Monday, February 24, 2014

The Table And The Good China

The heavy table with its rounded edges and shiny Formica top was pushed tight up against the wall and centered between the framed out kitchen window of the farm house I grew up in. It was there that I learned about the everyday and the importance of meeting at the table. My mom probably didn't think that serving eggs with bacon, tomato soup sided with grilled cheese sandwiches or meatloaf and mashed potatoes topped with lumpy gravy, on her tiny blue flower Corelle dishes, would mean so much in the whole scheme of life.

But I think it did.

She didn't feel like serving the almost 20,000 meals to me in those short eighteen years in her home, but she did. And she did it for years before I arrived and for decades after I departed. In fact the very day that I dropped in to see how she was doing, since she had contracted an upper respiratory infection, my dad was a little out of sorts because it was 5:00 p.m. and she wasn't cooking him supper. She and I both missed that meal as we drove to the doctor and then on to the emergency room. The fact is, mom would never cook another meal, because she passed away unexpectedly, three days later.

That's how life is.

You are going along thinking that life will always be a certain way and then one day it isn't.

For my dad, one of the hardest, daily reminders of mom’s earthly absence, is at meal time.

This Saturday I called him to see if we could lunch. He hates to eat alone, so that is usually a good way to spend time with him. There was a pause at the other end of the line. I know too, that he gets weary of eating out. So I begin to do what I do best when things are a little awkward, -I ramble on, because I'm a verbal processor who can talk and answer my own questions. "..Oh you are probably just sick of eating out.." "Do you have plans?" "Hey what if we do 4:00 at my house?" "Ya.... just come out to my house I'll find something to eat for the two of us....."

He does what Dads do well when they are tired of eating alone and eating out and agrees that he could make that work.

After hanging up, I shook my head, because I hadn't made it to the grocery store like I intended earlier in the week. I have a self-imposed rule to stay out of those places on the weekend when other people have to be there. After shuffling around I came up with two pathetic pork-chops. Who knew how long they had eluded being found in this freezer of ours.  Like small unappealing slabs of rock, I decided they were my best bet for company in three hours. My favorite earthenware roaster, the one I found years ago for $1, was retrieved from the closet that desperately needs reorganized. It makes me look like I'm a good cook. The meat hit the bottom with a clink. I poured a can of cream of mushroom soup with a little water over the top, then add a potato. I didn't even have a carrot to add into the mix.

With that in the oven, I went about doing the things I already had planned to do that day. Less than an hour before my dad was supposed to arrive, I was remembering my mom. Some days you just miss people more than others. And I was thinking about the legacy she left me.

The legacy of how I love to show hospitality in my home.

How she equipped me with the tools to put a meal together and not over-think the details.

How life and dining were always a bit more about the being together than the presentation and the fuss.

Placing the salt and pepper on the table I caught a glimpse of moms china in the corner cabinet. I don't remember our family ever using them. Neither does my dad. It was just last fall that dad gave one set of hand-painted china, made by a family friend to my sister and the set that my Uncle Tom had shipped back home from his tour in Japan was given to me.

And when do you use fine china purchased in Japan over half a century ago?

Pulling one plate out, I ran my finger on the delicate edge of silver and thought that today would be a good day. An ordinary day could be a little bit extra ordinary perhaps.

Suddenly my small pork chops looked a little more inviting. Digging around in the refrigerator I unearthed the fresh cut pineapple which had been pushed behind the carton of milk. The fruit looked quite different in the silver rimmed saucer topped with a small leaf of spinach. The salad we had made earlier in the week was a masterpiece when plated one dish stacked on another. Just recently I had read of a simple chocolate mousse which called for a hand full of melted chocolate chips, one tablespoon of honey folded into freshly beaten whipping cream. You cannot really go wrong with fresh whipped cream and chocolate. I gathered a few things for a make-shift centerpiece and add a small candle.

Just like my dad with his tough exterior, when he arrived, he never seemed to notice that this meal was any different, than any meal he'd ever eaten on any other day. And maybe it wasn't.

