Monday, April 28, 2014

If You Doubt Your Story Matters

Photo Credit

Dawn slips through the east bedroom window in lucent streams of morning light.

There is a gnawing ache to roll over and ignore the day that lies before me. With eyes-closed tight, I hear the feathery kingdom outside my window, singing their birds-songs.

They whistle happy chirps and warbles as they go about their business. Their hours are currently filled with foraging for food, gathering material for nests, and preparing for the cycle of new life.

Sometimes I wonder if these winged creatures ever want to sleep in or just say no, to another day of hunting worms and hanging out on branches. The fact is that only humans have doubts of what they were made to do.

For me, there are times I think that caring about people and their stories is for. the. birds. There are moments I just want to avoid all the mess and pain and take up crocheting. Or something.

I don’t even want to embrace my own story, the one that is being written on my heart right now.

Most often, my ordinary life, demands more than I have to give.

Deadlines loom.

Energy wanes.

There is no white space of time and too much white space in the story that needs to be written.

Or even worse, I'm immobilized by doubt, that my story matters.

This last weekend there was a free (in) rl meetup, put together by (in), where women were given the tools and resources to spend time in their real lives, sharing their stories.

As in face-to-face.

I wanted to invite women into my home, to hear their stories, too, but it didn't happen. You would have to be home to invite people over.

So in the late hours of Saturday I listened to some of the keynote speakers talk about sharing our stories and being in community.


For this time right now, I had to settle for listening to their hearts, in an online capacity.

Those who put the conference together, weaved together stories from so many women, who dared to be vulnerable, so those who were brave enough to show up could see the power of story to connect people, to bring freedom. It reminded me how all of our stories intersect and mesh together to create a beautiful mosaic that God is using to bring Himself glory.

It’s what I've been learning, writing about and even changed my tag line to represent.

There is power in every person’s story.

Deep down, I know this.

You know this too ....that your story matters in the whole glorious, cosmic scheme of eternal things.

To be known and to be real, and even raw -involves risk.

There are always people with their own brokenness, who extend pain, opinions and labels. All I know is that I don’t want to build those kinds of walls around any person or my own heart.

There is never a week where I don’t meet brave souls, gripping their invisible stories, who mostly think their lives are too ordinary or messed up, to be important.

They long to know that the years and the pain count for something.

People mostly want to know that their story matters.

This week, again, people I was not looking to have a conversation with, extended their heart-stories to me.

There was Van, who I only just met and know by his first name, which may not even be his real name. He stopped me to share his story. I have to listen close to discern every weighty word through his broken English.

In the center of a busy hallway, this one wrinkled hand, clutches my arm, and unravels words how her marriage was bad, but then God used a hard situation to turn her heart around to Jesus.

Just Saturday, I sat across the table from a woman from three decades past and leaned into her words about long illness, complex surgeries, and most recently, the final painful days of her mother.

People tell me their stories. 

Maybe it’s because they feel safe. Perhaps they feel like I am listening with my heart. Probably they can tell I believe that every word they spill is important.

It is true. I believe that every single story is amazing. And I believe that our stories are snapshots of Jesus drawing us to Himself.

They need someone to embrace them, pray for them, not to judge them.

There are these ordinary stories, which intersect with God, who adds the extra. When our everyday story collides with the extraordinary God who spins the universe, and who named of every star, something beautiful happens.

Our ordinary becomes the extraordinary.

The problem is that too often I’m am trying to write my own story, apart from God. There are consequences for choices, there are life event that happen, and there are things that people inflict. We have to choose to believe that when we live this day for God’s glory, that our stories have purpose and power, apart from our circumstances.

Because He is truly the God of every story and wants to redeem the pain for His purpose.

Today I have some choices on how my story will read.

Sometimes we have to go out on a limb, risk one more time, reach out to one more person, take another brave step toward the one who rejects us, and forget the pain that made hot tears roll when you were left out, left behind, labeled or alone.

And when we live our one story, with intention and purpose, there is this glorious melody of all our stories being weaved together in a way that brings life and healing. Our stories call out the beauty in each other.

Today, may you embrace your story. 

Your one beautiful, important, heart-song story. 

Sing it out with the lyrics and inflection, that only you can put to music and God can orchestrate. 

I’d love to have you share them with me.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Hope Has A Name

The rising flaming ball of morning sun, makes me stand still in wonder.

Blushing embers of fuchsia and coral outline the east horizon. Thin invisible air rises and becomes visible as light fog climbs out of the canyon behind our home. It forms columns which resemble tall men marching along with the exhale of warm spring winds. These misty pillars move with time and space as if they are intent upon where they are going.

