Monday, December 30, 2013

When The Best Is Yet To Come

On this last Monday of the year 2013, I'm typing in my favorite comfy yoga pants that have never done yoga, my tattered white sweatshirt, and scruffy old slippers that are worn to my exact foot shape, drinking  the last of my lukewarm coffee.

The real me isn't glamorous.

The snow village that spans the kitchen on every cabinet soffit, blinks and whirls in the calm after the storm of activity. I'm tired-content-happy. There were sweet moments of complete satisfaction, yet most days were a pushing past what is easy or fun, in living out the real of life.

Real life isn't always pretty.

So here is a glimpse of the real me these last so-very-many-crazy days.

There were twenty five days of the book, The Greatest Gift to help keep the real meaning of Christmas in the front of my brain.

There was the radio station that talked about how to keep a sparkly box under the tree for Jesus. The idea was to look for things that would bless others in His name.

There was weak trembling hope in all the crazy commercialism and hurrying here and rushing over there, that in the deep places of the soul, quiet and peace could reign and that this year, could be different than all the other years before.

There was the man who needed gas in his car.

There was the fight with my husband.

There was the reading chronologically through the New Testament for the first time ever.

There was the free eight foot Christmas tree that my friend Karen was getting rid of, that is h-u-g-e and gorgeous, but had no instructions and we laughed at ourselves as we drug it home and figured it all out.

There was the worse Christmas party ever thrown in the history of Christmas parties. Ever. By yours-truly. Not even kidding. But the guests were the most gracious and the time was salve to the soul.

There was the day JQ would be gone, then maybe he would be home, and then he was gone and then he was sent back at the last minute to be with the family.

There were the steaks cooked too long, side-dishes that were never assembled, and not even one cookie made in this kitchen. Not even one.

There was the unplanned doctors appointment.

There was the blog post published that had a ridiculously huge, ginormous typo.

There was the countless grasping, pushing, mean people at the one store and the cashier that was crying.

There was the homeless man warming himself at the mall, that we took shopping.

There was the report of the person who was slandering and cutting my heart with their words.

There was the older lady I don't know, that needed a ride, twice, when it wasn't really convenient. It was a good God-interruption in my small world.

There were gifts forgotten to hand out.

There was the two hours of coffee with the perfect foam and beautiful face time with a friend that was the greatest gift of the day.

There was the night I dropped into bed at 8:30 p.m. and did not budge until 6:30 a.m.

There is the guy who walks in single digit temperatures to a job cleaning up after animals who had nowhere to go for Christmas.

There were Christmas cards not sent.

There were the gifts.

Gifts that blessed my soul. Gifts that couldn't be wrapped in paper.

Indeed this month I've been relearning how to daily unwrap the Greatest Gift, in the everyday, as the waves of life swell and ebb.

It has been embracing the things that were intended to tear us apart, so they can set us apart.

And when my friend gave me these framed words, I knew they were perfect for the days we are living and the days that lie ahead.

There was no credit given on the print and on the internet there is some discussion of their origin. They are most widely accredited to Mother Teresa. Despite various opinions of who wrote them, it is largely accepted that they were written on the wall of her home for children in Calcutta. They are now hanging in the center of my home. Thank you dear friend Wendy.

I mostly want this dreamy Norman Rockwell kind of Christmas season and holiday, with the family picture complete with soft bokeh lighting all around, amazing food, music playing, giggles and laughter and the embraced acceptance of loved ones.

But Jesus who is The Greatest Gift, is not the sum of these things and can not be restrained to my ideas of what this season consists of.

In her book, The Greatest GiftAnn Voskamp quotes Stuart Briscoe:

The spirit of Christmas needs to be superseded
 by the Spirit of Christ.

The spirit of Christmas is annual;
the Spirit of Christ is eternal.

The spirit of Christmas is sentimental;
the Spirit is Christ is supernatural.

The spirit of Christmas is a human product;
the Spirit of Christ is a divine person.

That makes all the difference in the world.

The problem I often run into is this man-made-idea of Christmas, versus the Christ of Christmas. And since the heavens can't contain the glory of God, earth can't restrain Him to certain days or seasons either.

Christ is the message of Christmas.

Not just one day, but every day.

This whole last year my one word was "All."

It is fitting that I end this year with the reminder that Christmas isn't a season, it is the Person of Christ who was before all things and holds all things together.

In. ALL. things.

Not some.

Not most.


May we each unwrap the gift of Him every day.

And sweet friends, the best of what this world has to offer, leaves us wanting more... if we don't know the One who holds it all together.

As we enter the first days of the new year, I am reminded that in Christ, the reality is,  the best is yet to come.

Happy 2014!

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Monday, December 23, 2013

No Performance Necessary

Everything was going slightly awry at a Christmas program featuring preschoolers.

The little darlings had filed into the gymnasium packed with adoring parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

The old wood stage echoed as little boys stomped their feet in delight, to accentuate the noise their squeaky best shoes could make and sweet little girls stared downward at shinny patent leather shoes and each one took their place.