We set aside the things that tugged on our hearts and minds and sat face to face at this wooden slab of a table. This altar of sorts, a place to gather and be refreshed. A place to celebrate the simplicity and the gift of food and conversation and each other. The modern day altar where we celebrate the goodness, the bounty and the mercy we have received. And when he asked me to, that's how I prayed before we ate.

Dad and I talk casually about things that had been, things that are, and things that might someday be.

The sound of silverware hitting fine china has a different kind of ring to it. It sounds like freedom. And the single flame flickered a dance on a cold overcast day, while two people shared a meal in all it's simplicity and complexity in meaning. 

The time at the table was a reminder to me of the importance of gathering, of sharing a meal and not waiting another fifty-six years to break out the good china on an ordinary day. 

Part of the legacy my mom established was her daily diligence and coming to the table. The gathering for each meal at the very heart of her home. It is a legacy I hope my children and grandchildren and their children after them, embrace.

And you.

~ What are your table memories?

~ How can we make sharing a meal in our homes more of an experience?

Monday, February 17, 2014

If God Is Real


Something about skimming along the jet stream, at 35,000 feet above the ground makes me feel closer to God. Or perhaps, I would have felt that way anywhere, because of where I had been, all that I had heard, and the energy I felt from those women I had met.

Because there was all that, too.

It was a thread of friendship that entangled me to go on this adventure in the first place. A friendship that has shared mutual love and admiration for our families, homemade bread, and blueberry smoothies. Cherri called one day in August, after reading about the If:Gathering. She thought this was something the Lord had for us to do.

The IF event was billed in vague terms: If God is real, then what? Honestly, I have believed this to be true for some time, so didn't feel a need to have it proved. But there was that thread of friendship and trust and expectancy to share an adventure, so we pressed forward.

We bought plane tickets.

In some ways that was the easy part. Everything else felt like we were trying to thread a camel through the eye-of-a-needle,  because we purchased airfare before the IF:Gathering event tickets went on sale.

Bad idea on a normal day. We are either crazy or foolish. Trusting God to show up or putting Him to the test. We had no idea that interest would be so high and that servers would crash and all event tickets would sell out in forty-two minutes. And we were not two of the ticket holders.

I sent an e-mail to the organizers, just asking if they might remember us, if two people backed out.  What ensued was a long, slightly crazy story of faith and the passing of time, but in December we received an e-mail that said we were confirmed to attend the If:Gathering.

We prayed for those planning the event, we prayed for God to move through them and all the details. We prayed too, that He would orchestrate every detail of who we would sit by, meet, and encounter. From the taxi cab driver, to who ever we might be a blessing to or blessed by.

There became this sense that God wanted us there.

I never even tried to explain to anyone what the event was about.

I have kept some notes on the many ways we saw God show up to get us to the event. None the least of which was flying between the veil of weather that canceled flights all around us.

The venue was decorated with long farm tables, mason jars, strings of twinkling lights and flickering candles.

The women were expectant.

God indeed showed up.

Photo Credit

The event opened with Hebrews 1 and a call to repentance. A call to throw off all that is slowing us down or holding us back from doing the things God has designed for us to do. And not just do... but what He designed us to BE.


In break out sessions we talked about: what is holding us back, what consumes our thoughts, and are we living out the purpose God has for us?

I was surprised that most of the women I had the opportunity to speak with, they knew some things that God was pressing on their hearts to do, but they were not walking in them because of  fear, doubt and insecurity.

There were the Poets, Preachers, Prophets, Writers of Prose and Praise teams.

Many of the speakers were familiar names, but more… I had never heard of.

A few of the things that touched my heart?

Ester Havens, humanitarian photographer, washed off her make-up before taking the stage. It was a beautiful, vulnerable, transparent way to approach the podium and win my heart. She talked of her years of photographing people around the world, and the shift in her heart to capturing the beauty of their souls.

Annie Lobert shared a little about her amazing journey and how anything that we hide has power over us. Her raw beauty and rock-star hair along with her self proclaimed “harlots heart” reminded me that I too need to bind my wandering heart to Lord that loves me.

Christine Cain has fire in the marrow of her bones and ignited embers in my own, with her message, that we can be like the Israelites and be delivered, but not be truly free. -But Jesus came so that we could be free. Indeed.

