Monday, May 27, 2013

Always Hallelujah!

Crashing, ground shaking thunder woke me in the middle of the night. I pull the covers up around my neck and press my head deeper into the pillow, trying to half listen while I sleep. The sound that makes our old Labrador think the end of the world is coming, is the same sound that I love and find comforting.

Thunder and lighting always announces that I am still small and God is still in control.

Around this house I am trying to catch my breath. I've tried to get my head back in the game with naps, going to bed early and even sleeping in till 7:00 a.m. a few times. 

The whole thing, it started last summer. One of our girls, told another one of our girls, that they had this big bright idea, to take a family vacation to celebrate our youngest girl, turning twenty-one. Well they all got excited about it and convinced Jim and I too, that for just this one year, this was the thing to do.

It seemed ridiculous. The destination absurd. After all I have friends going to third world countries. Yes, they are serving up love and Jesus for their "vacations." With extravagant grace, they are building schools, churches and reaching out to touch the hem and hearts of those in deep need. They are blogging about the impact that poverty and need has had on their own impoverished souls. Their photo journalism captures faces with beautiful dark eyes. Windows to their souls that pierce flesh and comfortable hearts, transcending all language and cultural barriers.

Well, our children wanted to go to Las Vegas.

Any clear-thinking, Jesus loving adult, would frown and shake there heads "no-no-no" for the shear thought of going to Vegas for a family  vacation.

And trust me. Many did.

Truth is I was struggling too. While there are children starving for the basics in life, I was heading to a city known for living for it's excess and extravagance.

But the fact is, I live in extravagance every. single. day. of my life.

The week before we were to leave I straight out asked my husband how we got talked into this whole crazy thing. He shook his head and agreed that we might have been too quick to agree. Then he said this: "We just wanted to be with our adult kids and this is where they were going."

I don't know that it was a conscience decision, but I tried to keep the whole thing on the down-low. Seems like too many people knew we were going somewhere though and then they would ask about it. I'd stammer around with vague phrases like, "We are just traveling with our kids..."

Ya. That's it.

They would press, "So, where are you going?"

" La... la.  ...Las Vegas."

With hesitation I would say it.  And too many to count would pause politely and then reply, " can always go see the dam."

We heard it over and over and over. Before we left our home town, in the airport, on the airplane (really) and on the streets when we arrived. It happened often and with such predictability it became kind of a family joke.  It was as if,  touring the dam might redeem the fact that we were going to this particular destination.   It was like,  " ...ummm, you folks from Nebraska ..ya.... you might be more interested in the dam tour. And did you know we have a new bypass bridge?"

There is no doubt that we were out of place. And though we can appreciate that Hoover  Dam is one of the top ten construction achievements of our time and that there is indeed a new bypass bridge, well... we did not see them.

Instead, we got up early, drank amazing coffee and watched people. We walked for miles. We acted like complete tourists, taking pictures of silly things, eating #2 meals from In and Out Burgers, marveled at the fountains and the flora, rode the rollercoaster and one even bought the t-shirt.

We sat under palm trees, floated on the lazy river and ate nachos. We ambled more than once, to a little restaurant that seemed to be a best kept secret, with no long lines and who made fresh guacamole right at your table.

We spent time with each other and were able to see Jims sister and family for the first time in over a decade.

I began to recognize some of the locals too, in our short stay. Six times we passed the woman who played the accordion and sang opera, while curled up in the fetus position pressed up against the wall, just out of the path of the one thousand moving feet walking by. There was the man and his wife, who sat on the one bench, without a sign, staring at the ground, he would call out in a monotone voice with little inflection, "....can you spare a dollar ....wife ....and  ...I ...can ... eat..."  There were multitudes of men and women who snapped cards and pushed them into your face and others. So many others that were trying to sell you a piece of something.

My soul grew heavy for the masses of humanity.  Being pushed along by the crowd, I found myself talking to the Lord and saying...."These people.... You.... You...  You, love them all Jesus?"

Every grasping, pushing, shoving person. Every single stumbling, staggering, staring individual.

You love them.

And isn't that all of us?

Aren't we all just stumbling though this life?  No matter what city we find ourselves in, aren't we are all just passing through? This truth, no matter where we are in the whole wide world is this:

This is not our home. (read here?)

And I like my comfortable little world, on my comfortable little street, in my extremely comfortable little home.


This is not my Home.

And it is good to remember that all of this shall someday pass and we will all stand before the One who is worthy.

The One that Revelations talks of being seated on the Throne. The Lamb who was slain. The One who wants, that not one should perish.

