Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Unknown

The harvest sun blazes bright in the morning. Chrysanthemums flash brilliance with flaming oranges, reds and golds in response to the shorter days and longer nights. Autumn air feel lighter with no humidity and in late afternoon clouds roll in fast as the winds shift and just a hint of harsh winter days loom on the horizon. 

Each season brings with it change and some unknown.

The conversation was a little strained as the technician stared at the screen. The tests that had been done before this were routine. The questions repetitive.
"Do you have breast cancer in your family?"
"Have you noticed any changes in your health?"
"No and no."
Each test led to another. Weeks had stretched out since the first intrusion.

This beautiful young woman I knew when she was a child. One minute she was engaged in the conversation, telling me about her family. The next moment her tone went flat. The words came slower and then.... silence.

When she did speak she tried to have a professional tone but turned her face toward the wall. In short sentences she explained that the radiologist would review the scans and results would  be sent to my doctor.
I strained to make eye contact with her. When I did there were tears.  

As I walked out of that office I felt kind of stunned. The winds had shifted and the clouds were gathering dark. The kind that chills the bones. I needed milk and eggs and to press into life as if I could ignore what was going on. There was no denying the encounter had shook my soul. 

The months before this I had given much energy and time to a friend who was very sick with cancer. Her tiny frame and unsinkable spirit were in a battle. The harsh reality is that cancer had stolen her life as she knew it. She was being carried along but its cruel ways.

A few minutes later my cell phone rang. The voice was that of a nurse at my doctors office. She asked how long it would take for me to get to the office.

Before reaching the door the rain began falling heavy and I fought back tears. As I waited I tried to call my husband. No answer. The nurse startled me when she came in. She shuffled some papers and then in a rushed tone just blurted it all out.

"We're sorry ... but the radiologist is quite certain that you have breast cancer."  Tears fell from her brown eyes and she hugged me. Quickly she tried to regained her composure and stepped back as the doctor walked in. He began by stating facts and protocol and something about how they were rushing me to a surgeon the next day and that the biopsy would confirm what they already believed to be true.

Breast cancer. His words hung in my head and pierced my heart like a sword ripping the seams wide open. I searched his eyes and saw he had tears. He hugged me. Then he said it. 

"We have to get busy saving your life." 

They asked if I needed to have someone come and get me. I smiled and told them I would be fine.

I was lying.

The girl at the desk told me to have a nice day.

My mind was spinning. Inside my head the words were sharp and I thought, "Have a nice day ? ...Like, 'hey you have cancer' - -kind of  'have a nice day?' " -Poor girl. How could she know.

It was raining and thunder rolled. In the car I began to fall apart. Finally I was able to talk to Jim. We decided to meet at home.

My second call was to my friend who had stage four cancer. Trying to sound brave I told her, " aren't going to believe this..." The words all sounded weird and wrong. Here I had been praying boldly for her but for myself I wasn't believing it.  My mind replayed the three professionals that were in tears. My faith was shook to the core.

Those first hours were hard. Jim and I just sat and he held me and we shed tears. We tried to process how to tell our children. It undid me to think that my grandchildren might not even know who I was when they grew up. 


I went to the floor and to my face and stretched out before the Lord in honest tears and pain.

The peace came.
Peace that can't be explained.
Not like everything is going to be o.k. kind of peace.
But peace like  - -no matter what lies ahead He will be there and keep me in His perfect Peace.


Two years later I can honestly say that I am grateful that breast cancer has been part of my life.


Last week I returned to the journal I kept through that season when the cold winds howled and the unknown was terrifying. I found words from the book, "Come Away My Beloved" by Frances J. Roberts. On page 71, under the heading of "Put Away Your Idols." I have these words highlighted and dated as a promise I felt He gave me while I rode on the storm cloud of His perfect peace: 

"And your health shall
return to you and your vigor
and you will serve Me with fresh energy.
You will go forth in new power
and My joy will be your constant portion.
Though you labor
in the last hour before sunset
you will be rewarded in kind
like those that preceded you."

