Monday, January 28, 2013

A Real Man

Didn't something stir deep inside, when I first laid eyes on you?

That cold hard heart of mine had grown weary from tempests and time.


I would catch myself staring at you so crazy ...that I had to turn my head and fix my eyes out the window. All I could think is that someone like you would never even look at someone like me. And besides. I didn't want to risk loving again, because the price is just too high. Oh I had prayed that if there were a real man out there.... one who loved God, one who can take a package deal of two blond beauties and a woman who had buried more dreams than she could stand for one lifetime. Then maybe I would consider tearing down the walls I had built around this heart. But that was something that only happen in fairy-tales   

You did pursue me and on our second date we went to see a cast of cartoon characters with the large yellow bird and you wore me out shopping and we laughed like this is what everyone does when they first meet. And as we drove home I wondered if this was a dream or could there really be a real man like this?

Then you knelt on one knee to ask the question. We entered into that divine covenant with my knees knocking and we flew off to the edge of our world on the honeymoon to a land where dreams come true and princes and princesses live in castles.

You and me.

You, me  .....and the two flaxen haired girls.

The ones you've loved like your own since the beginning. We all rode in the teacups and hugged the mouse and wore damsel-in-distress hats. Indeed. You were the prince charming that I never expected to meet in a life time. Who taught you how to be such a great man ....husband and father? 

You just jumped in with your whole heart and made loving us look easy. You the patient one, the wisest one of the two of us. The one who often apologizes first. You who swung giggling girls high on your shoulders, played horsey on the living room carpet and ran down the sidewalk coaxing them to ride bikes without training wheels. You kissed their skinned knees and tucked their beautiful faces into canopy-covered beds with pink comforters. You just loved us like it was the most natural thing in the world.  Your love was a covering over us. 

And when the youngest was born you ran up and down the hallway with that pink skinned squalling girl of ours before they even cleaned her off. She was wailing and you were beaming at new life as if you had received the greatest gift a man could claim.   

One day as I drove down the busy street I saw this pig tailed girl in the back window of an old faded green car. The little face was darting back and forth. When I drew closer I could see it was our little girl and she was chasing a bunny in the rear window ledge. You were driving that old 1970's Buick that we called "the ship" that most people wouldn't be seen in. I had to laugh at the sight as I pulled up along side to scold you for letting her talk you into yet another pet. But when I saw you just grinning from ear to ear like you were a king escorting your royal cargo   - -I had to relent. What kind of man is this that has nothing to prove and no one he cares to impress? 

Without fail the morning sun will cast rays on you in your favorite place bent over the Words that give live to anyone who reads them. And as the seasons have come and gone in our marriage you have been steadfast in prayer. I've heard you say that you have no eloquent words, but surely God has loved your prayers because the windows of heaven have poured down blessing upon us.  The great King who rides the heavens to help us, heard you. 

Your deepest desire for our children is that they would each love the Lord with all their hearts, souls, minds and strength. And as each child has had opportunity to break our heart you stood as that wise father in the story of the prodigal.  Praying for them to come to their senses while pushing back tears of pain, waiting to embrace their return.

That day when cold driving rain brought the penetrating news of cancer. With our children gathered I asked if you could be the one to speak it to them, but no words came as you choked back the emotions. I realized that your heart was hurting more than mine. And through that season of the unknown, you proved your unconditional love for me over and over. Oh that every woman could know that kind of love from a man after God's own heart.

To watch you with the grand kids melts my heart most every time. The way you bend over to kiss their heads with tousled waves of hair or lean close to the princesses while they jabber and play just to tell them how beautiful they are. And then you run like a man-boy up and down the hallway with the herd of them -all pretending to be super heroes,  laughing and slaying dragons with abandon. You really are a hero. My hero. How did you become such a great man?

And your laugh. When someone gets you to laugh deep. It makes me join in every single time. You a man who traded in the accolades and awards of being some amazing athlete, to being the quite backbone of this family.  Not living your glory days or promoting self or living some empty shell of life through our children. You who became second, third, forth.... as you set your dreams aside to let the girls and I pursue God-sized dreams. How many men have done that?

