This conversation took place in the midst of the kitchen of Casa Rock while Ronne and Melissa made cupcakes with lavender and lemon and various other tasty things. They were also drinking wine and #ohPearl was barking about in the background.
Melissa: Tell me about the projects you’re working on, Ronne.
Ronne Rock: I do advocacy journalism for the discarded, primarily folks who have been thrown away. I work with Orphan Outreach, Mission Discovery, Austin Christian Fellowship. I have also written for the Root Collective and Orange Leader.
Melissa: You have a lot on your plate. You just spent a month traveling all over the world.
Ronne: I do. I was. I just spent a month in Kenya with a medical and agricultural trip working at two different schools. One at the Ugandan border. And one in the slums of Nairobi. I came back for thirty-six hours to wash my underwear --
Melissa: I’m so glad you did that
Ronne: --I know. Most people were. And then I left and traveled to Guatemala to lead a women’s conference there, but then also did some work -- a feeding program for these amazing kids who live in a village where their parents are primarily sharecroppers. Then I worked at an orphanage there. I came back for forty-eight hours then went to Jamaica, led a women’s conference there, then also worked at a school for the deaf and a government orphanage. Then a church, which basically everything on the other side of the beautiful resort community -- when you say you’re going to Jamaica, everyone thinks you’re going to lay on the beach and drink beautiful drinks but on the other side of that street is extreme poverty and depression is really high -- so we worked in a local church in one of the neighborhoods that has a little preschool to try to get folks a safe place to have their kids so they can go to work. I did that and then I came back for a little bit.
Melissa: In the middle of all of that, how do you pursue rest in the midst of all that you are doing? Intentionally. Practically. What do you do practically to pursue rest?
Ronne: One of things I do is what I’m doing right now. The kitchen is a safe place for me. It’s always been that way. I had a really hard family life, so the kitchen was a safe place for my mom to be and for whatever reason I grew up that same way. If I am really stressed out about things, I can go bake or cook and that’s one way I can get rest. At the risk of sounding, super religious --
Melissa: I don’t care how religious you sound. It’s just me and you gonna hear this.
Ronne: --Okay. I’ve got to have time with Christ. Spending time in Scripture. Spending time just journaling and stuff is really important to me. Running may not sound restful to most people. I know you understand it because walking is restful for you but running is restful for me. Roadtripping. Rest rarely looks like sleep to me. It’s finding a place that looks real peaceful. The boat at sunset. Our Jeep on Sunday afternoon. My husband’s arms are really restful.
Melissa: So, are you intentional about saying, “okay, I’m setting aside these times to do these things or is it just like okay I have just gotten to this point so I have to find rest NOW?”
Ronne: I’m trying to get better about being intentional and that’s hard if you’re a driven person -- I’m not a doer, just to be doing things, but I’m an achiever. If I get to the end of the day and I don’t feel like there are an adequate number of checkmarks, I feel a complete bust. And I’m learning to recognize that in my own life and have fewer checkmarks so I can savor the ones that I do have instead of being just a fury of activity. I’m learning -- these are all learning things, at fifty-five you’d think I’d have this all figured out but I’m just really learning -- but I’m learning no more. Or to set boundaries to say, “I can do this, but not that.” Or to say, “I can do this for this window of time but no further.” And I’m learning to just appreciate other people doing things instead of just feeling like, “Gosh if I could just make this thing happen faster or smoother.” I wish I didn’t feel the need to fix things. I wish I was one of those people who was content. But I’m learning to receive contentment.
It’s hard, though, when you’re a person who has ideas or passion. It’s not just about passion but it’s about having this active thing in you. It’s about feeling like I can’t just sit dormant. I can’t just think blue sky things or wouldn’t be sweet if there’s thing in my gut that if it sees something it says, “you have to do something about it. You need to be involved in that. God gave you a voice, you better use it. God gave you feet, you better move with them instead of…” I work with contemplative people but I don’t understand them much.
Melissa: Yeah. And sometimes it’s our job to stand still. Isn’t that the hardest thing? Standing still?
Ronne: The one thing that I have learned to do over the course of the years much better, especially this past year is I have learned to listen more. Even that can be restful when you don’t feel like you always have to have the words or the answer or the big idea. Learning to listen to people to more first, sometimes never saying a word, it’s calmed my soul...a lot.
Melissa: You’re still in the midst of learning to pursue rest. What does it look like to pursue Brad in the midst of pursuing your dreams? I mean you were gone for almost a month so what does it look like to pursue your romantic relationship in the midst of pursuing your dreams and all of these things you feel like God has created you to do? How do you do that practically? I know that you pursue his heart and he pursues your heart but how do you do that practically? I know that you give each other space and all of that and that’s so beautiful. It’s such a model for me but what does that look like practically for the two of you and how do you set aside time for one another and what does that look like practically?
Ronne: Some days we do it better than others or some weeks we do it better than others but we’ve learned to anticipate the time we have together and look forward to that time. And we date. It’s been on rare occasion that we have not dated. We’ve been married now for seventeen years and we’ve continued to date. And we’ve learned to enjoy the simple things of life. We use to have to make a plan and now it is just, “let’s go jump in the Jeep and go somewhere.” We’ve lightened up on ourselves as far as what time together looks like. We communicate with each other all the time, even when I’m gone. Even if we don’t physically talk, we’re texting. Always SOS 1:2. “
Melissa: What does that mean?
Ronne: Song of Solomon 1:2 “He will kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.”
Melissa: OH! I love that. Someday I want that. I want someone to kiss me with the kisses of his mouth. Again.