Yes, the One who has placed eternity in the hearts of men.

Everything I do is connected to and part of the journey. This event or that activity does not increase His love for me or for that matter decrease His love for me.

Everywhere I go and everything I do is walking in Him because I carry in me the Hope of Heaven.

And I don't want to see a bridge, I want to be the bridge, to the Eternal Bridge.

Because friends, this world is not our home.

Yes, we went to a beautiful city with many wonders and amazing sights. Then this week I've been reading in Revelations about the Holy City. About the One who rides the white horse. About the One who illuminates Heaven.
     The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass.  The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald,  the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.  And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass.  And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day--and there will be no night there.   They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.   

In the book of Revelations we glimpse Jesus on the throne in the eternal city where there is no darkness.

No darkness, ever.

The place where there will always be an hallelujah to the King of Kings.

I want us all to be there together friends. 

 Then he brought them out and said,
 "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
 And they said,
 "Believe in the Lord Jesus,
 and you will be saved...."
  Acts 16:30-31

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Frothy Orange Treat

It started, with me thinking I was starving right now. In the refrigerator was half a drawer of organic oranges that needed used. So I pulled out my Vitamix and decided to try my hand at a smoothie. This is what I came up with and I think it's worth sharing. 


2 oranges with peel removed
1 cup ice 
1/2 cup water
1 package Stevia in the raw (or 4 drops liquid stevia)

Place ingredients in blender and process on high until smooth. 

That is it.

It is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

Only 130 calories of healthy goodness if you drank the whole thing by yourself. Or you could share half of it with a friend.

If you don't have a Vitamix  - -well it is worth doing some research on them. I use mine almost every day. Any blender will work for this recipe.

To this basic recipe, I've also added protein powder, greek yogurt and other fruit for more of a breakfast smoothie. However, for an afternoon pick-me-up snack you cannot beat this simple, good-for-you, refreshing drink.

Happy Monday!

Counting Blessings today:

#908 Sleeping in my own bed with my own ridiculous pillow
#909 That as a Jesus lover, I don't have to grasp and hoard, but find life by letting go and giving. (Jesus Calling May 4th)
#910 Grandson Max. At least one thousand smiles
#911 My office. Even in chaos it is a retreat.
# 912 Thankful that in the whole wide world, God planted me here.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Motherhood and Dreams

I bought geraniums.

Mostly because I know you loved them.

This week, too,  I poured pine sol in the toilet just so the house would smell clean, like you used to do.

Dad and I took the little stone bird bath to the cemetery. I've never seen a single bird in it, but they dance around like its an altar.

Now hours of flu have ransacked my body and taken its toll. My feet shuffle around the kitchen, my stomach, it still hurts, and my heart too. How do you celebrate Mother's Day, when your mom is gone and all you want is to hear her voice?

Yes, with my achy joints and hurting heart, well I make chicken soup with homemade noodles. Not because I'm hungry, but because I wanted something that reminds me of you. I know that if I could call and tell you I'm not feeling well, you would bring me soup or at least 7-Up with orange juice. And you would hug me even though there is risk of my germs rubbing off on you.

That's what kind of mom you were.

I lean hard into the dough and feel the soft texture pressed down under the weight of my hands. Yes. I could see you there working in the kitchen. I could feel the softness of your cheeks as I brush a kiss across them. As I'm doing my own dishes I could almost hear the clamor of you, washing pans while I dried. Oh a thousand times we stood at the sink. You washing and me drying. In that full and crazy house, those were some of our most intimate one-on-one times.

In my mind, is beautiful you, rocking in your favorite chair and stitching purple embroidery floss into delicate flowers or with your glasses resting on the end of your nose doing your crossword puzzle. You the wordsmith. I can see your smooth, white skin with a speckling of age spots. Your busy hands are strong and your fingers straight, with just a hint of arthritis on the tip of your right index finger and all your neatly clipped fingernails. 

Some days, still,  I pick up the phone to call you, thinking you are sitting there waiting and rocking. Perhaps to ask for that one recipe again or so you can tell me how to spell a word. Yes, I know I can Google it, but it was our thing.

This last few weeks I have wanted to share the wonder of how your youngest granddaughter is twenty-one already and how your great-grandbaby Max, who you didn't get to meet, he smiles like his sweet mommy and that still, no one in the family can make coleslaw like you.

Frames of my life flash through my head. I can see you every Saturday night, setting pin curls in my hair for church on Sunday, you hiding Christmas gifts in the exact same place, and how you called me "Ron" or "Ronnie" and told me that I was the beautiful little blue eyed, blond headed girl my dad always wanted.

