Monday, July 28, 2014

Why You Need To Love Your Story

My story has its roots in the heartland of lush soil, with an expanse of waving tasseled corn, standing straight and strong and heavy heads of wheat bending down under the load of fruit.

My story is nestled in the river valley, which extends into hills of  sandy-loam dotted with grazing cattle and the aquifer that pumps wild and deep through live veins, pulsing below the surface.

My story has roots in the wail of a not-so-distant whistle. Of trains that slip into and pass through, the largest-scale reclassification rail yard in the world. Its iron arteries weave a tapestry of metal matrix that connect my remote area with the outer edges of the world, meeting supply and demand beyond the metal lines.

My story is inter-weaved with the beautiful souls of family, all broken and messy. These fragmented, rag-tag bunch, with roots all tangled in pride and intolerance, full of individual fears and fractured dreams. And in the tattered edges of life that continue to be made smooth through love, prayer and the revealing of dark places so that light can expose and heal it all.

My story is the accumulation of over 20,000 rising and settings of the one blazing sun that has travels its path across invisible flyways that crisscross my days, all mapped and marked out by the fullness of them.

My story is a tale of tragedy, shattered dreams, darkness that can be felt and this not-ever-being-enough. It is the weaving of a new narrative of life abundant, stuffed full of blessings. Of redemption winning and of my life’s ashes, becoming a sweet incense that rises from dry dusty plains.

My story is intricately interlaced with the colorful life-threads of others and their unique tales. These modern day miracles, the brave, the ones who think they are just average and all the grey-haired heroes, who wear the crowns of real life lived.

Our stories, all converging and colliding with every other story in the one Great Story.

These broken stories that need to be mended and amended. Written and rewritten.

How each and every story is a grand mystery, full of suspense, shrouded in some unknown and written as we response to what life hands us. And maybe we all need to read between the lines of each other’s stories and own our life stories?

These stories of the real, the raw, and where God intersect it all?

Typing words on a page isn't as important as the life we live out in the margins.

Do you think, like I do, that your story is too wild, too messy, too painful, too boring. That it isn't beautiful or important? That success is measured by some man-made yard stick and that someday the whole thing will just be summed up by the etching on a stone set on fresh dirt, with two dates carved.

Friends, every story, every life lived, is far more than just a dash between the date you were born and the date you will depart.

But we have to live our dash well.

We have to love our story enough to live it well.

Your beautiful life can only be lived by you and you alone hold the starring role.

No stand-ins.

Every word, every sigh, and every single tear is collected in heaven and weaved into the main story.

Indeed, your one beautiful life carries with it the very weight of glory.

Your story was created for all glory to live in you, to shine from you, and to point others to our Creator. 

May we all have stories of ridiculous grace, deep hope and unwavering love.

So I'll get you started:

Once upon a time….. (You have to fill in the rest.)

I love your story already.

Monday, July 21, 2014

When You Need To Know Who You Are

Streaming bolts of light rays, burn through the morning clouds and the sun rises like a fiery pink ball being hoisted across the horizon. It promises to be another blazing day of high temperatures. But right now I’m just thankful that I was up and moving before the light and drove to where the bike trail climbs in a wide ribbon to the north.

My muscles and tendons strain and burn slightly as each foot pushes down, one and then the other, every thrust causing momentum to build. I don’t even put in earphones and music, because I want to hear every sound around me. Such as the crunch that small rocks make as the tires roll over the concrete, the birds, and the rhythm of my own breathing.

The air is thick with the smell of the fresh mowed alfalfa in the field next to me. A hawk sits on top of his grassy round-bale sentinel, intently looking for his next snack. The air is laced with the familiar sweet scent of cottonwoods that line the river valley and is carried along with the heavy morning humidity.

I’m not riding to train for a race or travel across the state for a cause, though certainly I admire those who do. For me there is no performance or posturing.  No stop watch or rank.

I just ride.

I ride because it makes me feel relaxed, stronger and more alive.

Riding my bike, actually changes my perspective.

It’s like shooting high pressured air into my tires, only its endorphins into tired veins with each deep breath and revolution of the wheel.

One of the most vivid memories I have of childhood, is me, pedaling as fast as my short legs could spin, blonde pigtails flying, racing my bother down the long narrow lane from our country home.

We always had a bike. Honestly, it was one of our great luxuries, since it was our ticket to neighborhood games of baseball, the nearby creek, and frequent trips to city swimming pool, just over the river bridge.

The bike was my freedom, my ticket to exploration, childhood status symbol and I would use it to escape whenever things were tense at home.

In those days my bike had one speed. No gears to shift.  Just ride at your own pace, which was usually as fast as legs could make pedals spin.

And didn't those childhood days spiral into the past, faster than we could have ever understood?

Then as a young mom, yelling and stressed out in the four walls of my fear and darkness, the bicycle would help me breathe. In and out. Heart pumping. Feet spinning.  Birds singing and people waving. The whining blond haired cherubs, would begin to giggle, laugh and wave like small queens.

It was such a great escape.

This is one of the things that helped me back onto the path of living and getting on with life.