Our mini-man led his class onto the stage as all the little people took their places for introductions. He was trying to be bold and big, but you could tell his bravery was waning as he nonchalantly stretched over to touch the frame of the stage.

His merry little red sweater blended in with the towering red curtain, but looked great with his head of white-blond hair. The teacher coaxed the squirming line of three and four-year-olds toward center-stage to solve the problem.

After a few rousing songs complete with fun actions, (which some children even remembered) other children filed in to sing as a group and our little man found himself  four rows high, perched on the top riser, on the far left side.

From that vantage point he scoured the audience for those he knew loved him.

And we were there.

JQ and I were not the least bit afraid to make fools of ourselves, waving our encouragement from the audience. His Grandpa Irv, Grandma NaNae and Great Grandpa were there joining in the happy glory that only children can awaken in hearts.

He stood proud, like a little soldier with his freshly spiked hair and baby blues.

The girl beside him was so sweet and swayed nervously, almost losing her balance, flashing an occasional shy smile, but never singing. The little dude with the red zig-zag bow tie was too cool for this much school.

Proud parents with high hopes and plans for their wee ones, lined the walls and center isle of the auditorium, jockeying for a better position to capture their tots with hand-held technology. Some waved high the latest, greatest phones and others had foot-long lens, that looked like they could capture every wisp of out-of-place hair.

Grandparents waved with abandon every time their adored offspring remotely looked their way. And when a child would connect with someone in the audience that they knew loved them, they waved wild and often blurted out greetings, forgetting their lines or hand motions or the fact they teetered on a narrow step.

Mothers and fathers impatiently hushed bored siblings who fussed over the uncomfortable folding chairs, babies cried because they can and general chaos abounded.

The acoustics were bad, children on stage sang when they remembered, off-key or with squeaky bursts and waves. 

The whole affair was mostly a wiggly, wailing, waving, stage-struck mess.

But for those of us who loved them, it was pure unrestrained joy.

Not because the performance was noteworthy, but because of who they were and who they belonged to.

I don’t even remember what songs they sang, but I remembered the blue-eyed boy running into his daddy arms after the performance, with complete abandon.

It didn't matter if they made their stars twinkle to the tempo, wore their frilly skirts over their heads or stood motionless through every moment of illustrious stardom.

They were loved and adore children.

That’s how the Father see us.

We are His beloved children.

Every single messed-up one of us.

He longs for us to hold out our clenched hands so He can cup us, in His.

The hands that spun the world into being, are the very hands that wrote of His love for us in Jeremiah 29:11.

Those verses talk of the thoughts that God the Father, thinks toward us.

God, thinks thoughts toward you. Not that person who you believe has it all together.

That person doesn't exist.

Every single one of us who don’t sing on tune, trip while everyone is watching, or say the wrong things.

He adores us.

All the noise and messy going, doing and being is sifted through the filter of His perfect symphony of redeeming grace.

He is ever stretching to see us, cheering us on, waiting, watching, and longing to embrace us.

He is for you.  

His plans are to bless you.

He is captured by our image and we were made in the very image of Him.

The message of Christmas is that we are a mess and needed a God that isn't afraid to embrace the untidiness of us all.

Jesus is really Real.

He is not some feel-good, abstract, ominous, vague god of our imaginations making.

He is the brilliance that invades all dark places, omnipresent God who spoke the world into being.  He knows the number of hairs on your head right now and has thoughts and plans for you.

He is the humble Son of God who stepped down from His Throne, to lay down His glory for a short time, to defeat the power and sin and death forever.

Those children!

We came to snatch a glimpse of their beautiful, bright-eyed faces, slicked back hair and bestest-ever Christmas outfits and walked away with tender, humorous moments and memories.

And my heart was reminded that the Father loves you and me like that.

No performance necessary.

He adores you.

Nothing we do can hinder His love for us or change the plans He has to bless us.

His Name is called Emmanuel

God with us.

Merry Christmas!

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Monday, December 16, 2013

The Art Of Chocolate Pie

It's no secret that I come from a long line of people who love food.

I would go one step further and say we come from a long line of pie-eating-people.

And that would mean that there are some pie-making artists in my linage.

This time of year, when the focus is so often on gatherings and the food that will be featured, I'm thinking about and deeply thankful for, my heritage of pie eating and the artistry which is part of that!

My maternal grandmother made pies every Sunday and then the family ate left over pie for breakfast on Monday.

Now there is a life I want to emulate! People who eat dessert for breakfast!

Grandma had eight children, so there are varying opinions and memories, but it is generally accepted that every week, she would make a lemon pie, a fruit pie from whatever was available, banana or coconut cream and a sour cream raisin. I personally remember a butterscotch pie, which is a favorite of mine.

Each flaky pastry was made from her own mix of handcrafted ingredients, every filling boiled on top of the stove in a heavy cast iron pan until bubbly thick, stacked high with bronze tipped meringue.

I should have taken lessons from her or at least asked for the recipes, but I didn't.

