Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Inside And Out

This man I married, we are of course opposites in so many ways.

He’s easy-going.
I’m impassioned (reckless) about most all I do.
Photo from Unsplash


He thinks before he speaks.
I talk too much.

He easily stays up late, late, late.
My best time is early. Really early.

He has an aversion to conflict which can leave issues to smolder under the surface.
I’d rather get things out in the open. Then I’m over it. Forever. This approach can cause extra, perhaps even unnecessary tension, leaving other people not over it. Forever.

He does not like change.
I'm more adaptable to change, but not super sensitive to those who are not.

Growing up, he moved on average, every two years.
The first eighteen years of my life, were lived in one home.

For high school graduation he got a Camaro. (Which he loved.)
For high school graduation I got a wicker chair. (Which I loved.)

His idea of unwinding is an overstuffed chair, in front of a television.
I verbally process to unwind.

Add to these fun facts a long, arduous, somewhat annoying list of other differences.

Not the least of which, would be the fact that I arrived in the relationship with my emotional baggage bundled neatly and tied with a beautiful ribbon of held together dreams of  “happy-ever-after.”

We didn’t open that package until after the honeymoon.

We’ve talked about it before, but it is worth mentioning again…. our honeymoon suite was a romantic getaway for four.

I don’t know of another couple who shared this celebratory trip with children.

Over two decades later, it’s a miracle that we are, where we are.

For all of our contrasts, we did two foundational things that were important: We both had placed our faith in Jesus Christ and we made a promise that is legal and binding.

In and of themselves, those two things aren't magic, but the reality of them gave us a place to land when things were not going well.

We were new to sharing lives, spiritual infants, packing emotional baggage, wrapped in selfish human bodies, bound by a covenant to love each other for better-or-worse.

And there is almost always the worse, before it gets to the better.

I am convinced that God has a sense of humor to use marriage to make us holy, more than happy.

He uses marriage as a living, breathing, illustration of His love for us.

The problem with learning to truly love another person? We mostly loved ourselves more.

We were willing to serve the other if we first got served.

Willing to forgive the other if they asked for forgiveness first.

We might move to meet expectations, if we were getting our expectations met first.

Most days we were committed to being married, yet lived lives that were going different directions and intersected at the checkbook.

I believe we were like many married couples. We wanted to have the kind of relationship that was supportive, loving and tender. The kind of love that looked like Jesus-kind-of-love.

But selfishness is the opposite of love. 

Wanting to be served is the opposite of being a servant.

Truth? I did many things, thinking they were for the Lord, which were most likely done for selfish reasons. Too often I was sitting in church, but not living the example of what that means.

This I know. If it isn't done in love, for God's glory, it doesn't count in heaven. 

The good, good news, is that God can redeem lost time when a heart turns toward Him.

At some beautiful point, there was a shift in our hearts that took us from selfish living, to seeking the well-being of the other.

It was never about our differences, but about our togetherness and how we lived love toward the other. 

It began when we displayed deep respect and being  for the other. A sense of reading the others heart and asking, “What can I do for you right now.”

Being served made it easy for the other to want to serve.

If one chose to love when it was hard, it made it easier for the other to move toward love.

Too often, we lived as if we were on opposite teams. As if  we were players in an individual sport.

All or nothing. Win or lose.

Me against him. Him against me.

In our immaturity we didn't grasp that when one of us lost, the other lost too.

We didn't understand we were on the same side.

When you are one, what happens to the other––happens to you both.

We are on the same team, going the same direction. A dance of give and take and being strong when the other is weak. Cords twisted together which are not easily broken. 

And the more we understood this, the more we actually lived this.

We either win together or we lose together.

Our goal isn't to be alike, our goal is to be together. Together with all of our differences and dreams, being lived for the glory of God.

Not to collect hurts, or assign shame, or issue condescending remarks.

Not to criticize, but to encourage.

Not perfection, or to change the other, but to embrace one another and spur one another on to be the best we can be.

Together.

To love and to be loved through valleys and tears, pulls back the holy veil and reveals the gospel being lived out in our lives.

Unity is the picture. The Church is the picture.

Single and married people both, get to work on these relational basics, but married people generally get to practice from sun up to the falling in bed, as they rub up against the imperfect person who shares their home.

