Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Teach Us To Make The Most Of Our Time

The beautiful Elizabeth Stewart and I are teaming up to kick off our session at (in)courage.  -- (in) life over 50. 

She took the photograph (imagine me, -standing and cheering….) and I am going to share a little of what is on my heart. 

I am currently reading the book ‘Pursue the Intentional Life’ by Jean Fleming

The Bloom Book Club is featuring this book right now and I am thrilled they are also selling the book for $10.99 at Dayspring. I know we all have a stack of books we want to get to, but this just moved up the priority list. 

Jean is 70-ish years old, from Colorado. She said this book came out of a season when she turned fifty and realized that most likely half of her life was over. So she prayed, "what kind of woman she would become in her remaining years."

She started an “Old Woman File.”  (I realize this name may not excite some of us.) She says, “It started a groove of thought that I can profitably build on, refine and live. “ She built on that file for twenty years.

As a group of women over 50, “wanting to make the rest of our lives the best of our lives,” I feel that we could draw from Jean’s writing in this session.

In the introduction of her book, she writes about her concern “of living her remaining years vaguely, merely drifting in the wake of those living unconsidered lives.” She feared becoming "a pinched and grouchy old person." She states that the truth is, "all things unchanged, the woman we will be at seventy, eighty, and ninety is the women we are at forty and fifty – only distilled. Our flaws and weaknesses of a forty-year-old consecrate with age? A complainer at forty will, with much practice, engrave the response in her bones by seventy. Self-centeredness will intensify. Bitterness … will engulf and consume in advanced age.“

I could add a few to that list. A controlling person, will become more frustrated and fearful as things continue to happen that they cannot control. Poor eating habits and lack of discipline in basic areas of our lives will cause us to lose health and vitality and suffer the effects of those decisions. Financial struggles, anger, insecurities, all have negative effects on our walks with the Lord.

But this author writes that there is hope. “It’s not too late to grow and change and that it is never too soon to begin.”

No matter what age we are, we are setting patterns for the shape our lives are taking. 

Jean points out that all of us have an expiration date.

I love how Jean states this: “I long to see Christ’s life formed in me. I want to become the person God had in mind when He created me. I yearn to touch the world for God’s glory and advance His kingdom.”

I long….I want… I yearn…

You too? -I know I do.

So she poses two questions:

What kind of old woman am I becoming?

How will I live the rest of my life?

No matter what age or season of life we find ourselves in, the choices we are making are setting us up for where we are heading.  These are the things we can control. 

There are many things that we can not control.  For all of those we have the Bible and the Lord to guide us.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Call To Remember

The pre-sun rising, cast rose colored hues across my world. Morning fog hanging just above the ground is a soft pink, causing the morning to feel warm and tranquil. 

I doubt that is how it felt like in 1865, as the ugliness of the Civil War, hung heavy over our nation. A war fought on soil that I could drive to, right here in my beloved United States of America.  

It is said that it was May, when former slaves in Charleston, South Carolina, took it upon themselves to honor 257 dead Union soldiers, who had died in a Confederate prison camp and had been buried in a mass grave. According to articles it took several weeks to give a proper burial to each individual solider. Following this sobering undertaking, they held a parade that was led by 2,800 black children, who marched, sang and somberly embraced the early days and the cost of freedom that should have been theirs to begin with. 

It would be three more years before a formal proclamation was issued. Originally called Decoration Day, it was a day set aside to decorate the graves of those who died in war.

The first large observance was held in Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. Members of an organization of veterans, along with orphans from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home, walked and strewn flowers across graves of both Confederate and Union solder graves.  It states that they recited prayers and sang hymns. It had to be another sobering sight.





The cost of freedom.

That is what I've been reading about, as I wondered what the roots of Memorial Day were this year.

It was a few weeks ago when my dad said this: "Who will decorate the graves when I'm gone?" 

Looking around the empty room, I kind of laugh to ease my own tension and slowly answer, "Maybe me?"

It was one of those moments, you just say something, to relive the heaviness of it all.  

Honestly, I really never got the whole decorate the graves thing.

I remember my Grandma Prowette taking the whole long weekend, to make the trek to surrounding towns and various cemeteries to decorate the graves of loved ones. There was a spare bedroom in her turn-of-the-century home, that she stored the artificial flowers the rest of the year.

Truth is, I was too self-absorbed to get it. 

For me, it has just been a long weekend.  Maybe whip up some potato salad, fire up the grill and hang a flag.

But, as much as I love the red, white and blue, I didn't embrace the price that others have paid so I can take the holiday lightly.

So dad, sent me to buy flowers and gave me a list of graves he wanted me to push the iron hanger into the soil and hang the remembrance that our loved ones lie there. 

There were his parents and my mom’s parents. Both of those couples would be over one-hundred years old,  if they were here to tell about it. 