Can I just suggest to you, if there is something you remember loving that your grandma, mom, aunt, neighbor, or casual acquaintance makes, that you love.... run now and ask for the recipe!

My dad's mother crafted some pies as well and she liked her crust quite brown. Honestly she liked everything well-done, crispy, even to the point of overdone. I always wondered if it was because of days gone by when women had to cook with a wood-burning stove that had no real temperature control and when "normal" was burnt. She came from family that liked to create things like minced meat pies and date cakes topped with freshly whipped cream.

My own mom was an artist and had a deep appreciation for the time honored crafting of pie. On any given Sunday you could drop in and find perfect flaky goodness cupping some sweet filling on the counter. My dad prefers the caramelized happiness of pecan pie or the ruby-red tartness of cherry pie loaded with melting vanilla ice cream. Mom preferred lemon. She always said that her food was so tasty, because it was made with love.

I think that's part of the process of art. What you create has to be done with love.

I believe she concocted these sugary, fluted creations as a form of emotional therapy on days when her heart was missing her own mother.

The real pie maker in the family is my one and only sister, Rae Jeanne.

She makes the most decedent coconut cream and banana cream pie ever. I've tried my hand at the crafting of them before, but quite honestly it's not worth a day of my life to attain the marginal success I experience.

Her creamy creations are picture perfect every. single. time.

Truly she is an artist of pie making.

I most often do an acceptable job on pecan and pumpkin pies. For years I labored to make apple pie for my husband, under the delusion that it was his favorite. He finally admitted (fifteen years into our marriage) that he, "really preferred cherry pie."

There is always something new to learn about the people closest to you isn't there?

Where I live there is a business called Village Pie Maker who has perfected the perfect two crust pie and uses fresh fruit to make a rainbow of flavors. They can be purchased for $10 a piece. If I were to ever take the easy route and just buy a Village Pie Maker pie,  I pop it out of the tin pan it arrives in, place it in one of my own beautiful pie plates and bake it.

Well now you know.

You can look like a pie maker, but not really do all the work.

That brings me to another part of being a lover of pie.

I love pie plates.

All kinds.

New, vintage, deep dish, regular ol' Pyrex, unique shapes and of course the small adorable pie plates.

My Aunt Jackie gave me some small pie tin pans before she lost her battle with cancer. They are the perfect size to deliver to a friend that wouldn't want more than a few pieces.

I've found beautiful pie plates at second hand stores and  garage sales that have hardly been used. Recently I found this adorable small glass one with a fluted edge that is too cute!

My favorite pie to make, to take to an event and to eat, is my version of Jeanne's chocolate pie. As with all good recipes, over time I have altered it some. Most often I like to use deep dish pie pans and have enough filling left over to make a few small pies to give away.

So I asked my sister if I could share the recipe with you and she agreed that it was fine.

Whooo Hoooo!

I've never seen another pie like this at any event I've been at. It is unique, since it uses frozen whipped topping with powered sugar and cocoa added to top off  all the chocolate goodness.

If you prefer, a meringue topping could be used instead.

Don't be afraid to hone your own mad-pie-making-skills, with this easy recipe.

I do like to make my own pie crust.

You don't have to.

For me, part of the artistry of pie is in the crafting of the crust.

There are a bazillion great pie crust recipes on the web, even gluten free! Pie crust recipes that call for shortening do work well, but I prefer to use all butter and high quality flour. I think the key is soft but not melted butter, cut into the flour and salt and very cold water worked in a few tablespoons at a time. If the recipe calls for 7 tablespoons of water I usually add 8. It seems better to have the dough a little more wet than dry as you roll it out on a floured surface.

Once I have the crust in the pan I like to brush the edges lightly with milk or egg white then sprinkle with sugar granules. This adds texture and helps it brown lightly.

The result is a labor of chocolate-pie-art love.

My sister absolutely still makes the very best pies ever, but now you can try your hand at the art of chocolate pie too.

Merry Christmas and happy baking!

Linking up here!

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Monday, December 9, 2013

When You Want God-Wonder In December

The temperatures dipped even lower as the sun gained momentum that frigid morning. I shuffled around the house, half hugging myself as if that would warm up my passionless heart.

Walking past the window I caught a glimpse of it.

The glistening.

My hand left a frosted outline as I pressed into the window to soak in what I saw. Like countless tiny stars, popping off the frosty snow-blanket that lay thick over my world.

Forgetting all sound thinking, I grabbed my camera and ran outside into the thin air of winter, with its harsh north wind sweeping down, making it hard just to gasp a deep breath.

And there I stood, twisting my body in strange angles, shaking with excitement, shuttering from the cold, trying to capture that frame that would remind me of the gift of wonder.

The camera is a limited, yet wonderful tool. On that bitter cold day with bad news blaring from every side, it helped me lay hold of some God-wonder.

I had been praying for some wonder to cling to, in the world filled with un-wondorous news and events.