I think of how, when you were nervous you talked fast and said silly things. How you told certain stories over and over again, because they were important to you. How you always thought your sisters were all the cutest and smartest and how you loved all six of them. Even the crazy ones.

When I was going through your cookbooks and recipe boxes trying to sniff a glimpse of your heart, I found that  you must have loved, loved lemon and pineapple. And now I've been craving something lemony too these days. 

Thousands and thousands of meals you cooked standing in that one place, bent over the gas stove that faces north, with a view out the double wide picture window, looking out over the front pasture. You frying bacon, hash-browns and eggs most every morning.

On one day while you cooked,  I sat and asked you what your little girl dreams were. And you stared out the window like peering down a long lost tunnel and while you stirred the food you said, "...I always thought I'd be a legal secretary." "...or maybe..... a writer." "And when you kids were grown I thought I'd go back to school, but..."

Your voice trailed off, but I knew. 

Because you raised the four of us and then were handed two more that needed your strong arms to hold them, someone who would be there to make thousands of meals more. Girls who needed one willing woman to tuck them into bed at night and to be there again in the morning when they woke up. 

They needed you so they could grow up and live out their dreams. We all needed you to set aside your dreams for the greater dreams.

When I was in eighth grade you suggested I write a paper for a contest. I yawned and you prodded. How gently you encouraged me to gather facts, string words into sentences, and rewrite it until it took form. You were my spell check. No one was more surprised than me that I won second place in that contest. (Ok. Maybe my teacher too, was surprised?) 

And later. When you were gone, I found pictures of you sitting in high school classes behind typewriters, in writing clubs and on newspaper staff.

Before marriage, children and life getting messy.... you were a writer.


Before you were a mom you had dreams. They were overrun by dreamless, sleepless nights. 

By setting aside the very essence of your one beautiful soul, you shaped our souls. 

In a million little ways we broke your heart and in ten million ways you loved us anyway.

To truly love, is to suffer. And who suffers more than a mother like you, who buries two sons, in the place meant for your own resting place?  There is no getting over that kind of tragedy.

Your dreams were beaten down and all-but-forgotten by years of being  - - a mom.

Yet, through all the pain, life still sprang forth from your labor, mom.

You really were a bit like an altar in the family. The solid center stone in a home. The glue that keeps things stuck together. And if funeral attendance can be an indicator, many were your spiritual children too.

Constant in commitment, extravagant in selfless love, tireless in truth and through all the trials. 

Yes, you and your beautiful strong heart. It wasn't until it quit beating that I could fully realize that you spent your life dreams on others and left for me and the generations to come, a legacy of your dreams. 

Was there anyone who really knew, the you, that lay dormant deep within your soul?  Did anyone really know your most intimate, heartbeats?

There is only One.

The Dream Giver Himself. Only God knew. And only He could take the dreams, that you willingly laid aside and hand them off, so that other dreams could come true.

How do you celebrate Mother's Day when your mother is gone?

You press in, to love those in your life, with  the mess and beauty of it all.    

You keep dreaming and walking in your little girl dreams.

* * * * * * *

Sharing today my favorite non-profit group is The A21 Campaign with Christine Caine who is fearlessly leading the fight on humane trafficking.

* * * * * * *

Linking up with the sweet, beautiful Holley Gerth today. 

* * * * * * *

Counting 1000 Gifts

#902  Max's smile when he sees his mommy
#903  Fresh mowed grass, the first cut of the year
#904  Random pansy that is growing out of the edge of concrete
#905  Our Pastor John Stone. Amazing man. Yes.
#906  Fresh clean sheets. On Monday. #justlikemom
#907  Husband home tonight.

* * * * * * *

Photo Credit 1     Photo Credit 2

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Monday, May 6, 2013

One Life Well Lived

She met me at the door. Her home was modest, neat, and tucked quietly in an enchanted-forest-like setting. Her small trim frame swung the door open as she beacons me to enter. She smooths back random strands of grey and white hair,  but the soft wisps still frame her face.

Nervously she chatters,  "Oh I do hope what I've prepared for lunch is to your liking!"

Feelings of guilt that she has worried, are overridden by my excitement that she bothered.

The table setting was framed by soft white and golden tones of light, that danced with shadows formed by sun streaming through trees, before they made their entrance into her kitchen. 

A thick white cotton tablecloth draped over the edges of an aged hardwood table. Intricate blue embroidery lace scrolls the edges and lays a beautiful canvas for the mixed and matched table settings.

