Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Living Water

Today I have the honor of being a guest at the blog-home of Diane Bailey. 

When I met Diane last year at Jumping Tandem, I watched her capture people and beauty with her camera, making women feel welcomed and loved.  Diane doesn't just write pretty words, she lives the love she talks about. So grateful to be writing at her place today.  

Water rushes from the fountain and cascades into a clear pool. Lounging on the sandy shores are attractive people surrounding one woman. She holds a mirror, gazing at her flawless skin and charming face framed with wispy curls of blonde hair. The photo is part of an advertisement claiming their product reverses aging effects and helps customers, “grow younger and live stronger.” Reputable companies and respected doctors have mantras such as: “Turn back the clock!” “Drop a decade off your face!” “Cheat the years!” Shelves are lined with products and promises to reverse the aging process using miraculous serums with new and improved ingredients. And sometimes, this Jesus-loving woman, and her Jesus-loving friends buy into the hype of the world with its answers for our insatiable quest for beauty, youth and the things that come with it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Removing The Layers

Last week was one of those weeks.

The kind of week that begins bright and early running out the door with the dog nonchalantly throwing up on my favorite shoe, just as I was slipping my foot into it.

Yes, that did happen.

The dog never throws up, but there were plenty of reasons for her to be out of sorts I suppose.

Our life is sort of out-of-sorts.  In fact if you were to drop-in you may agree that things here are nearly at the complete chaos level. 

Earlier this year our home was hit by large hail stones.

It was like watching a slow motion scene unfold. The sky was clear with deep blue hues, one hot afternoon. I was home, and just happened to be looking out the double wide glass door that faces east, when a small cloud gathered overhead. I stepped out on the back porch and took a few pictures as this harmless appearing cloud, began to swell up with ominous dark bellows.

Still, I was honestly surprised that this small mass of moisture began to produce colossal ice missiles a little smaller than baseballs that sounded more like bowling balls being hurled at our home. Once the storm had passed over the house, the winds changed and it came back around from the other direction and pounded us with even more intensity on the second pass.  When it moved out, our yard had visible divots and was covered with a blanket of white ice balls. The damage to our home was extensive.

It totaled the roof, broke windows, damaged siding, gutters and soffits.  There was more, but you get the idea.

Fast forward to, now. 

The now, with the dog and my favorite shoes. And trust me, you need shoes to walk outside because of all the nails and shards of metal.

The details have been worked out and the contractors are on the scene and all the layers that make a house a home have been stripped away and hauled off to the landfill.

When it was all peeled back, we uncovered all sorts of problems that had been hidden for years.

Issues that someone long ago hid, and that time had further corrupted.

It has gotten more complicated and messy than we had anticipated. (And we had anticipated it would be messy and complicated.)

The outside of our home is exposed down to bare wood and the inside has been stripped out as well because that is how it is when change comes. True change always happens from the inside out.

And this morning, the wind is howling and slapping loose ends of house wrap against roughed in windows and there is little to stop the cutting wind from seeping through every crack.

We are going for an all new look. Part of that currently includes fly strips.  I've distracted myself for days smashing flies that seem to have a radar for any opening. We even went to the store to purchase more flyswatters, so we could have one in every room. One for every person who might enter this place.

My disdain for flies has increased after my daughter reminded me of when she worked for the University for several summers helping to track flies. People actually get paid to breed files, paint their little wings and track their patterns. There is a story there that no one probably wants to read about. She pointed out that her job included examining flies under a microscope and how many parasites are surprisingly on the common house fly.

That information wasn't really helpful.

In fact it may have raised my anxiety level a few decimals.

So, fly strips hang until further notice and if you come here you may be handed your own fly-swatter.

This process has reminded me how fragile our lives and possessions really are.

One small cloud pops up on the horizon and alters your life for months. And that is the good news. This house and its contents are not the things that are most valuable in my world. Also we are honestly thankful that this has been an opportunity, disgusting flies aside, to find the deeper hidden problems this existing structure had, so that we could address them.

That right there will teach friends.

Just because we can put on a few layers over the underlying problems, things will continue to slowly eroding in our lives. Ignoring the problems will not fix them, or us. 

The process of stripping away the layers, makes us feel a bit vulnerable and exposed. However, the benefits of dealing with deep seated problems are long reaching friends.

And I was thinking how during the ugly process I don’t really want my friends to enter into the mess and that after all this chaos is neatly wrapped up and the professionals all go on to their next job, we would begin gathering friends into our home again.

This weekend I think God, struck down thought.

It is as if the Lord has been pressing on my heart that now is the time to invite people in.


While things are just the way they are. After all, the goal of having a home is to live and the idea of inviting people into our homes is to share life.  What are these homes for if not to extend hospitality to others?

Shauna Niequist recently shared a story, of how at one time, homes were designed with a private area for families in the back and the front room was where the dead were put so people could come pay their respects. After funeral homes became common, theses rooms were renamed, “living rooms,” because they were no longer for the dead.

Don’t you love that?

Our homes are for the living, for the sharing, for the gathering of people.  

There are so many things that this house project is teaching me, revealing in me. Peeling back the layers of long established veneer has made our home a more solid building. And that applies to my heart as well. Reevaluating my motives for inviting people into my home and has brought a fresh energy to gather people around me.

Never mind, my messy home, completely, incomplete with daily disinfected counters and too much dog hair. There is really no better time to invite you over, since there all the outer layers of pretense have literally been stripped away.

Our house is only a tool to real life living and people are what make a house into home.

You are invited.  

How about you? 