Breathtaking, beautiful and poetic morning-glory.

Fleeting moments of wonder were captured with my eyes and then gone.

That's how I have felt about these days that I live, too.

Forty days plus a few more, have passed since I wanted to live lent out in my life and cling onto the mystery of Easter. For so many years, it has just been a day to wear a new spring outfit, hide, then hunt, eggs and overeat homemade pie. And while I love those things, the deeper issues of the heart and His heart, are what I have been wanting more of.

Decades ago, before I even understood the idea of Lent, I gave up things like bubble gum or broccoli which I didn't care for in the first place. The idea of self-denial seemed ridiculous. But this year, this right-now of my life, I wanted to be more aware of God and His wonder. More attentive to the gifts He has given me and the Gift that He is, to the whole world.

Now, looking back I have a few things I'm processing.

Pretty much I failed at fasting, praying and repentance.

It is the story of my life really.

Fasting makes me hungry. Praying and repentance requires me to slow down long enough to be introspective and reflective.

But I tried.

I gave up sugar and white flour for a lot of the days of lent. It was good, but it was fine when I didn't, not eat them, as well.

There were some things that I felt needed addressed in the fibers of my soul. Some of them were less than profound to onlookers, but deeper that what I eat.  Some of them were right down difficult. One of them still needs to have feet and faith put to the conviction.

There were plenty of difficult people to love. Most of the hard people attend church.

One thing that Jesus has pressed into my soul is this: Move toward people in love, don't pull away. 

That may not seem huge, but I challenge you to try it. Today. The next difficult person or situation.... -move toward that one thing  -in love.

It usually means you will be taking a back row seat in some way, shape or form.

And that's okay. There is less drama in the back row. There is time to clear your head as you walk from the parking place that is farthest away. There is peace is loving the hard to love and respecting people right where they are.

The homeless person on the corner and the woman who cut you off in her Lamborghini.

We all have the same basic story.

We are all born and someday we will all die.

We all have a God-sized hole in our heart that we try to fill with everything we can grasp.

The difference is how we live and who we live for. Or better said, -Who we live for.

I haven't always got this. Some days I live it better than others.

Last week I traveled with my husband and youngest daughter. As I sat in my oncologist office, talking about the weather, it astounds me how crazy-fast, four years have flown, since I first met her. Four years since surgery where cancer was cut out of flesh.

I was reminded of the blessing of it all, because what really needed an excision, was my heart.

It was a season of lent I didn't initiate. A season of praying, seeking God, looking outside of myself for what was going on around me. A season of moving, breathing and embracing the one day I'd been given.

It was nothing short of life-altering and it is still changing me.

The whole process brought my husband and I closer than we already were. It makes me appreciate every day that I get to breath in sunrises, love my children, laugh with my grandchildren and extend grace to those I come in contact with.

The overreaching theme these last six weeks has been that I need to just move and breathe and live, this one day for the glory of God.

Being faithful to love.

To use my resources, time and talents to serve.

Embracing the wonder of Jesus, who is always moving toward people with His love.

My life of faith is more than forty days. It is more than self-denial, prayer and repentance. It is definitely more than eggs and bunnies and amazing food. It certainly can include these things, but more, I just want to move with time and space,  ...intent upon where I am going.

My life is about living fully alive for the One who died.

It is about peace and hope.

Peace has a name.

Hope has a name.

His name is Jesus.

He left His throne in Heaven to walk the life-path of earth, died a death He didn't deserve, so that those who trust in Him can live real life. Forever.

Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. 

And when the women ran to the tomb early Sunday morning what they found was that He had risen just as He had told them.

Lent is a great reminder, to focus on the real issues of life.

The end of this life will come and that will open a door to eternity.

There is a way that Jesus made for us.

It's not about how good we are, but, how good He is.

That my friends, will determine the rest of our story.

Revelations 4:9 says this:

Then I heard every creature in heaven 
and on earth and under the earth and on the sea,
and all that is in them, singing:
"To him who sits on the throne 
and to the Lamb be praise and honor
and glory and power, for ever and ever!"

Who are you  trusting in?

Linking up today with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Lee.


Monday, April 14, 2014


Dim lighting reveals the unique textures of exposed brick wall, old props and other hints to the past and faded memories of forgotten performances. Musty glimpses of unseen grandeur, seem to be suspended in time from the high-reaching ceiling, in this beautiful, historic theater. A few unmatched chairs line the edge of the open area. Here, behind-the-scenes where only a few see what really goes on, to make a play production happen, and where cast members congregate.