You are an evangelist. Not a clanging voice with pointing or tapping finger, but life on life just living and loving on people where they are. You don't have an angry or begrudging bone in your body. You are not puffed up or greedy for gain.   What some people talk about in principal you have lived out in practice. Not some set of rule keeping while occupying a pew. You are a promise keeper kind of man.

Haven't you earned every single graying hair on your auburn head? I love every one of them. Nothing could be more attractive than a man who loves the Lord, loves his wife and family and shows the kind of integrity that you do.  It's all been grace how we've gotten to grow up together in faith.
It is a scandalous love because of the One who personifies love.  True intimacy is rooted in the God who designed this whole thing. 

Time has had wings and the evidence of age is wearing on us as the wrinkles have crept into the corners of our eyes. If I were honest I would tell you I'm amazed that we have been married for decades now. Thank you for just loving me all these years and for letting me be and do and try most anything. Thank you for never telling me how ridiculous I am or what a crazy idea that I had. It’s think I can make it happen.

Could I whisper something to you?

You have made it easy to love you like crazy all these years.  Your radical kind of love set me free. You are a brave-heart of a man. A man's man.  A true prince of a man. It has been a privilege to be your wife and live the true-life-royal-adventure that God has let us go on together. 

I'm so glad it wasn't a dream.

Happy Anniversary.

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Friday, January 25, 2013


Joining Lysa-Jo for 5 minute Friday!


Have I told you that  I love you today?

 Well I’m going to say it again.

 It never gets old.

Even though we are kind of getting old-er. =]

 I still love how you laugh at things that don’t make me laugh.

I love how you watch our granddaughters with this sweet grin on your face and tell them that they are beautiful. When you get on the ground and let the grand boys jump on you and wrestle and run up and down the hallway pretending to be super hero's. I guess you aren’t pretending because you really are my hero. You are a mans-man who is secure in himself and is the most happy to serve in the background, -quietly ...doing a thousand things that bless.

And thank you for just ‘getting me.’ Mostly you know when it’s a hard day or I need a hug.
Or when I need you to tell me that you love me.


All these years you have let me be and do and try most anything. Thank you for never telling me how ridiculous I am or what a crazy idea that I had. It’s think I can make it happen.

I’m one of the most blessed women, because you have loved me just for me. While giving  me the freedom to chase my Jesus dreams.

And you are one of my greatest gifts and deepest passions.

 I love you.

I’ll say it again.

I love you.

Happy Anniversary.


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Monday, January 21, 2013

Start Small


As cancer tightened it's grip on Michelle, her faith journey splashed over and became part of my journey too.  

My journey to really live faith.

I had made these nice little printables for Christmas gifts and given them to the ladies in Bible study. It's a familiar verse. One of my favorites still, perhaps because I am such a visual person. This small verse gives hope to people like me.

Hope to believe that a tiny bit of faith can do huge things.  

When the dark reality of Michelle's situation began to unfold she started to grasp for a thread to cling to. The doctors said she didn't have long to live. They were trusted professionals who were highly trained and equipped with tests results and statistics.

They had facts.

She had Jesus.

And she had a mind to just believe that He was bigger than the cancer that had wound itself tight around her body.

In her situation my faith was small.

In general my faith was small.

And who was it that said an unchallenged fair-weathered faith   -is really no faith at all?

When Michelle said that she was praying to be healed I could only look at the outward appearance of things and see that the situation was grim.

But the seed. 

It looked small and seemed crazy if  I couldn't believe that much for her sake.

It is said that as seeds go... the mustard seed is one of the smallest. According to one commentary* "the mustard seed is small in its beginning. In the right soil and condition it begins to grow and a plant can  reach ten, sometimes fifteen feet in height in the fall of the year. Its branches can become rigid, and the plant often serves as a shelter for birds of many kinds."

In contrast the mountain that Jesus had just come down from was thought by ancient people to have deep roots.

So the imagery He paints is that a speck of faith can in fact move the immovable. 

One source* stated that a good translation of that verse is actually  "...less than a mustard seed amount of faith."