There was my two younger brothers who are buried in the graves, purchased to be the final resting place for my parents. 

And the new plot, where my mom is buried. 

None of these people served in the armed forces, but to my dad, it was important that their graves were decorated. To him, it would be a disgrace if their places were left bare.

So as I went about this task, I began to try to capture in photography, what the Lord has been pressing into my heart about this three day weekend.

Last night I drove to the McPherson National Cemetery. It is like walking on holy ground. Manicured to perfection. Every white stone marker with a small flag. Long rows of flags waving gently in the wind as people made their way around the grounds. 

As I walked in the newer section of the cemetery, I had to choke back tears. There a mom and dad sobbed over their young sons new grave.  They tried to be brave, but their pain just spilled out onto the flowers they were placing on the ground.

And as I walked back to my car, there was the stone that read, "Unknown U.S. Soldier." Somewhere there are parents who were not even able to walk to the grave of their loved one to shed tears or decorate, but they would never forget.  

This holiday is a great time to celebrate an extra day off from the regular routine of life with those who are living that we love. But my soul is moved that there is a much deeper meaning. 

This holiday is a call to remember. 

A call, to not forget, that a heavy price has been paid, over and over and over, again for the freedom I enjoy today.

That we are the land of the free, because of the brave. 

That history is riddled with wars, because there are people who want to deny others freedom. And until this world passes we need brave men and women to live brave.

Today I just want to honor, the heroes who have served our country. 

All the mothers and fathers and wives and husbands, and children, who bear the scars of loss.

Freedom carries a price and the least I can do .....is remember.

And this I know too, that the God of the Universe hasn't missed a thing and there are no "Unknown Soldiers" in His economy. That every valiant deed every done, is remembered. 

Today, I hope you will remember too.

Monday, May 19, 2014

When I Started Living As If God Is Enough

With the kind of beautiful abandon, only a girl-child is able to embody, she leans back in the swing and presses her bare heels straight up into the powdery blue heavens. Cotton-like clouds appear to be hanging off the tips of trees, which seem to swirl like the mobile over her baby brother’s crib. She imagines these wispy puffs to be the shape of a bunny, another one is a boat with its sail flapping and still another cloud seems to rise like an angel with feathery wings spread wide.

The sweet scent of cottonwood trees lace the air that rustles the lace on her cotton dress. Warm summer air rushes across her flushed cheeks, as it forces blonde ringlets to sweep back.  The thick rope that holds the wooden seat creaks lightly with each pendulum like motion. Surging momentum, inspires her to lean in, pushing to go higher still.

That’s how I imagine it was that day, for my friend Cherri Putz. We were at the Jumping Tandem retreat, sitting in a small break-out session, led by Emily Wierenga. Emily had posed this question: “What are some of your little girl dreams?” After being prompted to share her response, Cherri turned to face the room of women, swallowed hard and in her tender voice she shared this precious childhood memory. “When I was a little girl, I would swing. I would swing as high as I could and I would tell God that I wanted to swing so high ….that I could reach out and touch Him.”


A special thanks to my daughter Amy, who took these pictures and is always happy to do it. 

So often I have an idea of something I want to write and will ask her to help me capture an image. It amazes me how she can come up with them with little effort. The picture of her daughter swinging is a perfect example. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

When You're Voted Most Likely To Fail (at being a mom)

She flashed her genuine smile that revealed those deep dimples. At one time we had been close friends, before our lives eventually ran in different directions. Now years had passed since we had last seen each other, apart from the faces on a yearly Christmas card.

She was kind to admire each of the blond hair, fair skinned children that shuffled around me. Even though they weren't acting particularly cute, she offered kind words such as, “Your children are beautiful!”  

We laughed about how different our lives had turned out from what we had expected. She had chosen not to have children and to both our surprise, I had ended up with three. The conversation led to her confessing, how she and her husband never saw this coming.

This.... me being a mom.  

I could feel my throat tighten as she spoke this: “Some of us have talked ….you know …..that you were most likely going to fail at being a mom.” I was a little taken back at her honestly, but mostly I understood. In her own way she intended that as a compliment.

She knew me. Whoever “they” were must have known me.

B-M and B-C. Before-marriage and before-children.

I managed a weak laugh and responded, “Yeah, I’m pretty amazed they have survived so far too.”

I've thought about that encounter many times since then and this whole,

It really is a miracle.

When I married at twenty-four I didn't feel like a woman and my goal wasn't to have children. My heart was still a wounded child, an angry rebellious daughter, who longed to hear her dad say, “I love you, just for who you are.”

There was the surprise of finding out a baby was due to arrive in January. Then impatient waiting while my body took three weeks longer than the average woman anywhere, to make a human being. And after fourteen hours of labor and delivery, just like that, they handed me the first wailing, arms flailing daughter. 