The whole bunch of them gather. The minor players and the major characters. And both of them need the other.

The director stands in the center. He is a good man. A seasoned actor, gifted, yet humble. A ragged circle is formed. Everyone pushes in close and a hush falls over the group, as he begins to speak. There is a recap of yesterday's performance. He highlights what was great, what needs to be modified, and then he opens the discussion to others and their thoughts on what would make today's performance, the best yet.

There was not a hint of condemnation in his voice. He talks about little-big things, like a longer pause to bring closure to a scene or allowing full rests, to allow the audience to respond with laughter. Simple words of encouragement, useful tips and information were offered, that would make the experience better for those who would come to see them perform and to draw the team closer.

They aren't playacting right now.

This moment, represents long hours spent. Accumulated over weeks and now the months that have preceded. It demonstrates how a common goal has united them. What began as a random group of forty children and twenty seven adults, and one dog, has now become an integrated cast of talent for the beloved play, "Annie."

Soon the theater lights would be lowered, the sound of fine-tuned strings and keys will rise from the tiny orchestra pit to set the tone for each scene. Stage lighting will flood the space where the players in the production will become someone else, while bringing who only they can be, to the character.

They draw in the audience by their heart-strings, to engage them in the story of the vibrant, bouncy, perpetually optimistic, orphan girl named Annie who lives in New York City in the 1930s.

And this little nine year old 'Annie," brings the character Annie, alive.

The darling girl with the beautiful voice, brings her energy to the theater that is absorbed by the audience who fill the rows of red velvet covered seats. From backstage, I can hear the audience "ooh" and "aahh," offers of polite applause and bursts of laughter, until the final scenes when the orchestra music cues building anticipation and excitement that the final moments are being played out before them.

Wrong or right, there is one who just steals the show.

Her stage name is "Sandy."

She just comes out, playing her most adorable self. Sweet, obedient, hoping for a small reward.

And she goes and kind of steals the show.

She is actually named Nestle. As in chocolate.

She doesn't really get what it's all about.

She hardly notices the details of the pieces that make up the set, the intricacy of the costumes. The lights and sounds and the people sitting in the orchestra pit with their glasses sitting on the tip of their noses didn't mean a thing to her. Every solo, every chorus, and the crescendo that brings your heart crashing to the climax of the play. She isn't rooting for the heroin and or wanting to boo the antagonist. Her best performances don't impress her any more than her not-so-good performances.

She doesn't long to feel the heat of stage lighting, to hit each mark, or to be the character.

She is just, who only she can be.


An English yellow Labrador retriever.

And she seems pleased to hang out with all those who delivered every line and were able to bask in the glow of a big finish or that moment when they know -- just know -- that the audience was theirs. In fact I think she preferred the little known orphans who hung out and fell asleep through the long parts that they had to wait through.

It wasn't her dream to be center-stage.

But she was there and was one of the stars. Plus she brought a bit of comic relief to the whole show.

Hanging out with the dog-star reminds me that behind-the-scenes, is where much of the center-stage-stuff happens.

The places that are not as glamorous. Where there are few hints to the rich architecture of the building, which was erected in 1929, right before the Great Depression, the time period in which this play is set.

Not a single intricately designed panel or wall mural. Not one column woven with gold ornamental molding to be found.

No marquee with bright, blinking, flashing lights.

But the heartbeat of center stage, comes out of a lot of behind-the scenes moments.

Every piece and part is vital to the whole.

Hanging out backstage was a sweet reminder that when everyone serves with the gifts they have been given, amazing things happen. A group of people gathered here, who understood this and became a part of the bigger plan, which fueled their level of performance as a team. Not for individual glory, but for the greater good of the whole group.

The Directors and performers all seemed to understand this well.... we all need each other.

And Nestle-girl was satisfied with a little praise and a few dog treats.

Monday, April 7, 2014

When You're Not Invited To The Party

There was quite a stir in the little town.

The guest list included all the right people.

Emotions of anticipation, mixed in with excitement mounted, as the preparations were made.

Goblets were positioned at each place-setting and attention given to every hurried detail.

As the master of the ceremony stood, things took an unexpected twist.

This was the backdrop of the story, where the great Prophet Samuel, had arrived in the little town of Bethlehem and called for Jesse and all of his sons to join him.

Samuel had been sent to anoint the next king.

The old prophet took one look at the oldest son of Jesse and saw that he was tall, handsome and distinguished. He responded, "Surely this is the one!"