Like this seed which seems small and insignificant in the beginning,  our bit of faith teamed up with the the Almighty God can grow to a great magnitude to move deep rooted impossible mountains.

That is how it was on the path of faith for Michelle. This infinitely little bit of faith. Yes. A single grain of faith, cultivated in the soil of humble seeking and trusting hearts.

Her weakness. Our weakness. His strength.

Not just a wish-upon-a-star to make my life lovely, kind of  power.

Not a "please deliver me from this uncomfortable situation" kind of plea.

But a faith that desires God's provision ....

for the glory of God,
the enlargement of the kingdom,
the confirmation of truth,
for the good of those who witnessed the outcome.

I believe that is what happened when Michelle's prayers for healing from stage four cancer were answered. 

She is still a living testimony, wearing a cloak of God's grace, to what a little bit of faith can do. 

There are mountains to face.

And how often I scale the mountains with focused determination. Yet the landscape of my life is dotted with mole-hills that trip me up on any given day. 

Like land mines.

Difficult. Challenging. Annoying.

My heart is so resistant to have faith for the small as well as the obviously impossible.

For some reason I try to handle the "little things."

The person who sent the mean e-mail.

A loved one who keeps the door shut on relationship.

That problem that has nipped at my heels for years. 

All the things I can't fix in the ocean of pain that I see around me.

Jesus said.. because of the smallness of your faith.... this thing hasn't changed.....

I don't know what all can be effected for the kingdom with a shift in faith.

But don't we want to find out?

To take a small step toward kindness.

To run from the offense and embrace the offender?

To stop staring at the problem and start seeing the problem through the light of my God.


What is the small shift a heart can make to start living mustard seed faith

Sowing of seed was always done by hand.

It can be hard work with little obvious progress. But this is written and can be trusted as true.

"If you have faith....."

And the verse ends like this... "nothing will be impossible for you....."

Michelle is the personification of this and I am so grateful to have had my faith built up by her miracle-life.

There is one more verse that I pray often while I'm trying to live out this mustard seed faith.

"Lord I believe.
Help my unbelief."
 Mark 9:24

Yes, whisper that as we scale the mountains and stub our toes on the mole-hills.

What mountain confronts your path?

What mole-hill is tripping you up?

What situation just gnaws at your heart in the night?

What person rips at your soul even as you try to turn the other cheek?

What in your life really needs a miracle to ever be any different than it is today?

Rest your weary wings in that tree of mustard seed faith my friend. Faith in Jesus. Faith that begins with a simple prayer. And what seems like an insignificant speck of a moment grows into a flourishing strong tree that is well rooted and blesses many.

If you think of it, please pray for Michelle.  She is having a routine three month check up. But for a cancer survivor it is never "routine" and every appointment brings with it another opportunity to walk in faith.

Reference: *'William Hendricksen', Commentary on Matthew 

Thanks Amy @ A Moment Photography for taking the printable pics  for me. Love you!

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Monday, January 14, 2013

What Happens When You Open Your Home?

All of our married life Jim has wanted our home to be a place that is warm, comfortable and open to guests.

He loves to extend hospitality. 

Years ago, one of my favorite communicators Elisabeth Elliot  shared in her book "The Shaping Of A Christian Family"  how she was one of six children yet her parents made space available for guests. They had a book for their visitors to sign that became a treasure to their family.

As they looked through the notes and names of those to whom their family had extended hospitality, they more fully realized the scope of blessing these people had been to them and the impact that this practice had on them over the years. 

Some who had stayed in the Howard home went on to become famous. A few gave up their lives on the mission field. All of them left a little of themselves as a gift.

So about ten years ago we purchased a journal for the spare bedroom and encouraged our visitors to sign it. Last week as we were preparing for some guests I realized the binding on our journal had fallen apart. Pages tumbled out to reveal faces and words that some had left there as a gift to our hearts.

There was Cheryl and Jill from Canada. Bold teenagers who stood before a large assembly of people to share their testimonies and gifts of music. In the quiet of our home we were able to have conversations about their lives. The transparency of these girls melted my heart like wax and on it they stamped these words. "We are committed to taking off the masks of perfection or the idea of having it all together and we hold each other accountable in how we are living our lives."

