Monday, July 28, 2014

Why You Need To Love Your Story

My story has its roots in the heartland of lush soil, with an expanse of waving tasseled corn, standing straight and strong and heavy heads of wheat bending down under the load of fruit.

My story is nestled in the river valley, which extends into hills of  sandy-loam dotted with grazing cattle and the aquifer that pumps wild and deep through live veins, pulsing below the surface.

My story has roots in the wail of a not-so-distant whistle. Of trains that slip into and pass through, the largest-scale reclassification rail yard in the world. Its iron arteries weave a tapestry of metal matrix that connect my remote area with the outer edges of the world, meeting supply and demand beyond the metal lines.

My story is inter-weaved with the beautiful souls of family, all broken and messy. These fragmented, rag-tag bunch, with roots all tangled in pride and intolerance, full of individual fears and fractured dreams. And in the tattered edges of life that continue to be made smooth through love, prayer and the revealing of dark places so that light can expose and heal it all.

My story is the accumulation of over 20,000 rising and settings of the one blazing sun that has travels its path across invisible flyways that crisscross my days, all mapped and marked out by the fullness of them.

My story is a tale of tragedy, shattered dreams, darkness that can be felt and this not-ever-being-enough. It is the weaving of a new narrative of life abundant, stuffed full of blessings. Of redemption winning and of my life’s ashes, becoming a sweet incense that rises from dry dusty plains.

My story is intricately interlaced with the colorful life-threads of others and their unique tales. These modern day miracles, the brave, the ones who think they are just average and all the grey-haired heroes, who wear the crowns of real life lived.

Our stories, all converging and colliding with every other story in the one Great Story.

These broken stories that need to be mended and amended. Written and rewritten.

How each and every story is a grand mystery, full of suspense, shrouded in some unknown and written as we response to what life hands us. And maybe we all need to read between the lines of each other’s stories and own our life stories?

These stories of the real, the raw, and where God intersect it all?

Typing words on a page isn't as important as the life we live out in the margins.

Do you think, like I do, that your story is too wild, too messy, too painful, too boring. That it isn't beautiful or important? That success is measured by some man-made yard stick and that someday the whole thing will just be summed up by the etching on a stone set on fresh dirt, with two dates carved.

Friends, every story, every life lived, is far more than just a dash between the date you were born and the date you will depart.

But we have to live our dash well.

We have to love our story enough to live it well.

Your beautiful life can only be lived by you and you alone hold the starring role.

No stand-ins.

Every word, every sigh, and every single tear is collected in heaven and weaved into the main story.

Indeed, your one beautiful life carries with it the very weight of glory.

Your story was created for all glory to live in you, to shine from you, and to point others to our Creator. 

May we all have stories of ridiculous grace, deep hope and unwavering love.

So I'll get you started:

Once upon a time….. (You have to fill in the rest.)

I love your story already.

Monday, July 21, 2014

When You Need To Know Who You Are

Streaming bolts of light rays, burn through the morning clouds and the sun rises like a fiery pink ball being hoisted across the horizon. It promises to be another blazing day of high temperatures. But right now I’m just thankful that I was up and moving before the light and drove to where the bike trail climbs in a wide ribbon to the north.

My muscles and tendons strain and burn slightly as each foot pushes down, one and then the other, every thrust causing momentum to build. I don’t even put in earphones and music, because I want to hear every sound around me. Such as the crunch that small rocks make as the tires roll over the concrete, the birds, and the rhythm of my own breathing.

The air is thick with the smell of the fresh mowed alfalfa in the field next to me. A hawk sits on top of his grassy round-bale sentinel, intently looking for his next snack. The air is laced with the familiar sweet scent of cottonwoods that line the river valley and is carried along with the heavy morning humidity.

I’m not riding to train for a race or travel across the state for a cause, though certainly I admire those who do. For me there is no performance or posturing.  No stop watch or rank.

I just ride.

