Excerpts from My Memoir


                Come and read all you who reverence                  
God Almighty, 
as I declare what He has done for my soul.
(Psalm 66:16)


The Child In My Heart 
Wears A Bow©
by Diane Ronzino

It was a special occasion, but not a very special occasion.  Just sixth-grade class pictures. “Look nice” I remember my teacher telling us. 

“He said 'nice'. He didn’t say fancy” was my explanation to my mother when she told me what I must wear for picture day.  I could not convince my mother that I should not wear the fancy “party” dress that my grandmother had bought me.  I can remember that dress - it is forever branded upon my soul like a scar from a deep wound. 

It was beige with a see-through bodice  To me, it was old fashioned (like my grandmother would buy) plus it too large. (“You can grow into it.”) My grandmother lived in Brooklyn and she bought it down in Little Italy. Oh, and it sure looked like it!  I did not like the dress.  Never could I have imagined that I would be forced to wear it. to. school. Well, I was.  Of course, I also had to wear my Sunday patent-leather shoes and a big beige bow in my hair to match.

The bow was too large on my small, petite face and way too heavy for my fine, limp hair. The clip-on bow kept sliding down my hair, eventually hanging awkwardly at the end strands of hair.  I did not want to wear that bow, even though I loved bows.  Little bows. Little bows always put a smile on my face. But big bows screamed, “Look at me!” and I did not want anyone looking at me.

There are so many facets to this true story, which I will not go into.  What I will say is that the night before picture day was a pivotal night in my life. God intervened and rescued me in the nick-of-time from following through on a horrific, horrific decision I made because I was so absolutely desperate to not. wear. that. dress. to. school.

Morning came and off I went. I was sick to my stomach at the thought of facing my peers. I remember us “walkers” were stopped at the railroad tracks because a train was coming. My head hung low. Maybe if I don’t look at anyone, no one will notice me.  As the crossing guard complemented me on how pretty I looked, the other children laughed and whispered.  As you can well imagine, I was made fun of and bullied beyond what my young heart could endure.  By the time it was my turn for my individual photo, I had finally stopped crying but I could not smile.  Humiliation wouldn’t allow it. The bow had started to slip for the umpteenth time that day and it was all lopsided.  Snap. Snap.  

I walked home from school that day a changed little girl. A portion of who I was died that day Evidence was in the photo.  And I never wore bows in my hair again.  Not large or small ones. 

Due to my countenance, the individual photos of me mirrored a very sad child and my mother berated me when I brought the photos home from school. "Why couldn't you smile?!" she screamed without really wanting an answer. She paid for my class picture but would not pay for the individual picture of her. only. daughter. in sixth grade.  I was an embarrassment.  To this day, I cringe at posing for a picture.  Joy at looking at myself died when my mother made the choice she did.  Come to think of it, that is probably the reason I do not do “selfies”. 

I went through all that. for. nothing. Nothing!  I was changed from the inside out. for. nothing. Explain that to a ten-year-old child. 

Once in a while, I think of that ten-year-old little girl.  I picture her smiling and happy with a small bow in her pretty blonde hair.  The child-within-me now wears little bows. It’s my way of telling her, “You are precious, lovely, and loved.  And what God stopped you from doing that night before was NOT. FOR. NOTHING.”