Sarah Bessy in her beautiful, English, Jesus loving way… quoted this:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:21-30 MSG)

Yes. I want to live this out please.

Aaron Ivey and Christy Nockles led some of the most powerful, beautiful worship I’ve had the privilege to be part of. I don’t say that lightly, since every Sunday I am blessed with some of the sweetest worship opportunities ever in my own church body. I  wanted to take pictures, but it was too holy to interrupt. 

Jen Hatmaker delivered and summarized the heart-beat of the event with humor, sincerity and brutal honesty. This quote? “We have always measured greatness in terms of power. (Jesus) always measured greatness in terms of service.” Ya… I don’t even want to read her book: “7 : An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.”  …but I should.

Diedra Riggs who lives right here in Nebraska, shared her heart and struggles and this quote: “Eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in America.” ~ referring to Martin Luther King Jr.’s words in 1963

Bianca Olthoff  A beautiful, dynamic teacher in her own lovely right said this: “It has been said, ‘hurt people hurt people.’ Well you know what? Free people free people!” Amen to that Bianca!

Kristin Armstrong was one of the most beautiful surprises of the event. She is a class act who shared some of the most profound, lived out through brokenness, words I have heard. One of the quotes I love the most from her is this: “God has a way of finding us.

I went to get Kristin's link for this post and found this quote from her in response to some of her critics…. I think it shows the depth of her soul. “I do not write about these subjects because I think I am an expert, I write about them because I struggle. I write about authenticity because I know what it is to be disingenuous. I write about integrity because I know disgrace (and grace). I write about courage because I know what it is to be weak. I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful - for all of it."

Honestly there are probably blog posts forthcoming, about the things that moved me in the deepest places: like all the women I was able to meet, share a meal, pray over, hear their stories, and sit next to on the planes. It’s all floating around in my mind and transforming my heart.

But can I encourage you today with this, from my friend Cherri Putz, who had spirit-eyes and ears to see and hear and then responded to going to the IF:Gathering in the first place? She said this before we ever boarded the plane to leave: “The same spirit that we see in these women, that spirit that we are drawn to, is the same Spirit that lives in us.”

Can we understand the wisdom of that?

It was so good to go, to hear, sing, learn, meet new people who offer us courage to walk in our callings, and to close the gap on what divides God’s people. But the thing that draws us toward these people is Jesus. He is in them and He is in us if we have trusted in His name.

We only have to cry out His Name.

So can I ask you?

If God is real, then what?

For me? 

I want to be obedient, repentant, walk on water, answer the wild call in my soul, I want to NOT shrink back from what He has for me to do, and not even to do more, but be more like Him, as I move forward in faith, in love, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I want to live like I believe and not just go through the motions of life.

I want to hear peoples stories and tell peoples stories.

I want to see more people set free.

I want to love on people and bring glory to God. 

I want to bring glory to the very God who rides the clouds and hand stitches the broken hearts of men and women and Who redeems their stories for His glory. 

So tell me....

If God is real, then ________?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

When You Want To Live Fully Alive

It's ridiculous, but I'm reading at least five books right now. I wish it were not true, because some of the books I can not do justice to being so fragmented. The one book I am pouring over or maybe it is pouring over me, is A Million Little Ways  by Emily P. Freeman.

There are so many books out there, being written by ladies who I respect and adore, yet I was skeptical how so many words could all have value or move my soul.

I am finding Emily's book to be profound.

The pages are unsettling my comfortable soul, awakening something deep within, something that I had no idea was even sleeping.

She asks this question: "Do you desperately fear you have nothing to offer the world but secretly hope you're wrong?"

She talks about how we all have a job to do and that job is to bring glory to God. She lays out beautiful truth from Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Emily goes on to unfold the beauty of the word masterpiece, sometimes being translated workmanship, which is the Greek word poiema. Our English word poem.

I've studied and read many things in the years since I have began my Jesus-walk, but I have never read that I am a poem, are a poem, indeed ...we are all individual poems, "created... anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."

So we are poems, image-bearers of God, made to reflect His glory. We do this, when the art in us is released from the depths of who we are, when our spirit links as one with the Holy Spirit. It is from that place that we reflect the very glory of God. It is in that place we find our highest purpose and then deep joy and satisfaction.