I ride because it makes me feel relaxed, stronger and more alive.

Riding my bike, actually changes my perspective.

It’s like shooting high pressured air into my tires, only its endorphins into tired veins with each deep breath and revolution of the wheel.

One of the most vivid memories I have of childhood, is me, pedaling as fast as my short legs could spin, blonde pigtails flying, racing my bother down the long narrow lane from our country home.

We always had a bike. Honestly, it was one of our great luxuries, since it was our ticket to neighborhood games of baseball, the nearby creek, and frequent trips to city swimming pool, just over the river bridge.

The bike was my freedom, my ticket to exploration, childhood status symbol and I would use it to escape whenever things were tense at home.

In those days my bike had one speed. No gears to shift.  Just ride at your own pace, which was usually as fast as legs could make pedals spin.

And didn't those childhood days spiral into the past, faster than we could have ever understood?

Then as a young mom, yelling and stressed out in the four walls of my fear and darkness, the bicycle would help me breathe. In and out. Heart pumping. Feet spinning.  Birds singing and people waving. The whining blond haired cherubs, would begin to giggle, laugh and wave like small queens.

It was such a great escape.

This is one of the things that helped me back onto the path of living and getting on with life.

Just a few years ago, after surgery and treatment with breast cancer, I was in a new season that needed some fresh energy and life.

I still had my decade’s old, mountain bike. But, my friend Patty, who has a heart as big as the rolling sandhills I leave near, and loves to see people and bicycles connect, she talked me into a beautiful new “pink” road bike to commemorate the new phase of life.

It goes faster than I need it too.

People who do triathlons like to borrow it.

This bike has so many gears that my friend has placed a graph of how to shift on the frame.

Not that I really understand it.

I do know, that when pedaling gets hard, I shift. When it gets too easy I adjust the gears with a few clicks the other direction. And when the rhythm is completely off, I can push both hand gears to the center and the chain slides back to a neutral position and I can start over again. Click, click, click.

Some days I feel like that is how my life is.

So many things going.

So many levels of involvement and commitments.

So many good things vying for my time, resources and energy.

When I lose momentum, I have to take a speed-check of all that is going on and get back to the basics.

I can realign my direction and regain focus for the next step I need to take on the path, as I work through the levels of my life. I do this by time spent in the Word and putting my focus back on Jesus.

This life's head-winds, steep inclines and crashes, have been a training ground for everything in my right now life. The race I am now running is to live my life for Jesus and bring Him glory. 

And it is a heart-pounding, breath-taking ride.

In the past I've taken so many dead-end paths. 

I've used a bike to escape, to gain a sense of freedom, to find a pulse in the center of a bruised and broken life. In the most true sense, I spent years spinning my wheels, trying to find my identity in so many things. 

All along, my identity was Beloved. 

Now I mostly use the bike for the pure thrill of the ride and to enjoy the wonder around me.

This one blazing heart of mine, the one that has spent most of my life looking for unconditional love and true freedom, really feels most alive when the wind is pressing against my face, my lungs are heaving with fresh air, and adrenaline is infused throughout my whole person.

I love to live with this kind of passion.

I want to run my life race like that. Flat out. Fully engaged. Heart pumping. Lungs burning from the workout.

I'm grateful that a bike helped change my perspective, many time through different seasons. 

And now, I’m a bike-riding, Message-carrier. 

I carry the timeless, forever message of  Hope, of Faith and of True Love.

And someday there will be a finish line. 

I'm not sure if bicycles will be in glory, but there is a reward.

 Therefore, since we are surrounded
by such a huge crowd of witnesses 
to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight 
that slows us down, especially the sin 
that so easily hinders our progress.
 And let us run with endurance 
the race that God has set before us. 
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, 
on whom our faith depends from start to finish. 
He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross
 because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. 
Now he is seated in the place of highest honor
beside God's throne in heaven.
Hebrews 12:1-2

© Rhonda Quaney