I loved that.

"Take off the masks."

Be real.

Talk about where the battle rages.

Move beyond striving for perfection and start really living.

I still love that.

Those teenagers were wiser than many adults.

We had Lica from Brazil who spoke at least three languages fluently.  She moved past being a guest to being a daughter. There was one day that Lica sat at our kitchen table and spoke at length to Juan and Eva who were visiting from Peru. They spoke is a language they both understood but that was foreign to us.

And Lica's dad. A chef. He came and cooked mound of food which blessed many. 

Sweet Andrea and Lindsey were part of a team of performers, Donna a dress designer from California, and Carl and Kathy who stayed once a year for many years.

One Christmas Yasu from Japan joined us. A gentle intelligent college student who just slipped in and make himself at home in our hearts.

It was a cold dark night with driving rain when Bob and Harriett arrived. They were so weary  from the barren ribbon of miles traveled that a simple bowl of potato soup was comfort to them. The first night they retired early to their room and sank gratefully into bed ....there was a squeal. Running downstairs I found our corgi 'Olivia' sitting on top of them licking their faces. That dog still knows how to open the door to the spare room. This sweet couple  captivated us with stories of their fifty years of living on reservations, serving and loving Native Americans.

Bob and Harriett shared with us the message of their lives. A message of faithfulness and love and service in the long haul of life. 

I don't remember how Phil DelRe found his way to our home. But we enjoyed his dynamic personality and the fire in his soul. He has a bold and vibrant jail ministry in Chicago. Long late night talks inflamed our souls to reach beyond the bars of our comfort zone to those who find themselves incarcerated. 

Four young men who were part of Moody Men's Collegiate Choir stayed. For Jim and I who raised daughters, these guys gave us a glimpse of what having sons might look like. They romped and wrestled like young bull calves, ate everything set before them and smiled the entire time they stayed.

Bright and early on Sunday morning I sat straight up in bed when Ray decided to warm up his strong beautiful soprano voice by belting out a song of praise and would then interject shrill falsetto notes to put exclamation marks on his passion and talent. The other three would join in a cappella and their voices penetrated the walls of our home and the walls of our hearts.

It was glorious. 

There were beautiful children from India who just wanted french fries from drive-through and children from Africa that danced around and played dress up and chased our dogs up and down the hall way.

A few days after the three African girls left and I was finally putting clean sheets on beds it came to me to read the message they left in the book. Those beautiful girls who called us "Auntie and Uncle". Two had left polite thank you's for warm comfortable beds and good food.

But the third one.

Her message just pierced my heart.

It was Washo.

She wrote that she had fun  ".. and wished she could stay with us forever and ever." 

Perhaps all three girls were orphans. They withheld that information from the host families. We did know some were from an area of particular unrest and war. But this message from Washo with the bright-beautiful-brave face. She must have been an orphan whose heart ached to have a home and we didn't even know.

The tears still drop from my eyes to think about her. 

And I wonder where she is now....

Yasu returned to Japan right before his beloved country endured the tsunami.

And the others.

So many others.

Our family was blessed by them all. 

Klaus and Evan are sleeping in our home even as I type. They are part of a music ministry team of seven young people who travel and perform in all kinds of settings. While touring the country and abroad has to be fun at times, my mom-grandma eyes can see these young people put in long days, many miles, crammed in a van, setting up and tearing down equipment. They have to adapt to so many different situations while doing a a ton of work.

And they are someones fine sons.

So we want to bless them while they are here.

Because they are doing the important work of sharing the reality of Jesus in their lives.

This is high work and hard work and holy work.

Carpenters Tools International Team

The old journal is falling apart but we are clinging to the pieces so we don't forget what each one gave to us.

We are grateful to have been a small part of their journeys.

A few tips on hospitality?

Don't wait until everything is perfect.

Open your heart to the blessing.

Keep it simple.

Clean sheets.

Something in the crock pot.

Just this...? 

* Be available *

What happens when we open our homes?