Just a few years ago, after surgery and treatment with breast cancer, I was in a new season that needed some fresh energy and life.

I still had my decade’s old, mountain bike. But, my friend Patty, who has a heart as big as the rolling sandhills I leave near, and loves to see people and bicycles connect, she talked me into a beautiful new “pink” road bike to commemorate the new phase of life.

It goes faster than I need it too.

People who do triathlons like to borrow it.

This bike has so many gears that my friend has placed a graph of how to shift on the frame.

Not that I really understand it.

I do know, that when pedaling gets hard, I shift. When it gets too easy I adjust the gears with a few clicks the other direction. And when the rhythm is completely off, I can push both hand gears to the center and the chain slides back to a neutral position and I can start over again. Click, click, click.

Some days I feel like that is how my life is.

So many things going.

So many levels of involvement and commitments.

So many good things vying for my time, resources and energy.

When I lose momentum, I have to take a speed-check of all that is going on and get back to the basics.

I can realign my direction and regain focus for the next step I need to take on the path, as I work through the levels of my life. I do this by time spent in the Word and putting my focus back on Jesus.

This life's head-winds, steep inclines and crashes, have been a training ground for everything in my right now life. The race I am now running is to live my life for Jesus and bring Him glory. 

And it is a heart-pounding, breath-taking ride.

In the past I've taken so many dead-end paths. 

I've used a bike to escape, to gain a sense of freedom, to find a pulse in the center of a bruised and broken life. In the most true sense, I spent years spinning my wheels, trying to find my identity in so many things. 

All along, my identity was Beloved. 

Now I mostly use the bike for the pure thrill of the ride and to enjoy the wonder around me.

This one blazing heart of mine, the one that has spent most of my life looking for unconditional love and true freedom, really feels most alive when the wind is pressing against my face, my lungs are heaving with fresh air, and adrenaline is infused throughout my whole person.

I love to live with this kind of passion.

I want to run my life race like that. Flat out. Fully engaged. Heart pumping. Lungs burning from the workout.

I'm grateful that a bike helped change my perspective, many time through different seasons. 

And now, I’m a bike-riding, Message-carrier. 

I carry the timeless, forever message of  Hope, of Faith and of True Love.

And someday there will be a finish line. 

I'm not sure if bicycles will be in glory, but there is a reward.

 Therefore, since we are surrounded
by such a huge crowd of witnesses 
to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight 
that slows us down, especially the sin 
that so easily hinders our progress.
 And let us run with endurance 
the race that God has set before us. 
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, 
on whom our faith depends from start to finish. 
He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross
 because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. 
Now he is seated in the place of highest honor
beside God's throne in heaven.
Hebrews 12:1-2

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer Splendor

There are two toads that live under the hosta plants, in an enchanting little world. A world where droplets of dew hang from the tips of thick leaves in the early morning. The plumpest of the two toads, has been named Fobio and his friend is Frieda. I've been obsessing a little, over how adorable they are. From what I understand, just one bumpy-skinned toad, will eat over 10,000 insects in a three month period.  Bring on more toads to help Fobio and Frieda eat up the other thriving pests that warm weather brings.

I've been obsessing a little, over a few other things this summer too.

Such as early mornings with the window flung wide open, sitting there, in my favorite chair with a fresh cup of coffee. That is my most happy place. These sacred summer early hours, when I read words that give life, while the bird kingdom is fussing and singing their life song just outside the window and honey bees hum over the spirea bushes.

Summer has so many things that I adore.

Like the smell of fresh mowed lawns. There are a lot of those where I live.

Or my granddaughters running barefooted in the thick grass with their little cotton sundresses swaying and grandsons with their bronzed faces and sun bleached hair.

It takes five minutes to set up the twelve foot high water slide that was given to us, kind of like an instant theme park for little people. Yes, it's definitely a favorite with everyone, including me. But I sit in the shade with ice tea and do crowd control.

Grandchildren, sun and water are a recipe for laughter in this one summer that can never be recaptured.  

There are things like the first tomato picked and frying bacon for BLT’s or the smell of hamburgers on the grill that are signature sweet summer smells for me.

Early morning walks with my friend Lynette, rides on my pink bike in the evening with the iPod turned up or just running on the elliptical with the windows open and Mercy Me’s new DVD playing loud. (Check out this song here?)

I have a cloud crush and a flower fetish and thousands of pictures to prove it.

This has been a summer of standing on my deck, almost every morning with my camera, wishing the lens could capture what my eye is beholding. I have pulled my car over to a screeching halt, more times than I can count to watch another blazing summer-sunset masterpiece melt into the horizon.

I love sitting in the hot tub at night, with my head tilted all the way back, to see the full scope of the mid-summer sky, with its band of dim glowing stars that arch across in the Milky Way trail. And lately, the supermoon that fills the horizon when it lifts its sleepy head to start its evening journey and sends light dancing on the ripples of water.




It makes me wild for all that God has created and continues to reveals Himself through.

And I find myself telling Him, “I want to have a “yes” in my spirit.” 

“Yes,” to His plan for this one life I get to live. 

I don’t want to miss one cloud, one sunset, one late night star gazing.