It is true friends. Too much of life I have cherished my idols and spent energy on things that have little eternal value. My talents, treasures and time were largely wasted on the here and the now. Little work was done in the Spirit.

Having breast cancer has changed many things, but most of all it has changed my heart. It's a huge reason I write. It's the reason I am unapologetic about my faith and it's the reason I want you to know that  
Jesus really is The Way and The Truth and The Life. 

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Striving and Abiding

Long before my alarm was set to go off,  I woke up thinking about tomatoes.
Buckets of tomatoes and cucumbers still in the garden waiting for me to do something with them. 
Staring into the dark more unfinished tasks began to march into my thoughts. The laundry that didn’t get moved from the washer to the dryer, we are out of mayonnaise, the checkbook needs balanced, some bills need paid and I didn't return that phone call like I said I would…. 

At this point I’m somewhere between annoyed and panicked and I’m bolting out of bed looking for a pen and paper as I mutter to myself, “ can something like tomatoes wake me up from a deep sleep? It’s not like I can go out right now and pick them at 4:30 in the morning."

I heave this heavy sigh. I’m not managing my life well at all. There is no such thing as “balance”. Not in any life season before and certainly not today. There is only crashing waves of demands and needs and to-do’s. Phone calls not returned, texts not answered and e-mails unresponded to. There was a wedding I missed, an aging woman I haven’t visited, a woman in jail waiting for a letter and grand-kids I haven’t seen to hug. As I reach in my purse for chap stick there are undelivered cards. Two sympathy cards for friends and neighbors who lost loved ones weeks ago, the card for the wedding I said I'd attend and didn't, a card for a birthday that is long past and a thank you note all rolling around with my good intentions in the purse with loose change and breath mints. 
These are just the symptoms of the bigger things that are stacked up in my life.
So I slump into a chair feeling defeated before dawn. 

It was never my goal to be BUSY.
I despise just being busy.
Who needs a breathless woman like Martha fluttering and fussing around acting like everyone should just be glad she arrived late?
So I turn to the only place I know of to seek peace in my personal little whirlwind.
His Word does not fail me with it’s ability to work grace over these scattered thoughts.
In the Psalms there is this verse that has the word "abide".


A small word that speaks of how to live large.

My personal mode of response seem to have more of a striving feel to it. 
Try harder. Get up earlier. Move faster. Make a longer list. Give myself a stern talking to and the next time anyone asks me anything I am going to say no!  

Striving is just me, in my feeble human effort trying to figure it all out, when God did not design me to figure it all out. Trying to work hard enough and long enough to make something happen 
     - -might very well make something happen, but striving and strife are unfriendly sister words.

In contrast this abiding verb is peaceful, resting and remaining in the shadow of the Almighty.
The Amplified Bible Version says it like this; "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]."

Oh I have need for some stable and fixed! So how do I remain in this tranquil secret place while surrounded by the noise and demands of life?  

 In John 15:5 it says; 
 “I am the vine, you are the branches.
He who abides in Me,
and I in him,bears much fruit;
for without Me you can do nothing."

 Abiding has this sense of just being connected. "Branches don't have to work at being  part of the vine." The branch is fed and maintains life through the vine. In real life, feet on the hot pavement living, there is ongoing communication with the Father as we walk through the day. I want to be that Mary woman who among the chaos of life, right in the middle of a party was found at the feet of the Savior because 'she has chosen the greater thing.'

The vines in the garden are still weighed down with fruit that hasn't been harvested and life all around me has needs too great for me to do it all. It makes no human sense how drawing near to God can sort out scattered thoughts or unscramble good intentions and sift what is truly important.

And as this day develops I hear of children whose most basic needs are not being met right here in our town and we prayer walk in the neighborhood and we remember again to beg mercy for sweet young parents with broken hearts because their brand new baby boy is not expected to live and for some friends that have need of a job we cry out and while we stood singing worship songs God Himself knew how we would receive the message that a friend lost her battle with cancer and was celebrating her first Sunday in Heaven while all the angels rejoiced. For El Shaddai (God Almighty) knew before the dawn broke today all the things that would be and I only knew to get up and to abide.