Twenty-four hours later she was plunked into a primitive car seat, which more resembled a bucket than a protective device. It was proof that ignorance must really be bliss and that they let anyone take a helpless baby home to figure their whole life out.  

Just when she was finally growing some hair, sleeping most nights and waddling around gurgling a few darling words, the next baby arrived. Mostly, the three of us took turns crying. The fleeting days of late summer were spent warming blankets in the dryer to swaddle the newest screaming baby who was labeled as colicky.  Warm blankets were the only trick I had in my bag of desperation. We walked the creaking floor, stood swaying in place, and rocked in the old oak chair that had no cushion, more hours than I could realistically count.

Those days were the peaceful ones, before our whole world was rocked upside down. That’s when grieving became my prayer and my unwelcome second language. I couldn't see it then, but when everything was spinning out of control, God gave me the gift of being your mom to anchor me in the storm.

And so it all began with a few awkward shaking steps.  

There you were, like twins, following me into every room and calling me, “mom,” like I needed the reminder. There were all the runny noses and ouchies to be kissed. The numb, exhausted days and dark sleepless nights. One wore underwear on her head and the other ran high fevers. After impossible days I would slip into the room just to hear the little wheezy sound of air passing through your tiny noses. It would somehow breath life back into my soul. I would stop at each bed, lean over and sweep back your blonde hair, kiss your foreheads and think it might be okay to live another day. And as I stood there and watched you sleep, I would hope that somehow you would grow up to be okay, because I didn't know how to be your mom. 

And it was us having little tea parties and reading Golden Books like, “Where’s Goldie?” How many times did we look for that little yellow canary on every single page until she finally found her way home?  And we would howl at the book with a mommy elephant who just wanted to get, “Five Minutes of Peace.”  I never got that peace didn't come for the outside, but is only found within.

As days turned into months, which rolled into years, I began to understand that for you, time had not stopped and that somehow, because I was your mom, it was marching on for me too. 

There were changes and moves and the blessing of another beautiful girl. So we had drawers full of bows and beds with pink canopies. We made cardboard slides down the stairs and you all had to cut your own hair a few times and plug up the bathroom sink and empty every drawers looking for a certain shirt. There were arguments that had to be negotiated and bikes to ride and pools to splash in and trips to the emergency room because you never, ever, hurt yourselves during regular business hours. 

You taught me one day at a time how to just show up and live. How one lost, angry woman can be transformed through tears and giggles and one hundred thousand miles put on a vehicle. And all of a sudden, I realize, that I was trying hard to give you everything and to prove something. 

It was too easy to go from the crazy younger years that felt like they would never end, to days of finding my identity in all that you girls did. If I could rewind time, I would skip the three instruments a piece and the horses and the miles on the road and the do-more, try-harder kind of mom that I was. 

The only more I would do? I would swinging higher, hug longer and speaking more words of life. I would pray more specifically for your futures, while we all lay splayed out on the floor that needed vacuumed and read more books to you and we would definitely laugh more.  

Yes, I would do less and be more.

Because I began learning how to be real mom when I started seeing you each for the beauty of your souls and releasing the outcomes to the God who designed you in the first place. 

What I wanted you to know, it that you are amazing, beautiful and enough.

No agenda, no control, no more me, trying to be enough as a mom. 

I was never enough. 

But moving beyond the past, beyond the shame of mistakes, all the wanting to prove to those who had an opinion, how me being a mom could work, homeschooling could work, that Jesus could work–well letting all those things fall to the side–that is what finally made me a better mom. 

That changed a lot of things and gave us all wings to fly.  

Thank you for the grace in all of my failings.

I don’t know how it happened or even when, but God took me, His tattered daughter, with the fractured heart and as each page of my mom story turned, used it all to find my way home.

Because God is in the business of taking our fists-full of ashes and bringing out unbridled beauty.

Your names should have been Faith, Hope, and Grace, because that is what each of you brought into my life. 

Being your mom has taught me what those things look like and how to give them away.

God wrote pain into our story and is redeeming it for His glory.

Being a mom, was about growing me up and beyond where I would be, if I would have spent endless days thinking about no one else but myself. 

It was about preparing you to get along with each other, to get along with me and without me, and that it’s all just impossible to get along without God.

In the beginning it was hard to grasp the truth that one nurse told me. -How labor and delivery were the easy part of being a mom. Yeah, well that has proven to be true. And apart from God and His Truth, surely I would have been the worst mother in the world. 

I was voted by some as the most likely to fail at being a mom.

But God had a different plan for this heart-torn daughter of His. I just sit here amazed how God spins the world and knits DNA together to make little human beings and then sends helpless children home with hopeless cases -like me.

This being a mom.  It began with a few awkward shaky steps, over time turned into a sacred dance. The most difficult thing and the most beautiful thing all rolled in together. 