Marriage is a living picture of  God's grace. His unconditional love. His complete forgiveness. His living through our lives and changing us at a soul level to live love like He did.

When we moved from wanting to be served, to having the heart of a servant, we began to grow up and grow together. 

Our marriages, as well as our individual lives, when lived for Jesus, display to the world the truth of  the gospel of Christ.

What is on the inside of us, will be lived on the outside of us.

Photo from Unsplash *Quote*


Are you single or married? 
What do you find the most challenging in the everyday loving like Jesus?
Share an encouragement?


Monday, October 19, 2015

Opening Our Life And Home

Studies indicate that one out of two people who visit your home, are likely to go through your bathroom cabinet and drawers. Reading this little bit of trivia last week, may have sent me off a small cliff of panic, as we prepared for company on Friday night.

Thinking about people peering at my toothbrush and makeup didn’t bother me. Dog hair that floats effortlessly across the wood floor in the kitchen and gathers into colonies of dust bunnies, enough to stuff a sock monkey ––that bothered me.
I’m hardly exaggerating. Our corgi, who is super cute and adored, is in her full, all-out, fall shed.

One of three, complete, on-going, sheds a corgi does every year. One more shed than the average canine. And when she hears that company is coming she will just sit in the center of the living room and release her hair in large tufts. It would be funny, except that it’s not.

Just a few days before, my spinach and blueberry shake blew up all over the kitchen cabinet, reaching to the ceiling. I had mopped some of it up, but found good reasons to ignore standing on the counter to get the rest. Now, it was a purple and green mosaic of concrete like texture, on light cabinet doors.

The past month has been a complete influx of stuff, as I may have mentioned, like nine-hundred and ninety-nine times. I feel as though I've lived through something epic.

My sister became the 'Keeper of the grave d├ęcor' and I became the 'Protector of the Polaroid and Kodak moments' of our entire family throughout their whole lives. Both of us accepted these jobs assignments and their respective crates, with some reluctance.

My new lifetime responsibility, literally lines the garage, so that you have to shimmy sideways to go from one end to the other. I warned my husband, “…you watch football, so use your skills to tackle anyone who dares to put a hand on the doorknob which leads to the garage.”

Since the North Central region of the United States just received its first frost, the entire garden blew up into my house the evening before. I decided to hide it all in the garage as well, along with a sack of very ripe bananas that someone gifted me, requesting I return them as banana bread.

While the kids were all home for my dad's auction, we squeezed in family pictures ––and the flu.

After I personally recovered from that flu, I sprayed and washed and wiped, but just thinking about our guests using the same bathroom where people may have hung out in the throes of throwing up, made me obsessed with toxic cleaners. The kind which would not make an environmental friendly blog post.

I was accelerating to a desperate state of mind. Who wants to hear that people came to your house for dessert and went home losing their lunch?

While using the noxious disinfectant, I went off on a teeny-tiny tangent.

This does annoy my husband, as I found out when he shared that information with our newly formed married people group. The very group I was stressing getting ready for.

After the glue-on-the-bathroom-vanity-incident, I could see he does have a point.

So, I may have taken Gorilla Glue and tried to address a problem with our bathroom vanity.

It was just a small problem, caused by grandchildren trying to reenact Noah’s flood in the bathtub. I can testify that water does weird things to veneer vanities.

This glue is good, and maybe better than duct tape for many odd jobs.

Unfortunately it added a new dimension to my dilemma, once it ate through the paint and formed a hard foam that will have to be sawed off and is of course, now, the first thing you notice when you walk in that room.

One more element to my crazy, was a black, extremely agile spider that galloped across the room while I was vacuuming.

I ended up rearranging the furniture in the basement.

I realize that spiders have to live too, but his timing was bad.

The black spider situation, really happened because my husband is a handyman.

One of the things I did not share with our new Grow Group, is how his handiness can be annoying, especially if someone is trying to talk over the screaming.

Not us screaming. Our vacuum. It screams.

This vacuum has died many times, but JQ keeps resurrecting it. It may be true, that this vacuum is the pinnacle of JQ's handy-man-ness.

He has repaired or replaced every part possible.