No, it certainly wasn’t.

~~~~


Forgiveness Rendered©
by Diane Ronzino

The walk around the corner to Margie’s house was like a death march. I walked hesitantly with my shoulders drooped as angry tears flowed.  Inside, my six-year-old heart was screaming, “I can’t say goodbye…I won’t say goodbye!”  Little did I know at that time that the weight of regret of not saying goodbye would be a heavy burden I’d bear for many years to come.

It was the summer between kindergarten and first grade when the moving van pulled away from our house.  My heart was broken at the thought of leaving all that I knew and loved.  My family was saying goodbye to their home, my father’s parents, and our neighbors as I was ordered to go around the block to say goodbye to my little friend, Margie, and her family. 

Margie’s family was so different than mine, which was harsh and critical.  Tension was ever present and screaming was a way of life. Going around the corner to Margie’s house became a lifeline as I intermittently got to be a part of a joyful, relaxed family.  I was comfortable with Connie, Margie’s loving, Italian, good-natured mother.  Although their house was filled with commotion from all the siblings, I loved being there. The sights, sounds, and smells of this endearing family always welcomed me, and Connie’s hugs were like a security blanket. 

How could I say goodbye?  I froze on the sidewalk, one house away.  Connie was standing in her doorway, holding the screen door ajar, and bidding me to come.  Her arms were stretched out wide, her hands reaching out to pull me toward her, but I couldn’t move another step.  “Diane, come,” Connie called.  I stood as still as a statue.  “Diane, come…come say goodbye!”   I was absolutely brokenhearted. How could I leave this family that showed me much needed loving-kindness?

I had already said goodbye to my grandparents who lived downstairs from us, and Marie, my playmate next door.  We were leaving Flushing in Queens County, NY.  No more grandparents nearby.  No more park, where I was free to play.  No more escaping my world into Margie’s.  Maybe if I don’t really say goodbye, then maybe this really won’t happen, my immature mind reasoned.

Connie was still beckoning me when I turned and bolted back down the street.  The sound of my feet stomping and my own anguished cries were deafening.  Sobbing, I ran home to the home that was no more.  My parents were waiting by the car for me.  Numbly, I climbed into the back seat.  As we pulled away, I turned around and looked out the back window.  My Margie was standing in front of my house crying and wildly waving goodbye.  The further we drove the more pitiful her wave became.  Finally, she stopped waving because I did not return her gesture.

Everything was a blur as we headed down the road into the unknown.  No one spoke. The silence in the car was deafening; it was as if time stood still.  I felt numb from my loss and overwhelmed with regret at not saying goodbye.  With everything in me I wanted to scream, but I withdrew into silence.

We moved from Flushing farther out on Long Island to Stewart Manor in Nassau County.  We went from city dwelling to “the country”. It was only about 30 minute ride, but it might as well have been a trip to China.  I never saw Margie or her family again.  Connie’s bidding and Margie’s last wave were forever etched on the tablet of my heart, but so was my non-responsiveness.

Over the years I would think of the black-haired little girl who always made me laugh and I would recall her dark-haired mother with her broad smile and kind words.  As an adult, I would sometimes pray for Margie and her family as they came to mind.  But, the ache of goodbye’s left unsaid to the family who brought sunshine into my young, darkened life never left me.  Over the years, it became a heavy weight that haunted me, subconsciously, deep in my soul.

Even as I grew up my family home never became a happy place for me.  I married young, left home, had three children, and continued to live on Long Island.  As I matured, I diligently worked on changing myself into a more positive, productive human being, and the Lord brought much healing to some very deep emotional scars from my childhood.  Forty years would pass.

My husband and I enrolled our children at Faith Academy, a private Christian school in Farmingville, NY.  My youngest child, Andrew, was in first grade and my other two children, Alece and Michael, were seven and ten years older than he. As the school year began, I was very excited about the children’s teachers.  I liked them all, and was particularly drawn to Andrew’s teacher, Mrs. Albano.  There was something very special about this woman.

Our family began attending the church associated with the school, but we really didn’t know too many people.  That fall the church announced that it was going to put on a Christmas pageant and auditions were scheduled.  Even though I had never acted, I decided to go to the audition.  It was time to get out of my comfort zone and possibly make some new friends, I reasoned. To my utter shock and total honor, I was given the role of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. 

Since I had never participated in anything like this before, at one of the early rehearsals I asked the cast about what we should do for the director at the final performance. I was told we give her flowers and someone suggested I take up the collection.  Figuring this would be a good way to meet everyone, I took on the responsibility.  At the following rehearsal, I started collecting money and making a list of the donor’s first names only. I came to a blond-haired, older woman named Marie.  She was friendly and funny. She gave me her money and I wrote down her first name.  As she walked away I asked her what her last name was. What an odd thing for me to ask. 

“Palmieri”, Marie replied.

In that split second, I was whisked away.  Staring off into space and muttering to myself out loud, I said, “I used to have a friend named Palmieri when I was a child”.  Marie, cutting in on my sentimental journey, asked me where I grew up. 

“Flushing.” 

“Really?  I used to live in Flushing. My family lived in Flushing.” 

“Really?” I replied. How coincidental.  Off in a strange, reminiscent zone, I spoke into the air, “My friend’s name was Margie.  Margie Palmieri”. 

Marie stiffened her body and replied, “My niece’s name is Marge Albano.  Her maiden name was Palmieri.”  I did not make the connection.  “You know Marge Albano, Diane, she teaches school here.”  Nodding, I still did not make the connection.  Marge Albano was Andrew’s teacher.  Period. Marie seemed to come to the realization before me.  Half in a daze and still on my sentimental journey, I said, “Margie’s mother’s name was Connie”.

“Yes, Marge’s mother is Connie - my sister,” agreed Marie.

“She had brothers, one of which was named Patrick.”

“Yes, my nephew’s name is Patrick.  Diane, I think Marge Albano is who you are talking about!” 

I emotionally erupted.  I began to shake all over nearly collapsing to the floor.  Marie’s arms caught me as people started crowding around us.  I was bumbling and emotional, and quite embarrassed for making a spectacle of myself. 