Some of the things it has stirred in me, is how to embrace my today-life, the place I am currently walking in. I have become more aware of how many people, including myself,  don't know what their purpose in life is.

Mostly I know about women. And it is hard, because we are caregivers, nurturers, relational beings. We pour out every ounce of energy we have most often to other people. Sometime even ... to please other people. If you are currently in the middle of all the runny noses, meals every four hours and too many sleep depraved nights, it's hard to find time just to shower.

And so many other women have passed through the years of raising  their children, working, home educated, serving in their churches and ten-thousand other things and now as our children leave home and we are no longer needed twenty four hours a day, we find ourselves wondering, how do I live, serve, create, know who God made me to be in this new season?

No matter what season of life we find ourselves in, we serve a great God, and He has something more for me, for you.

I just returned from a gathering of women and I was surprised by conversations I had, that all but one woman I spoke to, knew a little, if not a lot, about what God was speaking over her life. The crazy thing is that none of them had taken the first step of obedience toward it! This is amazing and concerning! They all stated that self-doubt and fear kept them from taking the first steps toward their passions and walking in what God has for them. In her book, Emily says it well, " life happens when we die to the old life."

A few things to consider:

 *What makes me come fully alive when I'm doing it or talking about it?

 *We probably are not qualified by the worlds standards.

 *A good place to begin is in time of prayer, repentance and seeking God's heart for us.

 *We don't have to look all over for what our purpose is. Right where we are we can look back, around,  within, and up.

It will always be out of time spent with Jesus that everything else comes. As we spend time alone with Him, the things we dream, desire, hope for spring up and out.

There is so much that this author unfold about awakening, uncovering and releasing the art you were designed to make. The deep meaning we all hope we have, most desire to unearth or more fully realize.

Get the book, and better yet, get with God. Since He is the One who created you and planned good things for you to do, He would be the One to reveal it to us as we spend time with Him.

A Few more quotes from Emily's book,  A Million Little Ways.

"When we live free, we are able to give freedom. When we live loved, we are able to give love. When we are secure, we are able to offer security. God reveals Himself through every artist, and the artist is you. The question isn't who is the artist? The question becomes who are you?"

"Be brave enough to move toward what makes you come alive."

"There is a real pull between exploring those things
that make us come alive while,
at the same time,
being present to our responsibilities and our life stages."

"Could it be possible that the thing you most long for, the thing you notice and think about and wish you could do, is the thing you were actually made and are being equipped to do?"

"....your true desire is found, not in God's ways or God's will
or God's blessings, but in God Himself."

 Ultimately we can do most anything as long as we do it for God's glory. That is hard to grasp. Some... probably most... won't like to hear that. It's too broad and wide and free.

Ultimately we can't do anything at all apart from God.

We will uncover and release these things when we spend time with the Lord in his word, prayer and seeking his face in all things.

What is your wildest dream?

Maybe it's not that far our of reach.

Maybe it is the very thing you were designed to do in this season of your life.

You were made by design.

Walk in your God-designed God-dreams.

post signature

Monday, February 10, 2014

When We Should Celebrate Love Everyday

Recently, JQ and I celebrated another year of life together. Somehow it seems deeper than ballons, chocolate and red hearts.

We didn't fly to an exotic island or even take a day trip in commemoration. We did cook steaks on the grill, tossed a nice salad along side and added tall iced glasses of water with a slice of lemon.  According to tradition a silver plate would have been in order, but we got a stainless steel coffee maker!!! (I know you aren't suppose to use exclamation marks..... but this calls for all three of them.)

We have enjoyed this gift perhaps more than any gift we have purchased.


(Thank you Tara for making cappuccino and talking coffee
when we were suppose to be organizing a women's retreat.)

What we realize at this point in our life, is that we are blessed.

A few decades have taught us be.

Be content.

Be thankful.

Be present in this day.

We know that every day is a day to celebrate love and the One who loved us first.

I don't want to make it appear that we have this dreamy marriage and life. The fact is, if you are walking in this world there are just hard things.

We have learned to walk more in the unforced rhythms of life, love and faith. 

It was his gentle, honest, relaxed way, that first drew me in. How he is comfortable just being himself. That he is hard working, slow to anger, committed and a promise-keeper.