Even when flames came out of the cord, he somehow fused the wires back together. And it works unless you stretch the cable too far, then it makes a weird snapping sound.

The advantage is, we haven't had to spend the money we've setback for the newest, most amazing dog-hair-picker-upper machine on the market.

The disadvantage is that our old, but faithful machine makes a high-pitched screeching noise that causes black spiders, small children, and of course dogs to run.

Think fingers on a chalk board, only louder and more disturbing.

We vacuumed the couches and the silverware drawer.

Because nothing says, “welcome”,  like a clean silverware drawer right?

It was at that point that I realized how crazy I was being with, “what will people think.”

I want to open my home to real and meaningful relationships, with the folks one pew up or one house down.

It's risky to be known by others.

It doesn't always work out. Sometimes I'd rather put up a protective wall with a neat and tidy external appearance.

Me, trying to cover up the messy parts of my house could be my best attempt to hide the messy parts of my heart. 

It's a gift to gather.

It's a gift to push through the uncomfortable and the panic and invite people to just come and sit.

Romans 12:13 says, "Take every opportunity to open your life and home to others."

To do that, things are bound to be messy and unplanned and even uncomfortable sometimes. But the request is simply to be open with my life and home.

That takes the pressure off of having things perfect and puts the focus where it should be––on "others."

What if all I did was invite people into my mess and real life?

What if all I cared about was making them feel truly welcome?

That is where real community could happen and how God is glorified.

If you come to my house, feel free to check the cabinets, but enter the garage at your own risk. You already have an idea how things are around here.

How about you. How do you open your life and home to others?

Do you strive for perfection or relax in the details?








Monday, October 12, 2015

What Defines Us?

You know that verse where Jesus tells us to fill our houses and garages and outbuildings to the brim with stuff?

Yeah, there isn’t a verse like that.














The Bible does talk about how we are not to be defined by our stuff.

What I can tell you is this; I've had a year that's been full of messing with stuff and how I've allowed it to define me.

In January we were in full swing gathering all the stuff for a wedding. Once we found it all and paid for it, we had to store it, move it, set it up and take it down. Again we moved it, stored it, loaned it and ultimately gave it away. People who do that sort of thing for a living, do not get paid enough.

We've also had the daily maintaining of our regular stuff too.

All the dusting, cleaning, washing, mowing, trimming, sorting, filing, stacking, reorganizing and re-prioritizing of it. 

I wrote a little about the stuff I was storing up here.

We’ve been hauling it to the various thrift centers by the car loads and even trailers full. And this last weekend, as crazy would have it, we actually took part in a garage sale and sold some stuff, swapped some stuff with the others there and gave some more stuff away.

We have stuff-sorting-mantras such as; “Don’t look back,” and, “Use it or lose it,” and my favorite, “Be brave and just. let. it. go......”

We ask our stuff questions, such as; “Do you have a home and a job in our home?” and, “Do you add life to our life?” and, “What will our children think when they find this when we’re gone?”

Okay… so maybe we really won’t care when we're gone. We just want space to live a better life now.

I actually heard myself say it to someone recently. “I’m not super emotionally attached to stuff.”

Even though I spoke those words with sincerity, and there is a degree of truth, the reality is I do have a comfortably large home that doesn’t have a single empty closet. There is also an attached two car garage that barely fits two cars.

So, I like to think that I’m not attached to stuff, but my life seems to prove otherwise.

As life would happen to happen ––the past two months have been dialed in like a macro lens, on stuff.

There has been the sorting and the sifting and the selling of a lifetime of accumulated possessions.

My parents lived over fifty-seven years at a single address. That is notable by itself. I think everyone should have to pack up all their stuff and move at least once every ten years, so we can see what has been accumulated. But that is another post for another day.

Their stuff, took the collecting of stuff to a new level. If one cool thing was good, than having twelve of that one thing would be better. It was so organized, that it took us by surprise how much stuff we were really dealing with.

All their stuff took us on a roller-coaster ride of unexpected emotions. 

To unpack boxes with items, tucked in newspaper, dating back forty years was not uncommon. Like unearthing fragments of the past, we handled each item. It was peeling back the layers of two lives lived. A bit like unlocking some of the hidden chambers of their hearts. As if the stuff held secrets that had been sealed for years.

