Monday, November 24, 2014

57 Things I've Learned in 57 Years

That title is a little daunting isn't it?

The fact that in just a few days I will officially be fifty-seven human years old, -well- there is that. 

The alternative is to not be alive, so I’m embracing the whole messy, beautiful thing. 

After all, I am a woman who was amazed to be alive at twenty. My own lifestyle choices made it doubtful that I would survive that long. Then, what seemed like an eternity of a few days, I was thirty, in a deeply difficult season, of being a single parent. I had buried a husband, my dream life, and most difficult of all, my hope. And then came the big 4-0. What a difference a few years can make! I was living a second chance at love, toting a new baby girl, disregarding how the nurses referred to me as, “the old mom” and embracing my new life with gusto.

Fifty was a little weirder. The two oldest were in college and leaving home in all the mess that can happen as children learn to live their own lives. Mostly, I didn't think turning the corner on a new decade was that big of a deal, and besides, I got my first matching set of dishes, ever, from all the beautiful people that attended the surprise party my family threw. Honestly I don’t think I’ve ever been more surprised. 

These past few weeks I've been feeling around the edges of my life and have some thoughts about it all, which may include how strange it is to qualify for senior discounts, in a few local businesses on Wednesdays, but you have to ask and who can remember to do that?

What I can tell you is that I see things from a different vantage point than all of you who aren't quite as far down the path of life as I am. And even if we are closer in age, I've probably learned a few things different from what you have been learning. I’m not saying I have life all figured out.

Nope, I’m not saying that.

I’m just offering up my heart as honestly and authentically as I can in light of celebrating another year of life even though it isn't a decade milestone. These are just simple thoughts that I feel the Lord has been teaching this rebel heart of mine.

Take it all for what it’s worth, but maybe, just maybe I can save you from learning a few things the longest, hardest way so you can get to the really important stuff.

1.       If in doubt of what to do, love is always the right answer. 

2.       The world, our flesh and the enemy will help us fill every moment of our lives with things that distract us from what we were really designed to do. Battle to be intentional. 

3.       Love people today. You may not have the opportunity tomorrow. Your whole life can change in one split second. Trust me on this one.

4.       The most important thing I have done? Ask Jesus to take over my life and heal my heart. Second is this: to love others.

5.       Hot water is one of the all-time greatest inventions. Most mornings, as I am taking my steaming hot shower trying to wrap my mind around the day, I thank the person and or persons who figured out how to pipe hot water to a shower head. Bless them.

6.       My hairdresser, is a true artist in the deepest sense of the word. The world can be crumbling around me, but I will not cancel my date with her if at all possible, ever. 

7.       Thoughts and ideas that come to me in the shower can most generally be trusted as Divine revelation. Apparently it is the only place I am awake and quiet enough for God to speak and for me to hear.

8.       If you are a bitter angry person there is plenty of opportunity to be more bitter and more angry.  Forgiveness is the key to unlock your real life. *Ahem* Ask me how I know this?

9.       Children do not need their parents to be their buddies. They need their parents to be their parents and to know they are loved unconditionally.

10.   If you are finding your identity in your children, there will probably be a mid-life crisis where you have the opportunity to settle a few issues with the Lord about idols in your life. And some people never learn to truly cut the cord. It is just unhealthy. There is more I could say.

11.   "I'm busy," is a pandemic problem in America. It steals from what life was intended to actually be and from doing what is really important.

12.   Every good choice sets us up for the next good choice. The opposite is true as well.

13.   There is no such thing as small compromises in integrity. Every decision to be honest, trustworthy and dependable counts toward the big picture. Small things are big things.

14.   There is not enough time in this life to maintain people’s opinions.

15.   God wants to redeem everything in our lives, but we have to open our clinched fist and allow Him to have it all.

16.   When people are mean and hurtful, I try to understand their situation instead of hurting them back. This is opposite of how I was raised or what the world teaches. 

17.   What looks hopeless at night often doesn't seem like such a big deal when you get some sleep. 

18.   My failures are not my identity. My successes are not my identity.

19.   Worry and fear distract from the important things like praying and living.

20.   Plan A has never usually worked out for me. Thank goodness that is not the only letter in the alphabet. 

21.   In my deepest seasons of pain and hopelessness I learned that doing something for others changes perspective. The act of extending love to someone else in the midst of my pain brought a little healing and a lot of hope.