Most know that he is a man of few words.

Few know that he is a great dancer.

There is rarely a morning when he is home, that you won't find him sipping coffee, glasses propped on the end of his nose, reading his Bible.

He holds records in high hurtles, has a certificate for a hole-in-one and likes to read about eschatology.

Not everyone has heard it, but his deep laugh will make you laugh too.

He never takes his wedding ring off.

Years pass and all that isn't real seems to pass with them.

So in honor of our anniversary and Valentines Day would you allow me to share some pictures? (I know. Apologies up front.) They capture small glimpses of why I am crazy about the man I get to spend my life with.

This man.....

This man has shown me what real love looks like and has never once told me to stop, when I dream up things to try.

It's like he thinks I can do anything.

He has done the same of our daughters.

He is secure in his identity. He doesn't need or want any attention.
(Ya, ...this post will bother him...)

He has shown that love is a verb, by his commitment, by time spent, by acts of kindness.

He has lived out in real life, what it means to be a real man.

He lives a love that is gentle, a love that kisses babies, a love that hold my hand, a love that stays.

A love that tries again.

A love that has no conditions.

A love that covers and protects.

His love is a gift from the Giver of all great gifts.... in fact he loves in response to the One who loved us first. Because what JQ and I do have, is Jesus. And His omnipresent fingerprints are all over our love-story.


He is the one who came as True Love and gave His life so we could have life to the full.

I wonder how many people think that true love is for someone else. - I know I did.

But then I met the ultimate Lover of my soul, Jesus. And in His gracious way, He re-wrote my story. A true love-story.

In response I have to tell people.

Thank you for your grace in too many pictures.

Everyday is a day to celebrate love.

You are loved too my friend.

The Lover and Creator of our souls.... He is crazy about you.

post signature

Monday, February 3, 2014

How To Make A Cold Day Warmer (and a recipe)

When I turned fifty, my children threw a surprise party. The celebration was complete with streamers, punch, cake, friends, family and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. 

My girls let out one of my secrets. I had never owned a matching set of dishes. So all the precious gifts were red Fiestaware. 

Fiestaware just screams party, even when it’s just me having a bowl of soup.

Even though matching dishes, didn’t rate high on my priority list, I do occasionally  pick up something that is just fun and compliments those pieces.

Recently I purchased this soup tureen from It was already an amazingly low price, but  purchased with some other gifts I received an additional discount that made it about $12. 

Yes, I bought myself a gift. Well now you know how I am.


I do love the reminder, that Jesus is the greatest gift and that there is no greater Love.

As the temperatures here dip low and the days are lived out  with too many things to do, I pulled out one of my family favorite recipes. The original recipe is from a long-time friend, Annette Woodhead.

We did some life together while homeschooling our children. She blessed our family by sharing her gifts of sewing, taught my oldest daughter to how to play the flute, and  sharing some of her survival secrets. 

This recipe was one of them.  It can be assembled quickly in a crockpot and run out the door. Major tip. Make supper by lunch time.  You can do this! 

While you don’t have to let it cook all day, it does just get better and better as the flavors simmer.

I have lost the very original handwritten recipe, but I remember Annette saying you could use six cans of any kind of beans you have on hand.  So go to your pantry or wherever you keep the canned goods and dig out what you have.

That’s the great part of soup and specifically chili isn't it?


This is basically how I make Taco Chili. 

I do confess that I don’t really use a recipe for much of my cooking, but if I did, this is how I would do it. 

Kind of. 

I'd add chopped green peppers too if available and saute them with the hamburger. Also I like to blend whatever kind of tomatoes. I also place seasonings in blender.

You don’t have to, but I personally like it that way, probably because we most often use our own garden tomatoes that were frozen whole.

My family likes cornbread served with this, but I’ve also served this cooled over a salad, for the best taco salad you have had.

So.… even if you don’t have a fancy-smancy soup bowl,  make your day warmer by having this tried and true taco chili.

And remember too, there really is no greater love then Jesus, so take ten minutes to start your day with Him. He loves you so. 

Would you tell me? What is a recipe you go to for those cold and crazy days?
© Rhonda Quaney