I think that is why He brought to mind, one of my earliest child memories, of frigid December nights, not so unlike the ones we've been living. My parents would dare to bundle and stack their four farm kids, in the back seat of a Chrysler. It was in the early 60’s, small town America, where there was one beautiful, three story white home, perched in the center of town that had an extravagant holiday display.

You had to drive down “B” Street, past Fremont Dairy and turn north by the row of empty green houses. There streams of cars lined up to take their turns to see the animated holiday characters placed in the front of this enchanting home.

As you neared the frosty exhibit, windows were manually rolled down on the passenger side. Winter air blasted our faces, as we all fought for position to get a closer look. It was magical to watch elves pop out from behind doors, climb ladders, and swing hammers that tapped on toys. A miniature ferris-wheel loaded with small stuffed animals swaying as it turned, and the Mr. and Mrs. Clause stood life-sized, waving from side to side. 

It was quite the charming display and precious early memory. Some folks say that lovely, well-to-do family just kind of fell apart later on.

Can I just dare to say that we need more than beautiful twinkling lights and nice yard decorations to capture the wonder of  Christmas?

This season has so many emotions for most of us. We miss loved ones who we can't be near. We deeply desire to make things special for those we love and those we come in contact with and we stretch our energies and resources to accomplish it. 

Miles may multiply longing in people’s hearts, but these days of December and empty grasping at all the world has to offer, multiply longing in people’s souls.


You can quote me on that friends.

The verse that I shared today, might seem an odd fit for the Christmas season, but the story of the Christ Child is a crazy story isn't it? How Christ arrived on the unlikely scene of Bethlehem and was laid in a manger, by a young unmarried woman, in a stable with the musty breath of animals around him. 

And not everyone wants to hear how that Baby-boy was destined to learn to walk from a rough-hewn manger to the rugged cross. 

The whole thing fills me with wonder.

Isaiah is probably my favorite book in the Bible.

These verses from Isaiah speak of the God who spun the universe into being.

Who has measured the water of the sea
with the palm of his hand
or measured the sky with the length of his hand?
Who has held the dust of the earth
in a bushel basket
or weighed the mountains
on a scale and the hills on a balance?

I hope you will read those words as they put into perspective, how God cups this earth we know as home.

This total of 25,326 miles around of spinning mass, -He holds it in the palm of His hands, yet, He grips us close to His heart. 

The Bible says too, that the heavens can not contain Him

It doesn't concern me at all, those who doubt the truth and the reality of God and all His wonder and His plan to redeem man.

He isn't sitting on His throne in the expanse of heaven holding His breath, hoping that man will prove He is real. 

He desires though, that we embrace the reality of Him.

It is this knowing Jesus and His real-ness that makes a grown woman run outside skipping and leaping through snow, in sockless slippers and thin clothing, to capture the beauty of heavy frost, frigid cold and a late blooming rose.

He is happy to take my breath away, when I ask Him to astound me with His wonder.

That same God who lets me glimpse His glory, I think is pleased when I’m willing to make a fool of myself, to behold and try to capture a tiny speck of His glorious beauty, to share with anyone who will sit still!

I believe it pleases Him when we are captivated by His handiwork and struck by His love. 

Can I just invite you to join me in praying for God to capture our hearts with surprises of His amazing goodness and beauty. 


I've been looking and grasping for what causes child-like wonder in these cold December days. 

I want so much, that together we can press our faces against the glass, to peer in and see the truth of His beauty and Presence in our lives.

Embrace the Wonder and Truth of this season. 

Cling to the Gift that December holds for us all.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

When Mercy Can Build A House


So maybe it was when, I was over-full with thanksgiving food. The first day, the second and then the third.

Or maybe it was while we were shopping at my husband’s favorite store with four of our grandchildren and at least hundreds of other people who were searching. Searching for things to give as gifts. Crowds of people we don't know. People pushing and rushing. People wanting something special.

Yes it was more evident that day.

It was before that really.

I've been looking for it for years. Looking for how to live Christmas different this year.

Because the truth is, the most real thing about me friends, is Jesus.

On every given day, in my flesh, I am fragile and failing.
My energy, resources and imagination come up short.

But God.

It always comes back to that.

It always comes back to Him.

I get e-mails, phone calls and messages almost daily from people who have problems bigger that they are. The news is heavy and heartbreaking. And this is all that I know..... that in my darkest hour, God has been present with me, and made Himself known. So where else can I point people who are searching?

There is no other place I know of, than Jesus for the answers.

And now this season of Christmas is upon us.

The season when the real Gift arrived on the scene wrapped in flesh, to begin His journey of love from the cradle to the cross.

So I've been wondering how can I live Christmas different this year.

How can people who love to give gifts, give something that will last longer than the paper wrapping being torn from a box?

I really want to wrap up my heart and give it away to the world.

I want to do something that will out-live me. 

And I wonder... isn't that how you feel too?

So today, I’m teaming up with something and Someone that is much bigger than me. 

Kristen Welch who blogs at We Are That Family is the founder of Mercy House in Kenya.

Would you take a few minutes and watch the video here and see what God is up to at their web site, Mercy House Kenya.