You can read the story for yourself (here.)

God responds with this famous line, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Even the Prophet Samuel was looking for the next king through human eyes, instead of God-eyes. And I wonder if the old prophet thought that the new thing God was about to do, would look like the old thing that had already been done.

As each of the sons in attendance were brought forward, it became apparent that someone was missing.

In fact, the person that the party was being held for, had not even been invited.

That's how it was for David.


Soon to be, King David.

One of the Bibles most well-known names. The man who would go on to be king over Israel for forty years. The man who, the book of Psalms is largely attributed to. The one who was mistreated and despised by his siblings. The boy-man sent out to tend the sheep in the open wilderness.

The same man who it is said, was indeed, "a man after God's own heart."

Yeah. He wasn't even invited to his own party.

Just let that sink in for a few minutes.

And I love that Samuel directs them to go get the boy and that they will not be seated until he arrived. The hours that passed must have been a little awkward.

David's own father doesn't even call him by name when all the other sons are rejected. He is just called, "the youngest." One Bible version says that he was "the runt."

The boy David, had been hanging out in dangerous open country, where few if any, could see what he was doing. Some scholars suggest he was only about twelve years old at the time of this event.

Whatever age he was, while no one was watching, he honed his skills on the harp, prayed songs out of the depths of his heart, and learned to be brave. The Bible says that he killed a lion and a bear and grabbed them by the scruff of their faces to save the lamb that was being carried away. (read here?)

All agree, that David was the least likely to be the next king. 

He had long been overlooked.

Unseen. Unnamed. Uninvited.

He lived and served in obscurity.

But God saw him. 

That is how the Kingdom of God is.

Those who look like they have it all together, are not necessarily the ones who do. Those who are invited to the party, are not necessarily the ones that God reveres.

I wonder about you.

Do you feel like you live in obscurity and that what you do, doesn't really matter?

Like the mom who is up in the night with a crying child. The one who does mountains of laundry that only seem to need done again. Or maybe you are a person who sits with that aging parent, who played favorites and who isn't kind or grateful. Perhaps you are the one who is taken advantage of, but didn't retaliate. A person who was slandered, that turned the other cheek. The one passed over for the promotion. The one left off of the guest list. The one who isn't seen as young enough, pretty enough, rich enough, have a large enough social network platform. Not, what-ever-enough, to be in that group.

God sees you every single time. 

And His, is really an upside-down economy.

The first shall be last.

The true leader is a servant.

What seems unseen, is seen and will someday be fully revealed.

And God can reach down in your obscurity and promote you when the time is right.

In the meantime, we remain faithful to do the things He has given us.

It is important that we understand, unlike people, God doesn't play favorites.

In Ephesians 2:10 it says: "For you are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."

Emily Freeman points out in her book, "A Million Little Ways,"  that the word "masterpiece" is from the root word "poiema" which means, poem. So each and every person is a great work, a poem. And God has things for each of us to do.

In addition, every day,we have to choose if we will be who we most deeply are, and embrace that job that only we were designed to do. She points out that no one else can be who you are, speak with the voice that you have, and bring to the table all your life experiences that you have lived. (loose paraphrase)  =]

The world needs you to be that poem, that masterpiece you were created to be.

And when you fully embrace who you are most deeply designed to be, I get a glimpse of Jesus in you. That encourages and blesses those around you.

We have to know that every task we do, can be done for God's glory. That includes the dishes and really loving deeply those around us when no one seems to be watching.

It includes every act of love that you extend in Jesus name.

That is the key thing. That we do what we do, is for God's glory and not our own.

So today, we go with God's agenda instead of our personal plans and American dream.

Every day we have the outline of the day and then we roll with the interruptions that are just going to happen and we live them out to the glory of God.

I've always wanted a heart like David's.

A heart that would long for the things God wants me to desire, no matter who understands. A heart that loves, even when rejected or passed over. I adore that David danced to the point of making a fool out of himself before the Lord and in front of people who thought he should tone it down a bit.

David served in a pasture and was promoted to the palace.

Because he served with integrity, a God-that-sees.

That's what God does.

He sees.

He sees you right where you are. Right now.

God sees your heart and is in the business of reaching down and promoting the most unlikely people.

Be the Masterpiece you were designed to be and see others as God sees them.


**Thank you Cherri and the team at Mia Bella for allowing me to come share my heart with your women. 
May we all walk with eyes to see as God sees today? **

Sharing my words over at Jennifer Lees today.

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© Rhonda Quaney