Mrs. Albano was a tall, slender, black-haired beauty.  Her demeanor was gentle and kind.  She was a very special woman and I had repeatedly given thanks to God for giving Andrew such a wonderful, nurturing first-grade teacher. She spoke very positive things about Andrew.  After the first teacher’s conference, I told my husband that when I look into Mrs. Albano’s eyes it’s as if I’ve known her my whole life; that her eyes seemed like that of an old friend. Could it be they really were those of an old friend?

Marie stuffed a piece of paper in my hand with Mrs. Albano’s home phone number on it.  I drove the 45 minute drive home, weeping and thanking God all the way.  I dialed Mrs. Albano’s number as soon as I got home. Her daughter, Jessica, a teenager in my oldest son’s class, answered the phone.  I asked for her mother, but I was told she wasn’t home. I blurted out, “This is Diane Ronzino. My maiden name was Weiss.  I was a friend of your mother’s when we were young.  Please have her call me no matter what time she gets home. I will wait up for her call.” 

I got off the phone and impatiently waited for Mrs. Albano/Margie to call me back.  That evening I went down into the basement to see if I could possibly find some old photographs.  All my childhood photos were in a few of the many boxes all over my basement. How will I ever find any photos?  To my absolute amazement, lying on top of the very first box I opened was a photo album with pictures of Margie and me when we were little.  Oh, my gosh…this is truly a God-thing!  Thank You, Lord!


I brought the photo album upstairs and showed my children and husband. I told them the story of my unsaid goodbye. Exhausted, I waited on baited breath for the phone call that never came.  I finally fell into a fitful sleep. Every time I woke up, all I could do was ask God to give me the opportunity to ask my friend’s forgiveness. That’s all I want, LORD, is ask her for forgiveness. Please!

I assumed that since Mrs. Albano didn’t call back that night, she wasn’t going to call at all.  Arising before the sun came up the next morning, I was disappointed. So close, yet so far…please dear Lord!  Early that morning, the phone rang.  Never dreaming it would be Margie, I nonchalantly answered the phone with a calm “Hello”.

“Diane?”

“Yes.”

 “This is Marge Albano.”  Pause. “Margie Palmieri.”

“Margie, I’m so sorry for not saying goodbye! Please forgive me!” exploded from my lips.  The words flowed naturally, but passionately.  They had waited on the perimeter of my heart for 40 years.  Speaking them opened the floodgates of the outer limits of my soul.  It was surreal - the circumstances around this apology were truly miraculous.

After a brief conversation, we said we would meet in the school lobby that morning.  I told Margie about how I found the photos and she told me about the ones she found in a similar fashion. Then she explained why she didn’t call back the night before.  Her daughter gave her the phone message, but told her that “Diane Rice” had called.  Jessica had obviously mixed up the “R” from Ronzino with my maiden name Weiss, so she relayed the message as coming from Diane Rice.  She told her mom that I was crying, sounded weird, and didn’t make any sense.  Margie told her daughter that she didn’t know anyone by that name and never gave it another thought.  However, in the middle of the night, Margie awakened from a sound sleep, thinking “Not Diane Rice - Diane Weiss/Diane Ronzino!”  She was beside herself the rest of the night and went searching for photos.

My drive to school that morning was filled with anticipation.  As I came into the lobby with my photos in hand, the area was filled with teachers, parents, and students, many with cameras in their hands.  I froze from surprise and confusion at the sight of all these people. It took a moment for me to register the fact that they were here to witness our reunion. Jessica had spread the news.  All of a sudden, those familiar eyes and black hair were walking toward me. Cameras flashed.

Margie and I embraced, long and hard.  It’s like our souls melded together.  Once again I apologized and asked her to forgive me.  She told me that she already had.  When Margie said those words, a 40-year black mark of regret was eradicated.  There were cheers going up all around us; almost everyone was crying.  It was an extraordinary, dreamlike, God-moment! 

Hand-in-hand, Margie and I went to her classroom to talk.  She told me it took her years to get over the rejection she felt from my refusal to say goodbye.  “I’m so sorry!” reverberated from my heart to hers.  Knowing that Margie thought I had rejected her was like a knife stabbing my heart. I ached because I had deeply hurt her.  We cried, hugged, and looked intently into each other’s eyes, searching for the little girls we once knew, finding the women of God we had become. 

The miracle didn’t end there.  At that time I was head the church’s Nursery.  A couple of weeks later, I looked out the Nursery doorway and I saw Margie coming toward me with a white-haired, round faced woman. It was Connie.  She stood in the hallway and threw open her arms, standing just like she had done all those years ago.  Like a six-year old child, I ran into Connie’s arms. It was like coming home.   “I’m so sorry I didn’t say goodbye.  Please forgive me!” 

Of course she did.  As Connie and I caught up, she told me things I hadn’t known. She and my mother were best friends, so Connie had photos of Margie and I together as babies on the swings at the park and in our carriages. My mother had been sick my whole life and died when I was 19.  Connie was sad to hear that, but wasn’t surprised.  She knew mom was sick and she knew of trouble in my parent’s marriage.  Connie told me I was “a sad, little thing”.  In a strange way, I found her words to be very validating.  She told me that almost every time I would come up the block to call for Margie, I’d be crying.  Connie had an ache in her heart for me but she didn’t know what to do to help me.  All she could do was pray.  Connie used to pray for me!

Christmastime seems to incubate miracles.  Jesus was miraculously born for one mission – to die for the forgiveness of our sins.  And here we were, all these Christmases later, and forgiveness was still so important to Him that He arranged for me to be in the Christmas pageant, for me to take up the flower collection, and for me to ask Marie Palmieri what her last name was.  He orchestrated both Margie’s life and mine to bring us together at Faith Academy. His Divine Appointments allowed me to ask for forgiveness, and He then took the burden of regret off my shoulders, as if to say, “Be free, Diane. You can stand up straight and tall now because you are forgiven.”

God is in the restoration business.  He restored peace to my guilt-ridden soul and healed Margie of the painful rejection she experienced from me. I came to find out that Connie longed to hug me close that agonizing day so long ago, and she waited 40 years for God to restore that hug.  Forgiveness was rendered amongst the three of us and that is the greatest miracle of it all. 


Copryrighted 2012 Diane Ronzino