And it has taught me some of the most important words in the whole world.

"I love you."  

"Just as you are…. I love you."

No performance.

No trying to do more or be more.

Because the truth is, that is how God loves us.


This truth is what I hope every woman will embrace and live, so we can pass it on to the people in our lives. When we live like this it is impossible to fail.

Monday, May 5, 2014

To Live For Whats Important

My hair brush went missing. 

For a week now.

The last time it was seen, the little guy with big blue eyes was running through the house like Bam-Bam using it as a small club, beating dust out of the furniture.

To. his. great. delight.

I've looked and it cannot be found. For some reason a comb just isn't the same on hair like mine. If you see me, be kind, you'll know why I look the way I do.

The whole week has been a little off the rails, but the way it began helped me keep in perspective what is really important.

In the night before my brush went missing, my phone was blinking that I had a text. I would not usually notice or read a text in the night, but this time I did. It kind of made me sit up in bed and think about running the vacuum. My daughter was just reminding me that three kiddos would be arriving clad in their jammies for a full day with their Nana. She had asked weeks before, but sometimes Grandma’s just need lots of reminding.

She did not lie. 

They arrived bright and early with their sleepy eyes and bushy little bedheads.  Parts of my office were carried upstairs to the kitchen table like a small command center. Goodness knows I needed a Command Center. Poor planning left me with no fresh fruit and few good options for breakfast. Avocado, raisins and almonds were received with mixed reviews for the first two rounds. Organic macaroni and cheese was served next. No one was impressed. Slices of homemade toast with almond butter and local honey were more entertaining than filling. Dabs of the sticky stuff go a long way when it is licked, dripped, and worn.

Less than an hour into the day, the little person said, they had to go to the bathroom and did not need any help, thank-you. I’m trying to capture the wonder of high winds and sideways-snow this time of year.

It was then, that I heard the voice say, "Grandma I think I need help."

I answered, "Okay, ....be there in a minute!"

Three more pictures. Click. Click. Click.

The oldest chimes in, "Grandma, I think this is an emergency!”

Three of us stood in the doorway in awe, staring at one pajama footed child in the center of swirling water.

Water was flowing over the rim of the toilet bowl, kind of like a circular waterfall, splashing over the edges into the one inch of moving water that had already covered the floor, finding its way downhill, through the heater vent and every crack.

The youngest shrieked with complete joy at an indoor splash park, the tallest was wowed by the sheer velocity of water moving. 

It took a few moments before I came to my senses and moved into action. The kids were all a little disappointed when I set them out on high ground and grabbed a plunger to attack the toilet. Fortunately this worked and left me to throw every towel we owned on the ground to stop water from leaving the room.

In the end there were four loads of towels to be washed, minimal damage to property and, as one little person evaluated the situation, a happy bonus to the whole thing, was that the bathroom floor was now mopped. (Even though toilet water isn't what I normally like to use.) 

So our day unraveled with the wonder that children bring to this life.

There on the floor, I, in my yoga pants that have never seen a yoga class in their life, hair matted on one side, and the three bright-eyed wonders, we spent the day inside while the world howled out our window. 

And it looks like pajamas with dinosaurs, Mario, monkeys and moose’s, all spread out on blankets and pillows. And love wraps around my chest as they lay on their tummies making truck noises, playing dolls and shooting arrows that stick to the refrigerator. We talk about “what if’s” and “whys,” and “when’s.”

And then, more “whys.”

They use their imaginations to build cities, farms and use fist fulls of play money to buy more Tonka trucks. They have more questions and curiosity and the wonder of the world though their eyes makes me wake up to some wonder in mine.

They want to make cookies and everyone has to help and eat their creations before they are cooked. I just want to let them break eggs and pick out egg shells and figure life out without me controlling the quality.

Mostly I did not learn this as much as I wish when my own children were filled with all the fascination and mayhem of being young.

Albert Einstein, whose name is synonymous with being brilliant is quoted as saying this," I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious.”

When my day is rearranged by these precious hopes for the future, I want to keep my focus on what is really important. It can be letting just about everything slide, singing silly songs that get stuck in your head, rolling around on the floor that needs swept in a sea of Tonka Trucks, bows and orange tipped arrows and Polly Pocket pieces, making cookies that might have chunks of egg shell in them and making up new names for super heroes. 

Really, when was the last time I embraced how cool is it, to tug on a roll of toilet paper and just watch it spin like a top, unraveling beautiful folds of narrow white stuff?

What is most important is to love like the One who commands the waves and who loved us first. To allow space and time for wonder and to be curious like a child. In a world that says knowledge is the all, that ends all, to first know that we need to embrace the wonder of things which most grown-up smart people run by.

Today, in all that will happen, all that you and I plan and then the things we did not plan, may we remember what is really important.

© Rhonda Quaney