Monday, April 20, 2015

Embracing Today


Arriving home from school, I can still hear the creaking sound our old screen door made as it was yanked open and the clamor that followed as we pushed up the narrow back porch steps. Often my brothers and I made a game of leaping two or three steps at a time, shoving each other to win the race to the top. Then all out of breath, with screams of irritation and delight, we burst into the heart of our home where more times than not, my mom would be standing behind the gas stove, cooking. 

For eighteen beautiful springs I lived in one place. A place where cottonwood trees stood like towering castle walls on all sides, creating a leafy canopy overhead. Lilacs formed a hedge just to the south, near a cement duck pond and the sweet aroma of it filled the house in the mornings when all the windows were opened. And the apple tree near the front porch would explode in white blossoms that would drop a carpet of petals surrounding the base, inviting anyone who would dared come close, to sit down and drink in their extravagant beauty.

And we just thought that she liked to be there waiting for us.

Those years, that season of life, imprinted much of what is beautiful, what brings comfort and the things that make me feel most alive.

Things like fresh bread straight from the oven, cookies by the fist full and chocolate anything.

Growing up where I did, people had big appetites and it was okay not to be on a diet. Maybe it was all the clean air and endless places to run, but I never remember hearing talk, about what to eat and what not eat. We just ate and enjoyed it.

We were served crispy fried bacon and eggs for breakfast with toast heaped with loads of real butter. Lunches were often PBJ's and thin potato chips, followed by supper, which was almost always a four course meal of meat, vegetables and potatoes topped with gravy. It wasn't until I left home that I realized gravy was not a food group.

And if that were not enough, if possible, we had an afternoon snack.

We didn't do organized sports, except neighborhood baseball games in the field in front of our home or a bike race to the stream not far from our front door or when we were just a little older, the city swimming pool was only a half mile away.  I think it kept us from being cookie cutter kind of kids that did what everyone else was doing.

I've been inhaling spring, and all that it awakens in me along with this season of life.

Watching every announcement of its arrival with each yellow daffodil and blushing tulip and the entire bird kingdom singing loud before the sun rises outside my window.

And I’m hungry.

I’m hungry for this new season and how spring is arriving on its own timetable.

How green shoots are pushing out of hard places and micro-sized maple leaves have opened up on one huge tree and how the cottonwoods are reluctant to release their buds.

I’m starving for these days that grow longer and warmer nights and the familiar sound of jet-skis with full open throttles on the lake as they surge and soar in the swells. And the smell of campfires and the taste of s'mores, even though I prefer to just eat the chocolate plain or maybe on a single graham cracker.

I still ride a bike and love the feel of wind rushing against my face and the sound of my breathing as moving air fills my lungs and soft clinking sound the gears make when I shift and the chain as it spins against the cogs on the chain wheel. The burn is my muscles is a welcome feeling. It means in this moment I can still move and the body is still responding to being pushed past an office chair.

I want to tuck seed below the surface of tilled ground and wear dirt under my fingers like it’s a fashion statement.

I want to feel the sun on my face and go walking and waving at people I don’t know, but who are glad to be out embracing this season too.

I’m grateful to feel alive and want to grasp where I am, right now, in this season of life without apologies and to stop listening to the banter of the world that I can be more if only I ……

(fill….in…the….blank.)

I want to have deep and hard conversations with those who are brave enough to actually move beyond the thin layer of veneer friendship. 

And I want this to be a season of not be offended by those who are always offended.

In fact I want to be that person who really loves people with abandon, where they are.

I mean really. Love. People.

Because love, or the absence of it, tell the world what we really believe.

I want to hug who I can, with all I have in me and kiss them on the cheek as if it is my last chance. Because I have lived long enough to know... you rarely get a memo when your last chance to love them might be.

I want to pull over to the side of the road, even though I may be late, when the clouds stack just a certain way and the sun makes it all magical and capture just a glimpse of all the beauty of God that is around me.

I have an insatiable appetite for what is real and honest and tangible and uplifting.

Today, I am profoundly moved by what a privilege it is to be an ordinary person, playing a part in the story that God is writing on earth, in this season, right now.

This season is embedded in my pores and senses with certain memories, and tastes, and smells and all these emotions.

And God reveals His glory in and through it all.

When I was young, I pedaled my little bike as fast as I could to reach the next destination, only to throw the bike in tall grass, as I dismounted in a small heap.

I didn't know to take my time arriving.

I didn't fully embrace the world I was blessed to live while I was there.

So today, I want to embrace this right-now-season.

I want to inhale all the sights and sounds and tastes of it, because I think it all matters. All of it. The pain. The joy. The discomfort.

I hope you will slow down today and embrace exactly where you are.