~~~~

The Weight of Love©
by Diane Ronzino

I was appalled at my first sight of her. In all my years of ministry to the poor and afflicted, never had I come face-to-face with a 900 lb. woman. My senses had a hard time adjusting to what I was seeing.

Out of the special bus, she positioned herself in her specially-made wheelchair. I helped maneuver her into the church. I hung my head in shame at the thoughts flooding my mind – my judgmental thoughts – as I took in this sight and the odors of this woman.

Karen started coming to church once or twice a month. She had a warm, friendly personality and she loved Jesus. I took her on as my “assignment”. I was determined to help her. I wanted to see her emotionally healed so she could get free from the enormous body she had. We began to meet for one-on-one counseling sessions once a month. I was getting to know the hurting woman trapped inside this tremendous body. We dealt with some very traumatic incidences from her childhood. The LORD was healing her from the inside out.

On the Sunday mornings that Karen would come to church, it was my job (at the command of my pastor’s wife) to light and hide a Yankee candle behind a speaker in the Sanctuary close to where she would sit in her chair. I always felt a little ashamed doing that, but Karen’s body odor was truly offensive to the senses. A few times, one or more people actually gagged just walking past her. Most church people stayed far away from Karen.

One Sunday, Pastor decided to have a foot-washing service. I know prayers were being said that Karen wouldn’t come that Sunday. Well, she did. Isn’t that just like God – to make us deal with our own hearts?

My husband and I, along with the pastor and his wife were the foot-washers.  During worship, God was dealing with my heart. Breaking it, actually, and I knew what I had to do. I had to go to Karen and wash her feet before I did anyone else’s. I had quietly prayed for grace and for God to allow me to feel His agape Love for Karen.

Music was playing. The atmosphere was quiet and contemplative. The candle secretly burned. I took the basin and knelt down next to Karen’s feet. I became very aware that every eye in the Sanctuary was focused on me.

Artist Unknown
I looked up into her eyes pained with humiliation and my soul flooded with Love for her – a supernatural, God-Love - a Love so strong that it seemed to physically ooze from the pores of my skin. Tears poured down my face as I lifted her first foot into the basin. A heavenly fragrance filled the circumference around us. A sweet-smelling, supernatural aroma – nothing like the fragrance of the Yankee candle. A fragrance I don’t think anyone else but Karen and I could smell. For it was the perfume of pure, undefiled Love and of Heavenly hosts that surrounded our Holy interlude.

Weeping and praying, I looked up into Karen’s face. Tears that started from humiliation had turned to pure joy. Her head was tilted back as if basking in the Sonshine. In those moments, she was caught up, as was I, in the Holy, Love-filled, Presence of The LORD God Almighty.

Upon drying her second foot, I knew I had to move on to others, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to stay in that space where we experienced a glimpse of Eternity, where the Love of God was flowing between Him, Karen, and I - on earth just as it is in Heaven.

I hesitated, but finally stood up. We looked deeply into each other’s eyes and then embraced long and hard. Our tears intermingled, as did our Love for one another.

The beauty of that Holy moment is forever etched on the tablet of my heart. It was a supernatural happening that our Father bestowed upon two humbled hearts. Hearts that dared to put their pride aside for the good of the other.

Karen lost about 300 lbs. by the time she shed her earthly suit and left for Heaven.  Her body was just worn out in its struggle for survival.

Karen is eternally wrapped in that Love we experienced – finally free, her healing complete.  One day we will meet again. By my physical eyes, I know I wouldn’t recognize the thin, healthy woman she is now.  But, my spirit sure will.  Heart to heart, we will embrace again. This time with no more tears.

~~~~

The Sisterhood of Mother and Daughter©
by Diane Ronzino


The pictures of glaciers in Alaska was birthed in my heart as a youngster.  Knowing from where it came or the reason for it still eludes me.  But, they are there - timelessly etched on the tablet of my heart.

The major highlight of my life was a cruise to Alaska that Alece blessed me with several years ago. My Missionary daughter came home from South Africa to accompany me on the vacation of a lifetime.  Being Alece moved to South Africa at the tender age of just-turning-19, mother and daughter never spent one-on-one time together as adults. For one week, I had Alece all to myself.  And we bonded - as if sisters.

From the moment we reached the top of the gangplank until we disembarked for the very last time, Alece and I laughed.  We laughed so heartily and so often that we were constantly being asked if we were sisters. Sisters? How absurd! We even had someone ask us if we were twins.  Twins?  Hello?!  The more those questions were posed to us, the more we laughed.

Settling into our stateroom at the end of a fulfilling Alaskan day, we snuggled and laughed like two little BFF's on a sleepover.

I will forever remember the euphoria that came over me, as I stepped out onto the freezing deck to behold the glaciers - glaciers that seemed so familiar even though I was now laying my eyes on them for the first time.  The majesty and the colors and sounds of the floating skyscrapers of ice left me mesmerized.

I looked to Alece, who was busy running from one side of the ship to the other, snapping her camera.  I was hoping she would stop - just for a moment - to embrace with me the magnitude of this dream fulfilled.  But, Alece was having her own special moments with her camera.  And I had a special time with God, as I overflowed with praise and worship. He was allowing me a glimpse of His magnificent creation; allowing me to have these private moments with Him, His glaciers, and my heart's desire. 

Although, I don't think Alece had any idea of what I was experiencing, she did capture unbelievable accounts of the skyline of ice-walls. Her camera caught the humungous chucks of ice as they broke off and thunderously crashed into the ocean, creating massive waves.

She did that for me.

"Sisters" - Alece and Diane


And I went zip lining across a rain forest canopy for her.  

It terrified me and exhilarated me all at the same time.  It was an experience I never would have had, had it not been for my daughter.  For I never would have attempted that for anyone other than Alece. And oh, the photos she snapped of us!  What joy!

Alece's photos forever proclaim the reality of a deep-seated dream come true that God blessed me with.

And having my daughter all to myself for one week, gave me joy that will carry me through my lifetime.  


My daughter.  My sister.  Truly.