♥ Thank you sweet beautiful Marsha Kautz-Ryan for your words of encouragement about "branches not having to work and strive at being part of the vine." Oh I love your heart.

♥ Thanks Amy Jo @ A Moment Photography for applying your magic to my fog photo taken with your camera. =] Love you to the moon.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Family Favorite Raw Apple Cake & Carmel Sauce

When my grandmother lost her battle with cancer, over twenty years ago now, a friend of our family shared this wonderful recipe. 

Miss Bessy brought large pans of fresh-from-the-oven apple cake and a pitcher of caramel sauce to the house. We ate it until we were almost in a sugar coma. 

{..we have been known to eat it for breakfast too... }

It's a time tested treat that is so thick with chunks of apples that I often double check to see if I've followed the instructions correctly.

The cake is moist and amazing by itself, but then there is this caramel sauce that puts the cake over the top.


Warm homemade caramel sauce dripping over the top and down the sides of spicy goodness and fresh apples.



Shared with permission from Bessy Broeder

*Caramel Sauce is made and stored separately in refrigerator. Eating this cake right out of the oven is amazing but eating some the next day is wonderful too. Just spoon caramel sauce over your piece of cake and warm it up in microwave for a few seconds.
 More yummm-ness.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Impossible Prayers

Some days just stretch out before us with hard and impossible things.

It was a day like that. A day with dark clouds and driving ice-rain.

I sat numb and alone in the back seat of the hearse staring blankly out the window.

As the driver turned into the cemetery I saw the words for the first time.

"More things are wrought by prayer than the world dreams of.” 

In the weeks and years to come, I would pass this sign many times. It would be a decade before I sought to find the source of them. I actually thought it was a Bible verse. To my embarrassment, it is a quote by  Alfred Lord Tennyson. 

That’s how much I knew about prayer.

The hard white stone was like my heart and prayer was just memorized words almost chanted. Mindless word ramblings that made me yawn. These etched words were curious to me. How could prayer have the power that would bring about more things than the world could dream? Especially in my world.

Eventually, I began having conversations with God. Nothing fancy. I had problems with no answers. That's where I started. Isn’t that how it is? We are just going along in life and suddenly collide with the unexpected, unplanned and unwanted. Something happens that we just cannot fix in our strength.

That is often the path to the Father who longs to hear us pray.

Some years ago a close friend was diagnosed with stage four cancer. On her long drive home from receiving the news she called and asked me to pray with her. 

Oh, I wanted to be that friend who could pray prayers that would move mountains and mulberry trees. In reality, fear ran like a lightning bolt through me. Just the word cancer is enough to strike terror in a heart.

Her doctors had test results and pictures and proof. The prognosis was a few weeks to live.  This was no time for casual comments like  "I'm thinking and praying for you friend." 

I get that. I've said that.

We cried together. There were sounds that only God could interpret.  Then I stumbled around looking for words to speak on her behalf as she stared out the car window numb from the news.

The next morning in my personal time with the Lord I cried out for wisdom. The prayer that fell from my heart was for scripture that I could claim as I prayed for her. That morning my pages opened to 2 Samuel 12. The part of the story that struck me was about David the king who was praying for his son who is sick and ends up dying.

Not quite the word I was hoping for.

Reading on to the part after his son dies David tells his servants that "he prayed and fasted while the son was alive, because ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.' "

The prayer flame was lit. Yes. I could pray like that.

Pray until I saw no more need to pray. Earnestly I began asking for her healing.

Praying boldly, because "who knows.. the Lord may be gracious and let her live ..."  My reasoning was that if she would lose the battle with her cancer that's when I could stop praying for her. There were countless others who prayed unwaveringly for this sweet woman. The issue of unbelief and doubt needed to be settled in my heart. Not just for her but in many areas of my life. 

This was a season of learning to trust that I could ask and with confidence know that God hears.

The outcome is still up to Him.

There is a great multitude of people that need some "..who knows.." kind of prayers, yes?

Over two years later I am still praying for that friend. She has outlived every prediction. One surgeon told her, " are a walking talking miracle." 