Put your finger on your wrist and be thankful for the throbbing pulse and your one beating beautiful heart and live today like you mean it. 

This season that is arriving will soon enough be gone.  

I’m sharing one of my mom’s go-to recipes.  There are only six ingredients that whip up to make a pan full of chocolate happiness that has been delivered to so many homes, in every kind of season of joy and sorrow.


Monday, April 13, 2015

When Shopping Equals Love

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Not long ago I had the opportunity to attend "Party with a Purpose," which was the beautiful idea of Lina Sutton. Those who came had the opportunity to sip coffee with an option to purchase beautiful handcrafted gifts, (some of which I may have kept for myself.) It was a relaxing time to gather with friends, laugh, and impact the lives of people around the world. How often does that happen all at the same time? It has opened my eyes to simple ways that I can link arms with ministries who are doing a great work of loving God and people. Lina also has a sister, whose family is in the process of adoption, a subject that my heart is so tender for. So, I asked Lina if she would share with you and I pray you will love what she has to say as much as I do.
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We recently celebrated Easter, where we were reminded of the good news, that through Jesus not only can we have a relationship with God, but this relationship changes every aspect of our lives. I think sometimes in our desire to live for God, we focus on the big things, but can overlook the seemingly small, ordinary ways that He wants to use us. I Corinthians 10:31 (NLT) says “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”. Romans 12:1 in the Message puts it this way. “Take your every day, ordinary life –your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life– and place it before God as an offering”. 

I’d like to add shopping to that list.

Growing up in a missionary family, I've long been exposed to the needs around the world, both spiritual and physical.  About two years ago, I realized that although I didn't have unlimited finances for giving, I did have an untapped source–my shopping! Specifically in the area of buying gifts. What if I used the money I was already going to spend, but chose to buy products that also went to help people who had urgent needs?

I had the idea of having a “Party with a Purpose” where I could share with others how their dollars could make a difference. I decided to purchase items that people could reimburse me for so they would have the opportunity to see items first hand and shipping costs would be shared. My sisters and mom agreed to help and we invited other ladies to attend. The goal was to “motivate others to acts of love and good works” (Heb. 10:24). I bought items from four different organizations that I had grown to love, that are doing a great job of caring for the poor, orphaned and widowed in a practical way.
I got jewelry from Amazima, a ministry in Uganda that feeds, educates and encourages the orphaned, poor and vulnerable, bags from Freeset, an organization that provides freedom for women from the sex trade in Kolkata, India, and cards and journals from Ten Thousand Villages , a non profit that works with disadvantaged artisans in 38 countries. 

I also purchased coffee from Just Love Coffee, a fair trade company that donates 5% of all their profits to help with clean water projects in other countries and allows families in the process of adopting to raise funds through having their own store front.  My sister, Lissa, and her family are in the processing of adopting a child from Ethiopia, so I purchased coffee through her family’s store front. There are a lot of coffee lovers among our family and friends, and this has been a great way to support and encourage the Zuñiga family as they go through this long and sometimes difficult process!

We recently had another party, this time a family friendly open house. Women may do the majority of the shopping, but making our dollars count is something we can all do! We included a wider variety of products and three more organizations: Mercy House, a ministry in Kenya for pregnant women and their children, Pacha, a Hastings, NE., business that helps with social issues by promoting better standards of hygiene in developing nations through the Raise the Bar campaign and W.A.S.H., and The Reach Boutique , a ministry of Countryside Christian Church in Kearney, NE.

Having a party with friends is a simple thing that anyone can do (and I hope you will!). Besides helping others around the globe here are a few of the fun things that God did through ours: The church we attended began using Just Love Coffee, God used the party as one of the things that led to some friends becoming foster parents, and my sister, Liza, was able to share about the different organizations with her bible study group. The Zuñiga family now has more people encouraging them in their adoption journey and were also helped with adoption expenses. Through the coffee sales and donations by those that attended our most recent party (thanks to everyone who gave!) they have exactly what they need for renewing their paperwork next month!

I love how the gospel changes everything-even our shopping! Don’t discount the everyday things in your life, you might be surprised by how God can use them.
(Lina Sutton is pictured (far left) along with three of her sisters. They are all wearing some of their favorite fair trade accessories.) 

Lina is a wife and mother of four, seeking to use the ordinary to honor God and help others. You can contact her at liyvsut@gmail.com.


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**We would love it if you would want to use your everyday life to impact others with your shopping! Please feel free to ask questions! If you are interested in being part of the Zuñiga family's adoption journey you can purchase coffee hereJust Love Coffee, or donate directly to their paypal account, at lissnlalo@hotmail.com.


Thank you for using your everyday life to make a difference.

 
© Rhonda Quaney