~~~~

Red-hearted Exchange©

by Diane Ronzino


As each whip of the cat-o-nine-tails wrapped around my skinny, little legs pulling off stripes of skin, I let out muffled screams. Not wanting to give my mother the satisfaction of me screaming, I silenced the wails as best I could. The thrashing continued, but no one rescued me.

I have no recollection of what I may have done to possibly warrant that whipping. But, it was a moment of shear terror that left its scar deep upon my soul causing not only fear, but also a deep-rooted anger. And that anger settled in my subconscious, which I carried it into adulthood.

After the beating my mother walked me to the back door.  “Stay outside”, she commanded. I sat down on the stoop. I remember the sound of the click of the lock after she slammed the door behind me. Broken like a piece of china and then discarded, I sat there, whimpering and numb. The welts across my legs were raw and bleeding. My body trembled. My young mind couldn’t process what just took place. My voice closed up during the flogging. Even if I could verbalize my emotions, who would listen?

I turned my head to the left and stared at the open, fold-up clothesline that was next to the stoop. As an escape mechanism, I forced myself to concentrate on that open clothesline. I began counting the lines to keep my mind off the burning physical and emotional pain I was in.

Suddenly, the clicking of the door lock broke my focus. Hoping for an apology, but bracing myself for what may come, my body stiffened, and my mind whirled. My mother opened the door and handed me a quarter. “Go buy a quart of milk.” The door slammed shut. Again. Click.

As if I wasn’t humiliated enough at just having been beaten, now I had to walk, cut and bleeding, up to town to the store. I didn’t want to go.  My mind raced trying to find an avenue of escape. But, fear of reprisal finally won out. I mustered up the resolve to do what I had to do, but anger seethed inside of me.

Walking the three short blocks up to our town shopping area seemed like a long, death march. I was not only angry but felt deeply ashamed. I was a bad girl. To take my mind off of what I was actually doing, I counted the lines in the sidewalk all the way up to the deli. I kept my gaze downward, as I was too ashamed to look anyone in the face.  They can tell I’ve been a bad girl.

I took my sweet time coming back home, as I didn’t know what to expect. I was very focused on those sidewalk lines. For the few minutes it took to reach our house, those sidewalk lines were my reprieve.

Our beautiful two-story house graced the corner intersection. But, it was just a façade.  It certainly wasn’t a “home” where a little girl could feel safe and secure, loved and cherished.  As I approached the house, I hesitated. Fear hung over me as if I were encased in a plastic bag.

I found the door unlocked, but certainly not welcoming. I tip-toed through the quiet house to the kitchen. As I came through the threshold, straight ahead of me was the kitchen door to the outside. Hanging on the doorknob was that thick cat-o-nine-tails, which had been hand-hewed from a wide, thick leather belt. That was its resting place. Every time I would walk in the kitchen, it was a reminder of what a bad girl I was.

Fast forward about 30 years. I’m a wife and mother of three, with a glorious, loving relationship with Jesus Christ, my Saviour.

One afternoon while my children were at school, I was in my living room praying. Suddenly, the image of that horrific beating so many years ago flashed into my mind. But, it was more like a vision than a memory. It was as if I were transported back in time and I was once again that little, traumatized child out on the stoop. I could hear the click of the lock and feel my confusion and fear. I could sense my voice being closed up as numbness set in. Yet, I was an adult sitting in my own living room.

A floodgate of emotions erupted. Loud wails were coming out of this adult mouth, but it really came from a place deep within my little girl’s traumatized soul. All of the emotions my little girl’s heart never got to release at that time finally gushed.  Pent up for a lifetime, they exploded like an erupting volcano.

In the midst of this vision, The Holy Spirit asked me, “What would you like to say to your mother?”  God had supernaturally taken me back in time. I was there. I had just been whipped and was sitting alone on that stoop. And now He was giving me the chance to be heard. 

What would I like to say?