Something else that just makes me happy, are blueberries.☺

Especially when they are mixed up with fresh pecans, almond flour and real maple syrup.

It is a great dessert, but because it's so good for you, and because life is short, I eat it for breakfast too.

A little thing that I do, is make fresh whipped cream to put on top. 

It sounds fancier than it really is.

(I’m letting you in on one of my biggest secrets here.)

Keep reading.

I keep real whipping cream in my refrigerator.

Organic whipping cream often has a two or three month shelf life. Regular whipping cream is almost always over a month. I add a splash to our strawberry smoothies, a few tablespoons to frosting for brownies, or whip up a cup of it with a little sugar and a teaspoon of real vanilla and everyone thinks you have done something amazing. 

And if you haven’t heard, your body needs some good fats, so this not only brings fabulous, to a new level, it’s good for you. Unless you drink like the whole carton. That would be a little weird.

Shauna Niequist book Bread & Wine, is "a love letter to life around the table with recipes," and is a book y'all should own. 

The words will swing your heart to home, friends, family and all the stuff that is really important. And there is not a bad recipe in it. 

But I think I told you I love her and this book already.

I always add extra pecans, and have used coconut oil in place of olive oil a few times. This thickens as it cools. We eat it hot, but love it cold.


The summer splendor is in full swing. 

What things do you love about this summer and the right now stuff in your life?

I hope you will join me to praise the One who made the seasons and the senses that come alive with all the sight, smells and tastes unique to your right now life and summer. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

When Our Lives Create An Atmosphere

I stand at the sink, my hands working under a thin stream of cool water. When all the hard boiled eggs have been peeled, I start removing the skins from potatoes. Only a handful of times in a year, do I make potato salad. 

I don’t have a real recipe, but when I make a bowl full, it's always a hit with family and friends. 

With the long weekend, I wanted a few things ready that JQ loves. We’ve learned to celebrate holidays, as well as life, when he is here, which is rarely on the same day that is marked on the calendar.

We put up a few decorations, grilled handcrafted hamburgers and fresh veggies sprinkled with olive oil and parmesan cheese. It was all relaxed and comfortable. The time together was as sweet as the blueberry crisp which was topped with freshly whipped cream.

Since we have been married, JQ has wanted our house to be a home that is welcoming. Even if only for the two of us.

He has wanted us to live in such a way, that our home is a retreat, not only for us, but also for anyone who enters.

In the early years I wasn’t sure what that really meant. 

It seemed as if you would have to have a fresh pan of brownies and nearly spotless home, to accomplish that kind of culture of warmth.

So I would try. 

And if I knew company was coming I’d command the children to run around making their beds and moving laundry off the stairs.

Until, one day, completely unannounced, a knock came at our door. Since we lived twenty minutes, on one of the worse roads in the county, drop-ins were not the normal, unless people were lost or out of gas.

There, standing outside our door, was a woman I knew only casually. She had been to our home once before on business. Now, she had traveled over an hour to arrive at our little place, with a car load of family, who were visiting from Sweden. She apologized for not calling ahead, but explained how they were taking a drive when she remembered us and wanted her visitors to experience the atmosphere of our home.

While I was a little embarrassed at our very imperfect, messy life, we flung the door open wide on our home and our hearts. We rummaged around for a little refreshment and sat down to sweet conversation. 

Even though mostly we were strangers, it felt like we had been long time friends when they departed.

They kept saying things like, “there is just something wonderful and welcoming about your home.” They thanked us for the kindness of hot chocolate and warm heart-to-heart exchange of words.

They prayed blessings over us.

And right there in the middle of our ordinary, unplanned life, I think we got a glimpse of real hospitality.

What they really came to see, to feel and to experience, was Jesus in our home and in us.

It wasn't about how the furniture was arranged, but about how we positioned our hearts to be open to others.

That lesson learned a decade ago, still teaches.

If there is one thing I want my home and my very life to reflect, it is an atmosphere of love, acceptance, of kindness and a sense of warm welcome.  

I want it to be "others" centered. That is really what it's about. Our lives and our homes.

It's about people.

Jesus lived that kind of life. 

A life that was an open invitation to “come.”  

Since He didn't have a home of His own, He lived a welcoming life. 

By His words and actions, He made people feel like they could approach Him, hang out with Him, share their deepest places of need with Him.

He told those who were weary, "to come." (read here?)

He commanded the disciples to "let the little children come to Him." (read here?)

He asked people to “come follow Him.” (read here?)

In Revelations the beautiful invitation is “...Let the one who is thirsty come....” (read here?)

Jesus lived a life that was about others and I personally feel the most alive when I live that way too.

This summer I have a stack of books that I’m reading, but the one on the top right now is "Pursue the Intentional Life," by Jean Fleming. 

I just want to squeeze her. 

She says that “every life creates an atmosphere.” 

It is a profound truth, how every single person brings into the room and into the world, an “atmosphere.”  

So my question to myself and to you?

When we walk in the room, what mood, what tone, what feeling do we bring with us?

My hope and prayer, is that it is one of love, peace and light.

© Rhonda Quaney