These women have horrific stories and God has bent down to offer them Hope.

This is the final phase and it is to build a house.

A house that can house more babies and their young mommy's. A home where they are safe, where they can learn skills and experience the love of Christ and a hope for the future. 

It is perfect isn't it? That we can give hope, just like Christ offers us Hope in this advent season.

He is the Giver and the Gift.

And we have an opportunity to join Him where He is working.

Will you join me? 

I'm joining other bloggers today to clasp hands and hearts together, to be the hope that others are looking for. You can be part of it too friends. 

Lets be part of a Christmas that is bigger than us.

How can you join this?

1. Go to We Are That Family and hear the heart and vision behind Mercy House.

2. Read today's, (in),  How To Get The Greatest Gift This Christmas.

3. Pray for the Lord to lead you in how to give, pray, and encourage those who are vulnerable. Widows, orphans, and those that have been taken advantage of.

4. Follow the link below if you want to be part of  building a second Mercy House.

 Mercy House

Teaming up today with Ann Voskamp and a virtual cloud of witnesses who want this Christmas to be about something more. 

You are invited friends. You are invited.

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Monday, November 25, 2013


The push is on.

Have you noticed it too?

It seems like midnight of October 31st, the store aisle went from costumes, pumpkins and a splash of fall leaves, to all things Christmas and consumer hype. Marketing on the radio, television and internet have been blaring how short the shopping season is for 2013.  Advertising claims how we must “shop now,”grab at “never lower prices this season,” and even “pre-pre-Black Friday sales.” 

Our youngest daughter works in retail. Her position is called a visual merchandiser. Her job is to put together product in such a way, that when the customer enters the building they can see themselves owning it. The company she works for doesn't advertise, have great sales and will have no “door buster specials” to draw the crowds. They will however be open on Thanksgiving.

Last year at that one store, they sold over 400 pairs of jeans, just because the doors were open. People who found themselves milling around in the wee hours of dark, gathering big savings elsewhere, splurged on jeans that can be purchased at that premium price, every. single. day. of the year.

I get it.

I love Christmas too.

And I’m not sitting in condemnation of anyone or anything. But I don’t want to be part of the reason that drives corporations to stay open and demands that hard working people miss the one single day set aside to be with family and give thanks for all we have been given.

The masses can do what they do, but I want to take a different path. To slow the pace of commercialism in my own life and fully embrace family, home, time spent exhaling love, resting that what we have, is enough. 

So I have been intentionally grasping onto these wondrous days and pouring out thanks and thought I'd share some here with:

1. The first blustery day brought down the leaves that hung on long as the clouds rolled and the wind howled its warning of the change that rode on it squalling gusts.

2. My office being such a cozy retreat to read, write, and create. It wraps my heart full. 

3. Steaming bubble bath with chamomile and sipping on green tea.

4. A virtual exodus of tumbleweeds on a very windy day.  

5. Fresh baked bread with homemade choke-cherry jam. 

6. Four moon-rises where the evening light rose like a copper blazing ball and sat on the horizon as if it was too full to continue its journey across the sky.  

7. Half way through the study Breaking Free. Wanting my life to be a story of freedom.

8. Beautiful women, new friends, deeper relationships forged along with returning friends and the conclusion of the third session of on-line (in)courage groups. Only God could have dreamed this up!

9. Worship song This Is Amazing Grace Jeremy Riddle

10. One golden moment that I sped by, this blanket of leaves and the sun shinning brilliant, so much that I drove two miles back out of my way to capture with my camera. #wortheveryminute

11. Sick but thankful to be home and for things that bring comfort and speed healing.

12. My beautiful little blonde headed mentee Christina. She causes me to lean in on Jesus and to pray. 

13. Rare and wonderful time spent with my friend Cherri.  Shared birthdays and hearts for hearing from Jesus. 

14. Quiet Mornings, a cup of warm tea, time to read and consider all Jesus has done for me.

15. Saturday morning meeting with a room full of women that spend themselves to love on women.

16. Crazy full day that started before 4:00 AM, moments of grace in the crazy. So good.

17. Dancing in the living room to this.....  Your Grace Finds Me Matt Redman 

18. The adventure and journey to attend the IF Gathering.

19. Walking this one day in the reality of all that Jesus wants from me.... is my heart.

20. An amazing, unexpected offer of a place to retreat, rest, write, rejuvenate.

21. Beautiful new friend Heather. We were instantly connected by the golden three-cord-strand of love for Jesus. Being able to worship together a few days later. Pure grace.

22. To grasp a few minutes of refreshment and a mug of hot chocolate.

23. My husband and his unconditional love for me.

 24. Preparing food like I would for those I love, for people I don’t know.  Blessed.

25. To be a Thanksgiving baby, but more, to be a child of thanksgiving.

26. JQ being home this week.

27. Seeing God be so creative and good to bless us with gifts for loved ones. Nearly done shopping. Miracle!

28. Lord willing, my whole family gathering in our home to celebrate the goodness of God.

I’m pushing back.