I knew I was being handed a once-in-a-lifetime unearthly opportunity, as my mother had been dead many years by now.  In my child-like voice, I ranted in angry confusion, but I started with an apology. “Mommy I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what I did.”  But soon the real questions of my little heart blurted out, “Mommy, why did you beat me?!  Why?!  Why didn’t you love me?! What did I do to you?!”  Over and over the words came.

I found my voice.

I then turned my accusing questions toward Jesus. “Where were You?! I was just a little girl. Where were You?!"  I allowed myself to vent my outrage because I was secure in the knowledge that He understood my inquisition. 


Immediately in the vision, the little wounded me looked to my left toward the clothesline once again - to count the lines. But this time, there in front of the clothesline stood Jesus. Jesus - in all His Glory - was crying.

Suddenly, I was back in real time again sobbing my pain out. I cried. And cried.

Finally, a feeling of peace washed over me as if I were sitting on my Heavenly Father’s lap. His compassionate Love embraced my like a warm blanket. I was finally safe. That old plastic bag of fear was exchanged for a mantel of security.

The little girl in me now felt safe and secure. Loved and cherished. As I sat basking in the Presence of Love, The LORD gave me another vision. I saw His Hand reach over and remove the cat-o-nine-tails off the kitchen doorknob and replace it with His Own Heart. In awe, I sat in His Presence for a very long time - soaking in healing and allowing the vision to blanket me in Truth. The Truth was I was loved and cherished. I was a good girl.

I knew what I had to do, but the same old thoughts rushed back at me: Oh, don’t go up to town, you will be humiliated again. Look at your eyes they’re all swollen. You don’t want anyone to see you like this. As soon as I could muster it, I drove up to town to a store and purchased red felt, stuffing, and ribbon. But, this time, I went with my head held high.

Etsy Shop
I came home and went right to my sewing machine.  I sewed a large red heart with a ribbon to hang it with. Ceremoniously, I hung it on my kitchen doorknob. Forever a symbol of freedom and love, it replaced the memory of the violent torture that came through that cat-o-nine-tails.

The revelation that Jesus was with me out on that stoop so long ago, weeping as I wept, brought a supernatural, inner healing to my soul.

He so completely healed my emotional wounds that not even scars remained. The emotional pain from that incident was totally eradicated from my being. In that moment I was completely set free. Free of the trauma. 
Free of the pain. 
Free of the anger.
Free of voicelessness. 
And free of shame.

And I give all glory and honor unto Jesus Christ, my Healer.
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If you can relate to anything in this story or if this story has ministered to you in any way and you would like the same red heart to hang on your doorknob, please contact me and I will mail you one.


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Hand-held Love ©
by Diane Ronzino


Linda's fists were clenched tight.  I picked up her fist and held it in mine, affectionately stroking her arm.  I had tried to pry her fingers open so I could slip my fingers into hers, but her fist held tight. My heart was bursting with Love; a very deep, God-breathed love.  Oh, how I would treasure the gift of holding Linda's hand this one last time.  I need that.  Oh, Lord, please allow us to hold hands one more time.  Linda was in the hospital at the threshold of death's door.  She was slipping into a coma, her body succumbing to the dominance of brain tumors.  Her face and body were tightened in anguish.


Hand holding had uniquely bound us together - our own special signature.  It began one day as I was saying goodbye to Linda at her home.  As her disease was progressing, I visited once a week and helped with household chores.  As I was leaving, I clasped her hand in a friendly gesture.  She, in turn, held onto my hand as if to say, "Please don't let me go".  From then on, unspoken words would pass between us.  As the brain tumors took control of Linda's verbal communication, we would look deeply in each other's eyes and hold hands.  God melded our hearts together.  In those last month's of her life, it seemed as if we were kindred spirits our whole lives.  But, nothing was further from the truth.


Linda was my husband, Joe's, cousin.  Their family was a close-knit, do-anything-for-you Italian family.  And we couldn't have been more opposites.  I came from a cold, keep-hugs-from-ya kind of family.  Cousin Linda was a city girl and I a suburbanite.  She was raised in Middle Village on the outskirts of Manhattan and I in Nassau County far away from city life. Frequently, Joe and I and his parents would drive into Middle Village to see the family.  Casually, we all sat around the table - any time, day or night - and sit there eating and drinking coffee for hours, as extended family and friends hustled in and out. My background of table sitting was entirely different. The purpose for a table was to eat, not to socialize. As soon as the meal was over, the family scattered.  There was very little pleasant conversation.  As different as night and day were our two families, including Linda and I. 


Linda was an independent, outspoken, single mother of two daughters.  The grief from a sister being murdered and the end of Linda's marriage, I'm sure, added to her tough exterior.  I was younger, quiet, meek, and easily intimidated by Linda's strong personality.  Even though she was always friendly, it seemes it was only in a polite, have-to-be kind of way.  So, I kept my distance.   Whenever we drove to Middle Village to visit the family, I would sit awkwardly at their table.  I would observe, but never really allow myself to enter into their family environment.  I always felt like the outsider.  I didn't have personal interaction with Linda at all. 