She fusses over details. I ask her if I can help, but she waves me to take a chair.

One plump emerald colored glass vase, grasps hand-gathered daisies. My fingerprints are evident as I sip from the frosty, etched crystal glass. Small porcelain bowls were placed, one heaping full of steaming caramelized vegetables and another with rice. Then a miniature platter with fish was placed, to finished the informal banquet.  

I assured her that everything was lovely, that the experience was already delicious.

The truth was, I was hungry for what her heart knew, not for what she served.

Before we met as strangers and became friends, I often saw her sitting alone in church.

There was something that drew me to her. One day I just took the wild chance and asked her if she would be interested in being my mentor of sorts. I was starving for an older women to speak love, truth, wisdom and hope into my soul.

Graciously she agreed to meet with me. It was easiest if I came to her home, so this was our first brave meeting.

She prayed tenderly for  us and for the meal. Conversation was unstructured.  Her company, was sweeter even, than the freshly baked chocolate cake she served on translucent saucers. 

We stacked dishes and began to amass affection toward each other.

Moving then to her living room, she sat in the rocker-glider and fingered the worn leather spine on her Bible. Sitting straight across, in what seemed a small framed chair made for children, I pressed her to read to me. Wire rimmed glasses were adjusted, as she tilted her head to focus and Spanish words tumbled from her thin lips with perfect inflection and accent.

She and her husband had served as missionaries for decades and her fluency in the language had not been lost. 

Many things intrigued me about this one beautiful life she had lived. The fact she had been on the very same soil, as my virtual mentor, Elisabeth Elliot,  made it like breathing some kind of holy air. She being a writer made me hang breathless on every carefully crafted word she spoke.

We had conversations about the plot of her latest book in progress and her four children.  She was surprised that her stories thrilled me. I would prod her to tell me more. It was as if I had unearthed a secret vault heaped with rare jewels, diamonds and gold. Like a child I wanted to roll each precious stone in my hand and let them sift through fingers.

She was liquid treasure, dripping with the Spirit. 

As time passed and as we had opportunity to meet, we did. We decided to study 1 John together. Sometimes I brought take-out food. There were days the wind blew and we stayed inside and there were glorious afternoons when we walked on paths, in wooded areas around her home. She was a student of Creation, beauty, flora and people. Some paths took us deep into dark overgrown areas where the grass wasn't green and the sun could hardly pierce the tree tops. Some places had rickety hand-hewn bridges and paths where beavers crossed. We solved world problems and swapped recipes.

She awoke a sleeping wonder in my soul. 

She was a gift. 

Mostly she just listened.

She didn't judge me or gasp or even look surprised from the things that spilled out of my heart.

Her dimming eyes saw straight into my prodigal soul.

One day she announced that she had been told she was in the early stages of a cancer and that the time had come for her to move closer to family.

Our brief season together probably didn't seem like much of a "friendship" to her. To me, it was like drinking fresh, cold water from a pristine artisan fed spring. 

My mind often runs mental fingers over our times together. Every meeting lingers in the deep fiber of my being.

She quoted Titus 2 with her life, without ever speaking a word. She came along side me as a friend and teacher, making my life richer, my love for the Lord deeper.

She passed on to me things that cannot be purchased or attained, but by time spent in relationship.

In a sense she gave me fragments of a lifelong gathering of her soul  - - to pass the baton.

We didn't do a formal "mentor" plan. We did take a chance on doing some sweet life together and my life is better for her taking the time to be with me.

This year I have become more aware, as I walk the halls of our church home, that, now I am, the older woman. Adults that I think of as children, because they were raised with my children, are taking their rightful places as Pastors, praise team leaders and serving with their many other God given gifts. 


The baton is being passed.

I don't want to take that cue and become a person who just occupies a pew.

This season I walk in, I desire to speak life into fluttering hearts, courage into fearful humanity, touch the deep places of women... by being a friend, teacher and advocate to those who are open to me. 

I drove slow away from her home that last time. My lip quivered as the car bumped along the deep ruts of the narrow trail. The sun shimmered across the lake, highlighting the liquid ripples that lap and curl with the breeze. My emotions are more like white caps on my soul. Gratitude and tears washes over me for the time she opened her heart and home to invest in me.

* * * *

To have a mentor in your life is to have more life.

To have a mentor could quite possibly effect generations to come. 

No matter which age and stage of life, if we are walking with Jesus, we can be a mentor for God's glory.

Right now, who are you investing your life in? 

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© Rhonda Quaney