Running from the urge to decorate for the next holiday, just because we have an afternoon that both JQ and I are home.

Clinging to the quiet.

Clutching the heartbeat of Thankfulness.

I'm reminded too, that being thankful is a lifestyle.

It’s in the everyday. It’s in the wonder how we are able to draw another breath. Wrapped up in courage, to live different.

It’s the reality of living in this one spinning world, flying through this life, yet capturing the moments of gentle whispers of all that is good, lovely, true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, and gracious. The best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. (Philippians 4:8)

Thankful lives are lived out in thankful days, thankful hours and thankful moments.

Yes giving thanks is a lifestyle.

Happy Thanks-living friends.

Sometimes The Message Bible just says it so perfect, it makes me laugh!
Jump to your feet and join me?

On your feet now - applaud God!
Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence.
Know this: God is God, and God, God. 
He made us; we didn't make him.
We're his people, his well-tended sheep.

Enter with the password: "Thank you!"
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank him. Worship him.

For God is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.

Psalm 100 MSG

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Monday, November 18, 2013

A Pilgrimage Of Thanksgiving

I imagine, the trees had mostly shed their leaves, except for the few resilient ones that clung for dear life, as November winds cut deep from the northeast. And the table would have been set as it had been, every year before this, with the largest turkey to be found. Grandpa slipped juicy pieces into his mouth as he separated the white meat from the dark. All the sisters contributed side dishes. There would be a rainbow of the latest and greatest jello salads, with diced up fruit, some dotted with marshmallows. Three bean and green bean casseroles, yams steaming and a crystal dish of tart cranberry sauce, plus cans of black olives would be part of their celebration. Pottery bowls piled high with mashed potatoes, dripping with melting butter, complete with lumps, that every cook there would defend, saying, “It only proves the potatoes are real.”

My grandma was most known for baking pies with golden tips of meringue piled high. And on this day of Thanksgiving, there would surely be butterscotch, lemon, chocolate, pumpkin and pecan enough for all, plus leftovers for Sunday.

But on this particular day of feasting, my mom couldn't hear the laughter or chatter of those voices she adored, because she was laboring to give birth to her second child.

I came squalling into this world on that day of Thanksgiving, making my mom miss one of her favorite things: gathering with her family. In the wonder of it all, my beautiful mom with swept-back raven hair and fair skin, was birthing her own legacy that day. 

My earliest memories, were of gatherings at my grandparents’ home, and to this day is a gift I cling to. My mom was one of seven sisters plus one brother. Between them all, we were thirty-six cousins. While not all the cousins were able to be there every year, many were.  Treasured times in that small house bursting at the beams, with scampering children and aunts and uncles chattering. Many of the cousins would crowd in layers, on the stairs, eating black olives off our fingers and giggling at how amusing we were. 

Those were the easy days.

And life is an arduous journey.

As I traversed the hills and valleys of the everyday, buying into the press of what you should look like, comparison, trying to be better, beating myself up because I wasn't more of something and everything, I traveled away from who I really was. 

There is what I did to myself, what others inflicted on me and what life dealt me.

And as I lay in the valley of the shadow of death and destruction I came face to face with this fact: When I had much I was thankful for little. Yet, in the face of great loss my journey began toward being grateful for much.

Grateful for two small children that I had no idea how I could provide for. Grateful for a car that ran, grateful for the people in my life who didn't abandon me and were not intimidated by my pain or what a mess I was.

Yes, it begun when pain pumped though my veins, that I came alive.

Really alive.

Because pain makes you aware of every second that ticks on the clock, every breath that pushes air through your lungs and every heaving sigh of your chest. 

My true sojourn begins with Thanksgiving Day, but my real life of living thanksgiving began under the surge and swell of a torn soul. 

When I began to praise God, to thank God for what He was doing in me and my life, I stepped through an invisible, but oh-so-very-real gate.

God is working through my life, redeeming my destruction, igniting this work that He began and will see to the end. He is present here in my mess, and is using everything that has happened if I will allow Him.  

Life is journey, a pilgrimage of thanksgiving. The reveling in the everyday, the sorrow, the celebrations. It’s easy to celebrate when everything goes well. The real test of our substance is how we praise Him in the dark night of the soul, in the weeping, loss and sitting among the shards of broken dreams.

God is relentless in His redemption and grace.

Oh praise Him!

Thanksgiving babies only celebrate their birthdays on Thanksgiving Day once every seven years. But this thanksgiving baby desires to lives every day with a song of freedom and thanksgiving and feet set to the path of the sacred and mystery of Jesus.

I'm wrapping my arms around you. Yes. You. 

Real women extend grace, revive, and breath life into each other.

Live out your beautiful life today and live it thankful friend.

Linking up at these lovely places. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

When You Want To Be The Boss

Tucked under the veil of towering cottonwood trees, where strands of light filtered through like golden threads, we gathered fallen branches, stumps for chairs and and set the table on a carpet of matted grass. At the age of six, my first-ever-best-friend, Mary and I created an enchanted-to-us, forest home, where princess-mommies lived.  We honed our nesting skills, by making mud cakes and serving tea from chipped cups. 