When the news of Linda's illness circulated the family, I began praying earnestly for her.  The more I prayed for Linda, the more God's Love filled my heart for her. One day as our family was visiting, I could tell she was physically deteriorating. Her prognosis was not good - she would eventually lose her speech, possibly her sight.  As we were saying goodbye to the family that evening, I offered to come the following week to help Linda around the house.  On the ride home, fear dominated my thoughts.  Why did I offer that?  Why would I want to make that long drive into Middle Village?  Will Linda and I get along?  What if I don't do things they way she would?  I was concerned I made an awful mistake.  But, Love, blossoming in my heart, compelled me.


I prayed on my drive to Linda's house that next week and all the weeks to follow. I prayed that God's Love would touch Linda in a tangible way.  Joyfully, I cleaned her house and then would sit with Linda over a cup of coffee.  Our conversation was polite. As weeks went by, I brought up the subject of my faith.  I shared with her all that The LORD had done for me and my family over the years. Surprisingly, Linda really listened.  We began to share intimate conversations. Linda told me of her desire not to be hooked up to life support and her concern for the well-being of her two, young teen daughters, her father, and siblings after she was gone.  We cried together, hugged, and I made promises to her, all the while holding hands.


Linda's health was fading rapidly.  On my very last home visit with her, she was in bed unable to speak.  She was very weak and I knew time was short.  That day, I didn't do any chores.  I went from sitting on her bed to lying next to her, holding her hand, as she drifted in and out of sleep.  I read Scriptures and shared with her that Jesus had died for her and that His Blood was shed for the forgiveness of her sins.  I shared God's description of Heaven, and His promises to combat any fears. All the while, we held hands.  It had become such a natural thing for us to do.  My heart was filled with Love for Linda.  It was a deep, God-breathed, agape love.  This was the first time in my life that I experienced true Love -  a Love so strong (which is the title of my memoir) as to override my fears and inhibitions; a Love amazingly tangible. God was sharing His Love for the both of us, through each other, and I was changing because of it. We would look intently into each other's eyes, which is something I could never do before.  The eyes are the windows of the soul and I never allowed anyone, before Linda, that close a look into me.  We didn't speak much, because she wasn't able to carry on a conversation at that point.  We just lied in bed together and held hands as if we were long-time best of friends.  Saying goodbye that afternoon, I leaned over and kissed Linda's forehead. She squeezed my hand hard and shook her head "no".  I could read on her face that she was gripped with panic.  I knew Linda did not want to be alone and in my heart, I knew she was afraid of death.  I sat back down next to her.  While lovingly stroking her arm and gripping tightly to her hand, I asked her if she was scared to die.  She shook her head "yes".  Oh, LORD, give me the words...


We sat together for a long time never releasing the grasp of our hands.  I read her more Scriptures and explained to Linda that Jesus was waiting for her.  I told her that angels would be rejoicing when the time came, as she made her entrance into Heaven.  I read  to her about the streets of gold in heaven, the River of Life, and her mansion that Jesus had prepared just for her.  I reminded her that she would never be alone or forsaken.  Her countenance went from fear to peace and I knew at that point that I could leave her.  Oh, how I had come to love Linda!  I did not know her in a superficial way, but deep within our souls we had connected. This was my assignment from God -  the first of many "Love assignments" in my life. God wanted Linda to know how deep and wide His love was for her. I was was given the extraordinary gift of experiencing God's Love for a human being.  It was a deep, fulfilling, tangible, burst-through-my-chest empathy and care of Linda.  I don't think there was anything I wouldn't have done for her.


A few days later the call came that Linda was in the hospital.  I drove into Middle Village and Linda's father drove me to the Manhattan hospital.  During the car ride, I silently asked my Heavenly Father for a sign that Linda had made peace with Him and that she had eternal salvation.  


Linda's dad left me alone in the hospital room with her soon after we arrived.  It seemed he somehow knew that I was meant to be alone with her. I walked around the bed to see her face, as she was lying on her side.  Emanating from Linda was a heavy, foul odor that caused my stomach to churn.  Her skin was a sickening color and once again her countenance was one of agony.  I wanted to run out of the room, but Love impelled me to stay.  Linda's fists were clenched tight.  I picked up her hand and cupped it in mine.  I tried to pry open her fingers, but couldn't.  Oh, LORD, please allow us to hold hands one more time!


As I began to pray over her, Linda vomited. As I was cleaning the both of us and the floor up, the nurse came in and turned her on her back.  She told me that Linda was slipping into a coma and that it was just a matter of time.  When the nurse left the room, I rubbed Linda's body with lotion - from her face to the bottom of her feet, while singing quietly over her.  She seemed to respond by relaxing one of her hands a bit.  Quickly, I intertwined my fingers with my beloved Linda's and I reminded her that she wasn't alone - that Jesus was waiting for her, and that He had forgiven her of her sins.  Thank You, LORD, for answering my prayer and allowing us to hold hands one more time!  Suddenly, Linda opened her hand fully and stretched out her arm toward the ceiling, as if reaching for someone.  I knew at that moment, Linda was reaching out to The Lord Jesus and was making her peace with Him.  Her arm came down to the bed and her breathing became very labored.  Upon checking on Linda, the nurse told me that she was now in a deep coma.


