took my sweet friend Emma to the airport for her return flight to Colorado and the family she loves dearly. Her eyes were sparkling with joy as she checked her bag and walked toward the security line. She was going home.


Yesterday, those same eyes were sparkling with tears. As we rode the escalator down to the baggage claim area at Austin Bergstrom, there were cheers from waiting family and friends for the rest of our team. “We’re proud of you!” “We missed you so much!” The voices raised like a symphony.


But the orchestra wasn’t full.


Though every team member hugged Emma, though there was joy in the friendships made - there were voices she missed. Her journey wasn’t complete. She was not home yet.


I returned home and drifted off to sleep, thinking about Guatemala and Emma and the past week. And I dreamt. In that dream, I could hear my mom in the kitchen, making biscuits and gravy (I’ve written a chapter about this comfort food in my “may-never-be-finished” book). Her love was evident as she fluffed the sheets and stroked my forehead. Her voice calmed my soul.

Opening my eyes, for the briefest of moments, I thought I could hear her.


I am blessed to belong to a loving husband, a precious son and beautiful daughter-in-love, and God-crafted family. Yet, in the stillness of that dream, my heart ached to feel the touch of a mom who loved me beyond measure.


We all want to feel “home,” no matter who we are - a 16-year old from Colorado who sees her future ministering to the discarded in Latin America, a 50-year old who finds joy in helping others live transformational lives, one of the 148 million orphans in the world, the 30,000 kids in the Texas foster care system, or the vagabonds I pass every day on my way to more important things in my life.


Yes, I believe fully the journey to “home” continues throughout this life, and I pray whoever reads this has the sweet, humbling confidence of eternity with God All-Mighty. But I believe family isn’t something just to be experienced in Heaven. We are to minister to widows and orphans, we are to care for those passing through, we are to entertain strangers.


We are supposed to love beyond measure. We are to be the orchestra that says “welcome home.”