She lived on a ranch that had towering barns with lofty hay mangers. Large wooden doors squeaked under the weight of their substance, when swung open. There was a chicken house and cleaning station where we collected, washed and candled eggs before putting them in cartons for her family to sell. The rugged bunkhouse was home to their hired men who rode high-headed horses out to work pastures of cattle. Her family lived in a stately brick home, that had many features I loved, such as the laundry chute we flew down like a tornado slide, a huge sun room that faced the west and the most elaborate office, anchored with a large wood desk, surrounded with a treasure trove of books stacked from floor to ceiling on three walls.   

Some of my earliest, sweetest memories are in this place.  

But we didn't stay best friends, because at some point I just wanted to be the boss.

My mom called me her sweet blond haired, blue eyed doll. She said that I was shy and sweet for most of my young years. And though I doubt they knew the meaning of my name, my parents named me Rhonda, which in Greek, mean powerful river. I now know that I am an extrovert. A do-er. A high capacity, wake up early, go to bed late and crash hard somewhere in-between, kind-of-person. And quite frankly, it has taken too much of my life to realize that when my agenda, my will, isn't submitted to Authority, I'm dangerous. Dangerous to myself and everyone else.

In the world we live, this whole thing is misunderstood.

It begins with how we raise children. On one side we are taught and perhaps were even raised, that children are to be seen but not heard, that they should jump when told and spanked at the slightest hesitation in obedience. 

On the other side are beautiful children who fall in a heap at the slightest suggestion of not having it their their way, while their parents make excuse that the child is having a bad day, it's only a stage and how they don't want to break their spirits. And those children feel insanely insecure, because they were never suppose to be the boss of their parents.

Trust me, neither, being a controller kind of parent or allowing the child to control are what God designed. Perhaps that's why so many have such a distorted view of what kind of Father we serve. He isn't waiting to crush us for messing up yet He knows the freedom we will experience when we understand and respect authority. 

As we enter adolescence it's the strongest, most lovely and athletic that we esteem.  Eventually some of the ones who are brilliant, creative and who take risks are rise to the top. Still, we put our identities in all sorts of wrong places and are willing to step on, steal, grab and sneak around to get what we think we want and deserve in this life.

That isn't the model that Jesus gave us. He says in Mark 10:42   "You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around," he said, "and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads." 

Have you worked with someone like this?  Someone who has an agenda and your job is to help them be greater? 

Jesus goes on to say, in verse Mark 10:43: "It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. "

Years ago, I got my first glimpse of what this really looks like. Though I'm unable to find the story to reference it properly, the essence of the testimony, that stuck in my heart, was how a woman who loved Jesus, served Him by cleaning toilets. It moved me so deeply and I remember praying, "Lord, I want to be willing to do whatever You ask, and that includes cleaning toilets if it will bring You glory." 

When Pastor John Stone arrived to our church a few years back, one of his first sermons was about the "Upside Down Life."  He gave tangible examples how you can live out, being a servant to others. We lead by example and the example we have been given is one of serving. It isn't this idea of one person is way up here on the top, a few others are the special people who surround that one person and all the others down-line are ultimately serving the person on top of the pyramid. 

It's all upside down in the Kingdom of God. Leadership is about Servant-ship.

Jesus had to explain this concept to the very  men who had followed Him for years. He said this, "Whoever wants to be great among you must become a servant." (read here?) 

Now, even secular companies, researching what makes some businesses better than others have found that it isn't just dynamic, gifted people in leadership who can build a better bottom line. No, they found that in very successful companies, often the distinguishing mark is that the leadership is humble

What they have discovered that great leaders do, is to serve the people that they lead.

Being humble is such a compelling characteristic that it draws people in. When we are approachable, show genuine concern for others, not living a self-agenda, but are for the people that we come in contact with, something powerful happens. 

Even if people don't want anything to do with Jesus, they will love working with and being around the Jesus-lover who lives out these truths. 

Living this way has a tremendous effect on us as well. Somehow it gives us great confidence and security in the One we serve instead of our own self focus.

Andy Stanley says we need to do this: "Leverage our authority for the sake of those under our authority."

He says it this way too: "How can I loan you me..... for you?"

It is another way of saying, "How can I help you?"

When we lose our ego, our pride, our control, our empty thinking that we are somehow better that anyone-else-in-the-whole-wide-world, we can extend what we have to give, to love on people. And as we lean all that we are, into all that He is, we give credit to and bring glory to the Savior.

We can not truly lead, if we do not humble ourselves to do whatever needs to be done.

Looking back, there are still strong ties and connections to when I was the little girl, who dreamed and played in that enchanting hand-hewn playhouse in the cottonwood trees with her sweet friend Mary. That child needed to learn to humble herself, which was actually freedom from fits of wanting things my way and failures from selfish ambition.