We found ourselves astonished, to be using words like, "remember when....." And who could have known the flood of memories a single dish or tablecloth could awaken.

It was like a time-machine that ushered us to our places around that table, in this home, where we passed the meat and mashed potatoes, and laughed and weathered many storms of life ––together.

Maybe that's a little bit of why stuff can be hard to part with; we're afraid we'll forget.

We had too may moments we couldn't mask the tears. It is the reality that people don't live forever.

It is knowing that our mom taught us so much, but she didn't teach us what to do when she was gone.

So there we were, spending hours and days sifting though stuff. She had saved things her mom made. Things that we made. Things that without her, we will never know their story.

It's true what they say; how stuff can mask our need.

It’s not that stuff, in and of itself is the problem. We need certain things. We can use our stuff and our lives to impact others. It’s when money, possessions, status, entertainment, distractions and earthly treasures get the greater part of our attention, time and energy ––that’s when Jesus says, we've got a big problem!

It’s not about, NOT having stuff. It is about, not allowing stuff to have us.

The things of earth do not last.

Everything.

EVERYTHING.... is subject to fade, deteriorate or someday be destroyed.

Water, air, and time will take its toll. Thieves can break in and take it. The things of this earth have no permanence and we cannot take them with us. We just can't.

I know a man whose personal mantra is this; "The person who dies with the most stuff wins."

That may sound amusing, but it's not true.

The person who dies with the most stuff, is gone and his stuff will be sorted though and someone else will have to deal with it.

We all leave this earth with the same thing we arrived with; Our souls.

What happens after this life is what we should really be talking about.

The Lord who spoke stars and planets into space, also made a space inside our souls. And that space can only be truly filled with His Spirit.

But we humans.... we spend our lives trying to fill that space with food, positions and possessions.

We think because we are in the world, that this world is all there is.

The problem is of course, that we are earth-dwellers.

And since earth is what we see, we get the idea that this is all there is.

The things around us seem tangible, but they are temporal.

So how can we define our lives, if it isn't with the stuff we have, or the places we live, or the degree we have attained or the trips we take?

All those things can be good. They can be enjoyed, especially when we use them to bring glory to God.

When I began to allow Jesus to define me, this world and all the stuff, good and bad, took on a different meaning.

I became grateful for what I had. I found a new ability to love people who are difficult to love. I wanted to pray for people and believe God for great and impossible things that money cannot buy.

Faith has given me new hope and heavenly perspective.

There is the American dream, which often involves hard work so we can have more stuff. This can cause us to miss the God-centered dream and the plans He has for us. Plans that will impact heaven and earth for all of eternity.

As long as we walk this planet there will be a pull toward the things this world has to offer.

This year of being schooled in stuff, has made me realize how much of it there is in my life. And that if I am not to be defined by what we own or do, than I am to be defined by something else. Or in this case, Someone else. 

My life verse is Luke 10:27. Where Jesus says; "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself."

We cannot love the Lord and others as we should if we are consumed with the stuff of this earth. 

The shuffling and maintaining of our own stuff, coupled with the passing of my mom, the frailness of my father and the sale of their possessions gathered over an entire lifetime, have renewed a fire in my heart to use my life and resources for eternity. 


How about you?

What defines your life?



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Linking up here

Monday, October 5, 2015

When You're Rich

Friday began with a simple text that read, “Congratulations!”

“Well that’s sure nice of them,” I half-whispered while sliding out of bed.

Minutes later another message pinged in.

Glancing down with tooth brush hanging to the side, I read and reread these words. “Congratulations! This could not have happened to more deserving people. We know you’ll do great things.”

It seemed a little odd ––but nice.

Wrapped in my favorite blanket, I sip coffee slow and read. My iPad blinked with messages. I was trying to push back the day and embrace this one quiet morning.

The night before we arrived home late from traveling to see my oncologist and doing annual scans.

The days on the road, were just how I love them. My husband as captive audience.

Me talking. Him listening. More walking than shopping. The beauty of mountains in autumn. Eating all the Krispy Cream donuts we had bought to share with our kids. Making the trip to our favorite roof top Mexican food establishment.

It was as refreshing as the Colorado air in October.