It enlarges our world.

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

One Word

Shelley has been my friend for over two decades. She was a friend when I deeply needed a true friend. She was a friend before I was a good friend to have. She has always had a way of giving thoughtful, perfect-timing-kind of gifts. So when I received a card from her not long ago I wasn't surprised to find a gift tucked inside that was the exact thing that would speak to my heart at that moment. 

It is a beautiful bookmark with seven letters pressed into a metal medallion to form the one big word, courage.

I love that word.

The 'root' of that word "cor" is latin and means "heart". Since one of my gifts is to impart courage (encourage) to others it is a word that has deep meaning to me. In fact, I love that word so much in 2010, I chose it as my "one word" to live by for that year. 

I had heard about this choosing of one word for the year on K-Love radio station. It resonated in my soul since I'm a woman of too many words and too many lists and so very many scattered thoughts.

In the radio interview, they talked about how words have the power to help us shape goals, dreams, emotions, and ideas. And in this case, one word can help narrow the focus in my walk with God for the year and replace the long lists and weak resolutions.

In January of 2010, I happened to be reading the Bible, in the book of Joshua and the Lord is telling Joshua over and over to be strong and courageous. After doing a word study on it, I decided that courage was a great choice for my one  word that year. How could I have known that in February of that year I would be diagnosed with breast cancer? And that I would suddenly find myself rubbing shoulders with people in a battle for their lives and living out courage in so many ways. My heart and my courage were enlarged and lived out. That one word became part of the very fiber of my soul even after the year passed.

In 2011, the one word I claimed was "change". I had some ideas about what that might look like and changes I wanted to make. Little did I know there would be a mountain of change. None of them my choice. The sudden death of my mom that year changed a huge part of everything I had known to be secure and certain. The dynamics of my family completely changed with her passing. Everything from who to call for advice on how to make coleslaw to how the holidays are spent. Change was my big one word and it marked a year of pressing into an unchanging God. 

January of 2012, I approached my one word with a little hesitation. =] What I saw in my journals and felt pressed on my heart was the one word.. "new". I even shared with some friends how I felt I was entering a new season of ministry ...even though I had no idea what that would look like. As 2012 comes to a close I have reflected on the impact of my one word. Jim and I entered a new season of life with our youngest moving out, a new grandson, and yes. A new season in ministry on so many levels. I stand in awe of what I have had the honor of being part of, all while serving the One who 'makes all things new.'

So. It's now the first week in January and I've been praying about my one word for 2013. I've had some ideas rolling around for weeks. One words like "wholehearted", "trust", "available", "move", "enough" and "thanks-living" {maybe next  year}....?  There is a story behind each of those one words.

But this morning as I again asked the Lord to give me the one word to tighten the lens of my life on for 2013, this is the word that seems to linger.


That seems like a lot. 


All as in wholly, completely, the entire quantity. 

Not as in "I want it all" the world says.

All... as in, I want all that the Lord has for me. If it's not from His hand I don't want it, but if He has it for me I want all of it. 

The plans He has for me. -I want them all to be a reality in my life.

All as in ..."All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness..." ....all scripture.

All as in my life verse which I hand painted on my whole office wall years ago.
Yes, I want to love Him with all my heart, soul, strength and mind. I want to spend 2013 learning a little about the 4660 references to 'all' in my Bible.

I want to embrace the All-mighty God who can handle all of me and meets me right where I am, all while lifting me to where He desires I follow.

This brand new year when my Christmas cards are still being mailed out. {does that mean they are no longer "Christmas" cards}? When my office has a narrow path that I crawl through to get to my desk where there are clipboards each full of projects and stuff  I need to develop and do and papers to be filed. This fresh new year that has begun before I have even packed up last year.

My One Word is 'all'. 

I'm ALL-in for Jesus.

Wherever that takes me in 2013.

Mike Ashcraft & Rachel Olsen
How about you? What is your one word for 2013?

* Thanks, Amy and A Moment Photography for taking the book marker photo. And to Shelley Moser for the gift and inspiration! Love you both.

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© Rhonda Quaney