My adult self, has made a wide circle from being a selfish, child who didn't know how to be a real friend. I am still irresistibly drawn to the humble comforts of home, but my passion is to live out these crazy days on earth, being a blessing to all those I can give a bit of myself to.

It is all upside down in Gods Kingdom. The first shall be last. If we want our children to be leaders they need to be servants. And if we want to be the boss, then we need to be a servant to all.

How can I loan me, to you friend?

What of yourself can you offer to others to strengthen them?

Linking up here and still counting blessings:

#1249 My gentle husband
#1250 Our furry family. Olivia, Brandy and Jessica
#1251 The Lord providing for Emily, free housing until the end of the year.
#1252 A complete answer to prayer, to be able to attend the If Gathering. 

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

When You Are Beautiful

The auditorium was filled to capacity. The women chattered nervously as they filed into the arena, faces flushed with excitement. Perched high above the ground floor, directly back from the stage, we settled into our seats, purchased at the last minute, for the event. The small band of women who had traveled together were strangers really. We had packed up our best faces and clothing, loaded into an average van with our ordinary lives, driven six hours and arrived here with expectation.

There was soul-stunning, heart-reverent worship and then the speaker began to teach. Honestly, I don’t remember the scripture, but I remember the subject matter, and I was not prepared for the raw emotion and reaction it would invoke. The passages she read were familiar, but as she took the scripture apart, examining the words, one by one in the original Greek meaning, there was a reference that had to do with the eye.

The teacher went into the audience and choose one precious woman and sat down beside her with every lens and microphone poised. The famous woman cupped  the unknown woman’s face in her hands and began to speak tenderly to her about the meaning of this verse. She suggested that it was as if Jesus was gazing into her eyes and telling her how beautiful, how cherished, how adored she was. The delicate woman chosen from the audience handled this extremely intimate encounter with such grace and only a few tender tears.

I was undone.

A literal flood of emotions awakened. Unexpected raw pain.  I sobbed, the ugly, uncontrollable cry where every kind of thing is released and pours out of your face. Quite frankly it scared me. Even writing these words today, fresh tears sprang forth again. Not like the first time, but it is a tender place, to believe that anyone, especially the God of the Universe truly loves us so intimately and desires for us to know how He sees us beautiful.

That was over a decade ago and if the Lord has shown me one thing in my years of ministry and service to women, He has made it crystal clear that few women believe the truth of their beauty. 

A few years ago, in a small group, the subject matter was about believing God's truth over the lies of the world and the enemy. Without much thought, I asked each woman to share a single word, that may be a lie they had believed about themselves or had spoken to them. Just a single word that they had long embraced in their hearts. What poured forth was unexpected, deep pain. 

Each one was quick to speak the one word.

It was on the tip of their tongues because they had made it part of how they saw themselves. Words like, ugly, unwanted, stupid and fat. Typing those awful words breaks my heart right here. And worse, I know that it grieves the heart of our Father deeply, that we have believed the lies of this world over what The Lord says about us in His Word.

Can we just stop it?

The only way we can stop believing what we have been told, or cease listening to what satan accuses us with, is to replace those thoughts and ingrained beliefs with the truth of the Word. It is no small matter ladies. This subject is at the very core of who we are. In the beginning, God created women as the pinnacle of His creation. Not an afterthought, but the crowning jewel of all that He created and said, "It is good."  The enemy has waged a full-scale attack on women and the demoralization of  women every since. 

We, who believe in Jesus, need to make it our focus, to take to our Father every single place in our soul, bath ourselves in the truth of His word to get healing, so we can hand off a healthy legacy to our daughters and the daughters of others. 

We have to stop it.

Stop dragging our baggage and comparing ourselves to others. Cease listening to the things that promote the lies blaring from every television, magazine, and billboard. If we, the women who claim to know Jesus don't live like we believe what God says about us, who will lead the way for all the women who need freedom in this area of their souls? 

We need to be the beautiful change.

We have to be the beautiful change that women are dying to believe.

Beth Moore in her classic study Breaking Free, the story of her deliverance from, in part, childhood victimization, talks about four things most women dream of: To be a bride, to be beautiful, to be fruitful, and to live happy every after. She goes on to say that the enemy wants to destroy our dreams while God wants to give us more than we can hope or imagine.

Indeed, my sweet friends, God wants to cup your face in His hands, sweep back the wisp of hair and the dust of life that is distorting your view. He wants to heal your wounds, disgraces, failures, losses and deepest secrets. 

We have to hand Him all of it, along with the reins of our lives, so that we can walk in all that He has for each  us. 

Indeed. The enemy certainly knows how dangerous it is if we believed these truths.

You are His beautiful, pure bride whom He wants to be overwhelmingly intimate with.

You are beautiful.

He has plans for you to be fruitful, and there really is a happily ever after, not only in heaven but here too, when we live sold out for Him.

I'm praying for each of us to fully wrap your souls around these truths. It is not too late in our lives to turn and embrace Jesus and all that He has for us in this season of life.

It is not too late to look into the heart of  our Savior and take Him at His word.

You are beautiful.

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© Rhonda Quaney