I just kept holding her hand and stroking her arm while praying and singing over her.  To my surprise, Linda suddenly opened her eyes wide. I leaned over her body to look her in the eye, reassuring her that I was here.  However, I could tell that Linda was not looking at me.  Her stare was so intense that I lifted by head and looked over my shoulder.  Who was behind me?  She was looking straight through me to something or Someone ethereal that I could not see with my sight.  Her facial expression relaxed to one of absolute tranquility.  I assured Linda it was OK to go to Heaven; that her girls and family would be alright.  She closed her eyes and her breaths became infrequent.


Family members arrived in her room. Since I had assurance in my heart that Linda had made peace with God and that soon she would be walking into Eternity to Jesus, I had a peace about leaving her. I knew Linda was in God's Presence. I held her hand, longingly, one last time.  It was our final Love connection.  Kissing her goodbye, I thanked her for loving me.  Reluctantly, I let go of her hand. Shortly after I arrived home, the call came that Linda had passed serenely from this world into Heaven.


I grieved deeply, along with the rest of the family, for a long time.  My heart longed to hold Linda's hand again - to have that connection to Love that was so tangible between us. To this day, many years later, I can close my eyes and remember how it felt to have Linda's hand intertwined with mine and the hand-held, God-breathed Love we shared.  It is forever etched on the tablet of my heart.  One day on the streets of Heaven we'll be reunited and I think the first thing we will do is reach for each other's hand.

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Love Personified ©
by Diane Ronzino


I've experienced what few others in life have - God's Love personified. And in part, I am who I am today because of it.  I have been given a legacy worth far above the monetary values of this world.  I am truly a very rich woman, whose aim in life is to see that legacy continue.

I was contemplating what I would say at my mother-in-law's funeral.  What was it that I wanted to convey about Mom that would resound for eternity through my spoken words?  As I prepared for her memorial service, the words "love personified" echoed in my heart.   

By nature of things, Maria Ronzino was my husband's mother.  The night Joe and I got engaged, Joe's Dad said to me, "Now, we are 'Mom and Dad'". It was such a loving thing to say to me, but I was a very young 19 year old and my own mother had just passed away. Not able to grieve, I stuffed everything. I was lost and hurting. My mommy was forever gone.  At her passing, the concept of a mother and all that "Mommy" stood for seemed to, also, pass from me. It's almost as if when she was ripped from my life, so was the name I called her.

For years, I couldn't bring myself to call Maria, "Mom" without almost choking on my words. Literally, the word would cause me to stammer. But, through the years of Maria loving me when I was most a nasty, unlovable human being, the name "Mom" finally glided naturally from my lips. My mother-in-law went from a formal "Mom" to my Mom. God had given me back a mommy. ("my" and "mom" reversed.)

Maria Ronzino accepted and loved me unconditionally.  She always told me I was her daughter, as if I were born of her womb. Being physically born to a woman does not guarantee unconditional love, that I know.  But choice does.  And she chose to love me, unconditionally, just as she did her two sons.  Finally, Love won and somewhere along the years, I chose for Maria to be my mom.  

Mom embodied love - true love - God's agape Love.  She lived Love.  She didn't have nice sayings about it nor did she talk about it.  She lived it by unconditionally forgiving my failures and loving me in spite of my actions. My mommy and I had a long history of looking deeply into each other's eyes causing one or both of us to weep. They were always profound Love-moments which caused love to grow abundantly in my own heart. So strong was the love between us that tears would form because neither of us truly had words to express our feelings of love one for another. And always, I was looking into the eyes Love, Himself, and for that there are no words to express.

On the night before she left this earth, as we were saying our good-byes to everyone before heading off to the motel (we were visiting Mom at my brother-in-law's in Florida), I bent over Mom to embrace her as she sat in a chair.  We held each other tight.  Neither of us wanted to let go. As I finally moved away from the embrace, she grabbed my shoulders and looked up, deep into my eyes. She emphatically told me "I love you. You are my daughter."  I wept. It truly was another Love-moment in my life. Unbeknownst to me at that moment, it would be the last time I would hear those most precious words from my mom.  The next morning she departed for Glory.  During my grieving process, I was struck with knowing two things: I would never again hear those most treasured words from her, nor look into the eyes of true Christ-Love again. Thus I still grieve. 

Because she was Love personified to me, the depth of her words still echo in my heart. No other human being has ever impacted my life the way she has.  She has caused me to be a much better human being and has shown me that true Love is possible to a life surrendered to Jesus Christ.  It is possible to love the unlovable, to forgive the unforgivable.  It is possible to have an ex son-in-law, who will forever be my son. It is possible to keep on forgiving and and keep on loving when human frailness doesn't allow others to meet the mark.  

So, this is the inheritance I leave to my children - the three born of my womb and those born of my soul - with all the love I have within me I say to you, "I love you. You are my children. I am your mommy."

A life well-lived, A life well-loved
Maria Ronzino - 1913-2008
  LOVE PERSONIFIED


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                 Copyrighted 2012 Diane Ronzino