There are few things that get me more excited than stories of people who pray in humble faith.

Stories of people courageous enough to ask for the impossible! 

Testimonies of how The Father of miracles showed up because someone dared to knock on the door and ask.

You do not have because 
you do not ask.

James 4:2 ESV

I like to challenge myself to keep an impossible prayer list. 

It's not hard to think of things that seem like they could never be any different than they are today.

That marriage. That child. Those finances, health concern, or strained family relationship.

The impossible thing.

The thing that needs the power of God.

In faith, we can at least  - -ask. 

Would you be brave enough to print this card and make your own Impossible Prayer List?
  • Pray, an honest prayer.
  • Lay each request humbly before the One Enthroned.
  • Believe that He hears you and that He is able to answer.
  • Thank Him in advance  - -before the waters are parted.
  • Rest in the peace that comes from handing the burden over.   
I'm praying for some  "who knows..." 
      -- kind of prayers with answers in your life. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Early In The Morning

Most mornings I rise in the dark. 
The pillow cups my head in softness and blankets surround me with warmth.
Sometimes my mind refuses to acknowledge the alarm   --at first.

At this point everyday I face a choice.

Will I concede to my screaming flesh that just wants what it wants or will I push past the inward whining and just move. 

My body protests. Every. Step. Of. The. Way. 

As I stumble around in the dark I usually find some consolation in coffee or warm tea.

I shuffle down the stairs to my obscure place that is my sanctuary. 

On summer mornings like these I open the window to allow the freshness of the day to drift in. 
Morning has a smell of it's own.

Then I sit down in my chair.

It's not much to look at. Perhaps you can even guess it was garage sale find that cost only a few dollars. The makeshift footstool is an old box covered.

This is where I meet with The Lord.

In this humble place I practice being set apart for His purposes.
It is still and the stillness has a sound of it's own.
The symphony of night creatures are nearing the end of their nocturnal concert.
Their shrill calls are growing softer and slower in pitch and tempo.

The agony of leaving my cozy bed is all but forgotten and I thank Him for another day of life.

God is everywhere and in everything, but there is something tangible about His presence in the dark quiet minutes.  It really is a small sacrifice of time before the day gains momentum. 

In simple conversation I dedicate my day to Him and lay out my requests.

My goal is to partner with God on this day in what He is doing.

I open The Book. It is marked and messy just like me. I own other Bibles that have crisp pages and clean lines.
I come back to this worn one. It has been with me most of the days of my Jesus journey.

Crumpled edges, highlighted sections, verses with asterisks and lines that are inked.These pages reflect some of the imprints left on my heart. They have whispers of wisdom, life lessons and encouragement. Day after day they speak new life to me.

Apart from time in this Book

I have found no other place

where true heart change can happen.

Outside my window the spirea bushes with clusters of raspberry-rose flowers add a light incense to my little sanctuary. The time goes too quickly each morning and soon the first blaze of sun flares through.

The thought has crossed my mind to buy a new chair. Perhaps an overstuffed one with more comfort. Or one that looks more contemporary. It seems inappropriate to abandon this chair now for comfort or looks. Mainly because on days when I have bowed low before His throne and pressed my head on this footstool - -many tears have been shed.

Inconsolable sobs for my children. Cries for broken people and their pain. Remorse over my own sin. 

In Psalms it says God saves our tears in a bottle and records them in His book.

My makeshift footrest must be something holy. 


When the number of my days on earth
have been counted off His calendar,
I want my chair sitting on the platform
with the man who officiates
the celebration of my Home going.

I believe that the small sacrifice of rising early and time spent in His Word has allowed me to partner with God in doing amazing exploits for His Kingdom.

My chair represents the place where battles have been fought and the Sword has been welded.

My earnest prayer is that from this place
I rocked the darkness.

May I ask?
Do you have a place that you go to spend time with The Lord?
Do you have special resources that you have come to cherish?

RESOURCES AND CREDITS: Power Of A Praying Parent ; A Moment Photography

© Rhonda Quaney