My tests came back good. –So grateful.–

I passed these messages off, as people who were happy for my good report.

Soon another text came in that had me a bit more baffled. “Good morning! Heard your great news. Could not have happened to nicer people.”  Wow! What does it feel like to be rich?

Now I was confused.

And intrigued.

So I went to the computer and began to read the messages and e-mails that were waiting there.

More of the same. Congratulations. Words affirming that we were the most deserving people, ever, to win a million dollars.

I found myself nodding, as if I agreed.

I tried to call JQ. No answer.

It would seem like he'd have called me by now with this kind of news, though we do make jokes about our memory.

I could hear the conversation in my head. He’d try to be all nonchalant and act like it wasn’t that big of a deal. “So hey....  by the way…. we just won a million dollars."  "What’s for lunch?”

There may have been thoughts filtering into my brain, about what we would do if this winning the lottery, being rich, was for real.

We would definitely buy JQ a new vehicle. The paint has peeled off the main body of his 120,000 plus miles, well-loved transportation. His seat-belt doesn't even work, but that's another story.

He'd probably want something practical like a new Corvette.

I thought, "How nice would it be to give some money to the first 20 people that sent messages to tell us how happy they were to hear we'd won."

And we could celebrate by getting some front row tickets to a football game. Never mind that I've never cared to share 16” seats with 81,000 fanatic fans who have been known to paint their bodies red and stand in subzero temperatures. Never-mind too, that I don’t look particularly good in red. (Go Big Red!)

And I think we'll get an ice cream machine. The kind that makes soft serve, vanilla, chocolate or swirl. Then I would need a personal trainer and while we're at it, a house cleaner and we would probably have to put an iron fence around our home, but that is against the neighborhood covenant so we'll have to move.

Of course I’d give an exorbitant amount of money to an orphanage in Mexico that is bringing kids in off the street and teaching them about Jesus and giving them an education. And I'd donate to a baby house in Africa. And we could give money to dig wells for clean water in remote 3rd world countries. I've been trying to talk JQ into adopting a large family of children who are stuck in the foster care system and just want to be together under one roof.

Yes, those are just a few things I decided we'd do in the first minutes of being rich.

My money spending, do-good-er planning, was jolted back to reality when JQ got home. He'd been too busy on the phone responding to people who wanted to know how it felt to be rich, to answer my texts and calls.

I told him about all the messages and he matter of fact-ly stated that we couldn't be the winners of a lottery, since he had not purchased a ticket.

“Are you sure?” I pressed.  “All these messages, ––I feel like we may have won.”

He went on to explain that the winning ticket was sold near our house, and since no one had claimed the million dollars at that point, someone at work thought it would be funny and told one person that we had won, just to see how far the rumor would go.

“So all this proves is guys are rampant rumor spreaders? I said in a bit of a deflated tone.

“Yup,” he replied.

They say, you have better chances of getting into a car accident, plane accident, or being struck by lightning, than to win your lottery.

I happen to live near a woman who has been struck by lighting. Not just once, but twice. Surely the odds of knowing someone who has been struck by lightning twice, has to be as crazy as winning the lottery without buying a ticket! 

Obviously rational thinking has left the building at this point.

We laughed about the whole thing and did our best to squash the rumors as congratulations rolled in. 

And on Sunday our pastor was talking about money and storing up treasure in heaven. Crazy timing.

He pointed out, how here in America, if we make poverty level income per year, we are in the top 2% of the richest people in the world. 

So the reality is, we are rich.

Rich by the worlds standards, but more, we are rich with things that money cannot buy.

That sounds trite, but our faith, our family, our friends are beyond what money can ever buy.

Walking out of a cancer center and being told the scans are clear  ––priceless.

It has rekindled an awareness that we want to be storing up, investing in more, are things that are eternal. Not to be good people, just doing good deeds. Eternal life really is a free gift because of Jesus Christ.

But everyday you and I have a choice how to use our resources.

We can choose to spend it all on things that will perish or we can invest in His kingdom and store up treasure in heaven. I want to get it that and do more of it in my everyday life.

So the reality is, Jim will keep driving his old reliable vehicle for a time, but we still may buy an ice cream machine.


 
© Rhonda Quaney