22.   Laughter cures a lot problems. 

23.   Homemade pie can make any run-of-the-mill day seem like a holiday.

24.   If you are married, love and respect your spouse. Speak well of them always. -Always

(Note: If someone is in an abusive relationship of course they should get out and go to a safe place and yes, tell someone who can help.)

25.   Emotional baggage attracts like emotional baggage in relationships. That is a fact and it's just scary.

26.   "Do the next thing." -Elisabeth Elliot  -In the darkest days of my life, this truth simplified a lot of confusion. Sometimes the next thing is to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer. It's simply that profound.

27.   Mercy is not my strong suit. So guess what? I get pop quizzes in that area. All. The. Time.

28.   I used to have a lot of “Why Lord,” kind of questions. I've outgrown most of them over time. Someday I will see the overreaching picture. I think it will astound me and I'll be glad I got to be part of it.

29.   If there is any wisdom in me, any beauty, anything worth knowing, it is because of what God had done in me.

30.   Forgiveness is a choice not an emotion. No one has enough years of life or energy to maintain negative feelings. So forgive and you will be the one set free. 

31.   A lot of time and resources have been wasted all while thinking I was doing it for the family or for God, when actually it was just selfish ambition.

32. I believe that the threads of our lives and our stories are more intertwined than we can know. Don't believe me? Check out this one example that I l-o-v-e.

33.   I've learned that every open door is not necessarily something I should walk through. Some things pose as opportunities and they are actually diversions that delay Gods real plans for my life and steal valuable time from the important things.

34.   Not every door that is closed is a permanent no from God. One of the things that few people do well is to, “Wait on the Lord.” I could be the president of that club.

35.   Rules and religion are not who Jesus is. It will always be, Jesus plus nothing equals, what the whole Bible says.

36.   Deep seasons of hard, impossible situations are where my faith and my prayer life have been developed the most. Not fun, but worth it.

37.   Bread is very forgiving to make and the process very therapeutic. The secret is fresh ingredients and good yeast. -I can teach you. :)

38.   Be in the Word of God every day. There is no substitute.

39.    Find a mentor. And make sure it is someone who doesn't just tell you how wonderful you are.

40.   Be a mentor. Someone needs what only you have to share. 

41. When you meet with a friend, have a meal with family, put the phones away. Nothing is that important. Really. Don't miss the real life doing on-line life.

42.   Make friends with all ages of people. 

43.   Notice the people that are most often overlooked. Remember, that the Bible says that the people who are first here on earth shall be last and the last here on earth shall be first in heaven. 

44.   Do not live in the past. Learn from it and move on. It is easy to repeat the mistakes of the past. Our own and those of our parents. 

45.   If we are really all full of kindness, mercy and all the other stuff, we won’t just talk about it, we will do something.

46.   Fear is a thief and a liar. The Bible says to pray about everything that concerns us. And I might add we need to pray specifically.

47.   Sarcasm is the use of irony to mock or convey contempt. Some people think it shows how smart and witty they are, but since it is most often at the expense of someone else, I find it repulsive. Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

48.   There are good things knocking on our doors all the time. They are the enemy of best. I've spent too much of my life learning this one.

49.   A negative mind will never make a positive life. 

50.   Many times, people just need someone to show up and care. It looks like a small thing. It's actually the big thing.  

51.   If you don’t worship the Lord in your everyday life it will be weird if not impossible to worship Him on Sunday.

52.   In His mercy, the Lord will pry out of our hands anything that we hold closer to our hearts than Him. 

53.   There are people who have done deeply hurtful things to me, by their words, rejection, deeds or inaction. I have lived long enough to see God’s judgment is beyond anything that I could imagine and that He loves to fight for those who love Him. I’ve also been the person who was guilty of all these things and know that the Lord longs to be merciful to every single one of us.  

54.   Everyone has a story. Mine goes something like this: I was a person who was living for myself and self-destructing. I met Jesus and He has been changing me into who I now am. Since I'm still here He isn't done with me yet. All of our stories intertwine to make up the Main Story.

55.   The Lord Jesus Christ is not shaken up by all the crazy things people twist and deny about Him. He is seated on His throne. He longs to be merciful to all.