Ronne: And we can tell if we have not paid attention to each other. We have gone through seasons where things get in the way. I was thinking about just what has happened in the past five years. I got laid off from my job. I knew what was going to happen and my heart was prepared but that first year was the hardest for me. Brad told me he wanted me to take time to rest. It was so hard. I had always thought, “my identity isn’t wrapped up in my career. I know who I AM JESUS.” But HOLY SH*T. I got laid off and the next morning I’m laying in bed going “I have nothing. No one will ever want me, I have nothing to offer.” I just bottled it all up and it took me awhile before I could look myself in the mirror and say, “Are you serious? You do have a lot to offer!” But it was hard. We’ve each had our hard moments. We’ve been through some -- we’ve become grandparents. My travel schedule has intensified. We’ve been through times that have been wonderful and some that have been distant and we’ve worked through it. We’ve just got a whole lot more comfortable in our married skin -- to just enjoy time together instead of trying to figure out what that time needs to look like. Not trying to make it into meaningful time.
Melissa: Just being together is meaningful.
Melissa: Do you feel like what you’re doing now is your big dream? What is your big dream? (looks up at the ceiling) OH MY GAWD, RONNE, THERE’S RED WINE ON THE CEILING.
(The previous evening Melissa had tried to open a bottle of red wine and the corkscrew had shoved the cork so far down into the bottle that the wine shot up soaked the entirety of Ronne’s kitchen. Including, apparently, her twelve foot ceilings.)
Ronne: Oh my GOD.
Melissa: Oh my God. I was like “what is on the ceiling?” and then I was like “there’s RED WINE on the ceiling!”
Ronne: That was the most epic red wine explosion ever.
Melissa: I’m sorry. You’re going to have to repaint the ceiling. I caused Ronne and Brad to have to repaint the ceiling. Actually I didn’t. I try to take the blame for everything.
Ronne: The thing was broken. It wasn’t you. It really was broken.
Melissa: So where do you stand on the idea of a big dream?
Ronne: If I were to even say that there is this life that I want to live that I’m not yet living, I would deserve to be slapped --
Melissa: No. You can say whatever you want to say to me.
Ronne: No, because when I look at the life that I am living it is very much the life that I would love to live. I mean I have such amazing privilege. I get to travel all over the world. I think when you’re in them and doing them they start to feel like the thing that you do. You don’t step back from them and go, “holy crap, do you see the privilege that I get?” In that way, maybe I already am living the dream from just a life standpoint. When I think about and aspirational, if I could be a part of this it would be epic, it would be wonderful, it’s still being formulated in my mind. I knew a year ago that I wanted to write a book. Two books. I thought I knew what those books were. I knew that they would be about people. They wouldn’t necessarily be about me. The story of people has always fascinated me, so a year ago after I sat asked myself hard questions about what brought me life and what I adored doing and what wearied me vs what made me feel alive and all that. I asked myself all those questions --
Melissa: I remember those questions.
Ronne: Yeah. This desire for two books and then over the past year that desire for those books has grown or narrowed or strengthened or channeled. It’s not necessarily that I just desire to write about people but I desire to write a story that will change stories. I have a real passion. It’s narrows over the course of a year -- don’t ask me why women keep being involved because I would never have put women at the top of my list of people that I would write about or anything -- I’ve got a list of six women that lead beautifully. They’re holy women. And not just holy women but wholly women. They are not wallowing as victims and they’re not hyper-militant. They are women and they have substance and gumption and it’s not like they’re trying to prove a thing and out of the ones I’ve met so far that have just grabbed my heart only two have formal degrees. I watch what they’re doing in their communities and the changes they’re making and the changes they’re committed to making. Their vision is huge. I stood yesterday at a meet-up. Before when Jon had his meet-up, “I said I’m going to ask myself questions.” Yesterday, he said, “Okay, Ronne, you’re the last, tell us your dream.” And I said, “I want this time next year to say there is a book in production so you can meet Mary and you can help me fund a university in the West Indies and you meet Alice and you can feed some kids in a slum in Nairobi. That’s what I want. I want you to meet some amazing women and I want you to help me help them change the world. And if I could do that -- I mean I’ll die happy anyway -- but if I could do that then you could put some shiny shoes on me and play some Cole Porter and I’ll forget who I am and I’ll be just fine.
Melissa: Well, you have a lot longer time. You don’t get to put shiny shoes on you after that. Hold off on the shiny shoes. I mean you can wear shiny shoes if you want.
Ronne: But if I could have the honor of doing that, that would be a great honor. And that terrifies me to and so when I was in Jamaica and Miss Mary tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Where’s your book?” and I’m like, “Oh, what book?” and she said, “Where’s the book?” and I said, “Oh-ho...when hell freezes over,” just kind of joking around and she leaned, “Love, what are you waiting for? What are you waiting for?” And I said, “Well, you know if I write a book you’ll be a chapter in it, Miss Mary.” And she said, “I know and our story needs to be told. We need you to tell our story.” And there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about that.”
Melissa: Good. Good. That’s good.
Ronne: So am I living my dream? Absolutely because I’ve gotten to meet Mary and Alice and Elizabeth and Elena and Lourdes and Teresa. I’ve gotten to meet Flo. I’ve gotten to meet some pretty amazing people.
Melissa: And a dream is ever evolving. It’s not something that stands still.
Ronne: Because one dream leads to another. You wake up with the dream. But those dreams don’t ever go away. So that would be an honor to get to do that.
Melissa: It will happen. There’s not a doubt in mind. I have no doubt.