56.   We live in a "best foot forward" society that silently screams, "Those who have it together… are the ones who live in the right house, in the right neighborhood, and who wear the right size, who have their smiling family and their perfect appearing life on facebook, instagram, and twitter -they're the ones who have it together, right?" The correct answer is no. God knows the heart and too often what we can see with our eyes does not equal reality. 

57.   I used to want people to think I was someone special. Now I just want to be the person who makes someone else feel like they are someone special.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Well friends, I wish I could give you a cupcake piled high with your favorite frosting, for getting to the end of this list.

Did anything here resonate with you?

What has the Lord been teaching you?

Happy thankful week!

Monday, November 17, 2014

When You Want Your Life To Be A Sweet Aroma

On one shelf, glass bottles of expensive perfume crowd together. 

Just looking at the rows of artfully contoured containers, you would think I am obsessed with the aroma of musky floral and pungent citrus scents.

The truth is, they were all a gift to me.

One friend, who adored good perfume and high-heeled shoes, purchased them all.

She was one of the first women to call me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Just a few years before, she had suffered through surgeries, treatments and complications herself. In light of my own diagnoses being so fresh, the shock of the news still hung heavy on my heart. This cancer-veteran spoke with brutal honesty of the road that stretched out ahead of me.

I was unprepared for the insight being offered. It was the final stroke that crushed my teetering emotions.

After that conversation I retreated to my office with a box of tissues and came undone. There is just no consoling a woman who is overcome with fear and for a few minutes has displaced her hope.

As my cancer journey unfolded this friend had her second cancer diagnoses delivered.

She battled long. She fought hard.

After her death, a box of clattering glass bottles were delivered to me as a gift.

It has been an odd journey to be the beneficiary of these vials. It's as if I was entrusted with the incense of her life.

I’m a woman who keeps things pretty simple. 

I have one ring, a few pairs of earrings that I wear and one type of perfume that I deeply enjoy. 

These past few years I have often paused to spritz one of the sweet bouquets into the air. Her apparent favorite was Mariella Burani. There are multiple bottles of it. The container is made of thick rectangular shaped glass, topped with a cap of red-orange resin roses.  The fragrance, to me, has a vanilla-orange that co-mingles with a musky rose scent.

For a fleeting moment, its almost as if I can capture a vapor of my friend and the life she lived. The drifting scent is reminiscent of her sparkle and spunk. Once again I can see her clear blue eyes and thick wavy blond hair that bounced when she laughed. The essence of flowers starts off a little bold like her personality and then as it settles in, a genuine warmth and authenticity linger.

I savor it until it fades.

And fade it does.

All of our lives are like that.  

The Bible says it like this:

" do not even know what will happen tomorrow. 

What is your life? 

You are a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes."

James 4:14

Of course when you are young, that seems like a vague statement that applies to older or at least other people. It's hard in the today-of-life to realize there are no promises about our tomorrows. And I don't want to focus on writing an obituary yet, however we are giving off an aroma of something with our lives and leaving a lingering impact of some kind.

My deepest desire is to leave a light scent of heaven in the wake of my life.

As I contemplate and celebrate the life of my friend, I realize that no perfume can embody her courage, perseverance and deep dignity with which she passed through the thin veil of this life into eternity.

The word fragrance has beautiful poignant meaning. 

According to the Webster 1928 Dictionary, the root of that word is from the Arabic, meaning to reach, or stretch. I think that adds a layer of depth to the whole concept of smell. Aroma is something that reaches farther than the place it originated. It has movement and impact reaching beyond the five senses and touches something much deeper. 

Something spiritual. 

Something eternal. 

In the crushing and the breaking is where the fragrance is released. 

I don’t need bottles of high priced cologne crafted by chemists, to remember the life of this woman. She lived a life that gave off a sweet aroma and a lasting impression.

Her real fragrance came from the inside, from her very soul.

While the advertising world speaks of the power of a fragrance to be able to create an atmosphere of allurement, to be provocative, exotic, uplifting, intoxicating, grounding, calming -all in the same sentence- I find myself drawn to the aroma of one life well lived.

One life filled with sincere faith, hands lifted high in honest praise and a heart surrendered to Christ. That is where there is peace, hope and the promise of eternity in heaven.

Everything else will fade.

Linking up here:

© Rhonda Quaney