Have you had a small thing turn into a huge thing?

What do you do, when you feel exposed?

Is your home a place for the living?

I would love to hear from you.

Deeply blessed to link up in these beautiful places. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Digging For Real Gold

Along the river near the place I grew up, trees are casting down their leafy gold.

Autumn light washes over the blonde hair of my two year old grandson, as he sits on the grassy knoll that rises just above where the other children are playing. In one sand covered hand, he clutches the last graham cracker as if it his most prized possession.

I flinch at the thought of all those fish-smelling granules going into his mouth, but resist the urge to fix it.

Sitting beside him with the sun warming our faces, I snap pictures as the other children move along the sand bank with their buckets and shovels, oblivious to the last snack being devoured.

They are too busy hunting for treasure to care.

In preparation for this outing I had gone to one of their other favorite places in the whole world, the local ‘Fort Cody Trading Post.’ It is possibly the biggest tourist trap this side of the Great Divide, but my grandchildren beg to go there.

All. The. Time.

You and I would both think they would get enough of cheap trinkets, but apparently this is not the case. They love the wide variety of plastic weapons, the two-headed taxidermy calf and the old jail house that is deteriorating in back of the Fort.

The Fort needs to be a blog post of its own, but I have to mention it because that is where I found the pyrite stones, better known to many as, “Fools Gold.” I figured it would add a little fun to the outing. My friend Tamran had purchased gold panning equipment earlier this year, for a trip her family had taken to the mountains. So, with those key "gold panning" items plus small shovels and buckets we were set.

As the children dug in the sand, I slipped a hand full of the pyrite into each of their bowls. They thought that was fine, but what I loved about them, is that they weren't obsessed to find the nuggets. They each found their own space and rhythm as they combed the river’s edge. Splashing, digging, engaged in conversation.

I want freeze this moment in time for them, for me.

Each one of these kids are such individuals. Their eyes clear, their faces soft from the love they each get to live. They are brave and good with tender hearts.

I think of the mistakes I made raising their mommies and hope their parents can skip the things that tripped me up. Such as going too much, having to-do lists and to-be list.

A breeze ripples across the slow moving water as it laps against the edge of the shore and I think about the things I deeply desire for each of these precious children. I pray theirs would be years full of life, not just activities. That they would have room, to breathe, without every minute scheduled. That they would not have to try to be what someone else hopes they will be or have the pressure to appear to have it all together.

I pray that they are able to grow in grace and stature. That they will be able to follow their own hearts and dreams and not someone else’s.

I pray that they live without regrets.

Goodness knows I have my share of regrets as a mom, who raised their moms.

There are a few things I have learned.

I've learned that ultimately I am not in control. When my children were doing well or not-so-well, it was God who was weaving His grace through their stories and I can rest in that.

I can rest in His forgiveness for my shortcomings.

I can rest in the fact that my story isn't finished, my children’s stories aren't finished and my grandchildren’s stories are not finished.

Oh, thank goodness for that -right?

As they are out there digging deep gilded glory, I find myself praying that their lives are full of the things that money cannot buy. Such as peace, love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Money can’t buy integrity, trust, respect or contentment and they have high value in a world that doesn't have much of that around.

So on that beautiful afternoon, as feathery cirrus clouds float overhead, I sat and I prayed for these precious ones and also the two other granddaughters that are too small to appreciate things like hanging out with us and eating gritty graham crackers.

At the end of the day, it surprised me how much my grandchildren all enjoyed the digging, the finding of a little treasure, yet none of them were caught up thinking there was great value in those stone. In fact some left them behind, some asked me to keep their “gold” for the next time we get to have a day together.

These kids teach me so much about life.

And this is what I know:

Somehow I get to help write their story when I pray.

And gold cannot buy what God has given me.

My children and their children are some of my greatest treasure.

----Can't wait until these two want to be in the crazy mix. ----

Monday, October 13, 2014

When Life Has Shades of Pink

It's early morning.

The house is dark and the floor cold against my bare feet. Deep tones of pink slip quietly through the narrow opening between the wood trim and closed shade. Shimmering cords of color pour in, unlike I have ever seen. On a regular day, I turn on the coffee machine before pulling the blinds, but on this day, I push past distractions and peer out the dirt-splotched glass on the backdoor to see the sky suspended with low clouds edged in pink and gold light in full splendor, as the sun prepared to rise, in a pre-dawn show.

For a few moments I stood surrounded by ribbons of pink light that I want to hold and capture.

It's ironic, since pink was never my thing.

I was never a fan of lace or anything overtly feminine, especially pink. It was too girly, too frilly.  

And now pink has changed the way I view life.

Wrapped in a shawl that my friend Renae hand crafted for me over four years ago, when I first learned I had breast cancer, I thought about the profound moments of illuminated pink glory and how for a short time I had been cloaked in those filaments of light.

I know my faith is intertwined with shades of pink.

I count having had breast cancer as a milestone in my faith.

In and through it there was a deep soul work done that has changed me.

In life there are happy things and hard things and everyday things that all weave together to form the threads of our life, but I personally seem to learn the most in the hard things.

There is so much that is wayward in my heart. There is so much in me that just wants what I want.

I also have a lot of passion that is misdirected when it’s not surrendered to the will of God.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer kind of kicked down the walls of all that and my complacency too.  It took a wrecking ball to my safe life.

There is something about sitting next to people who are suffering that helps you enter into their world. For some reason it’s hard to feel for the poor in spirit if you aren’t poor in spirit. It’s difficult to mourn with those who mourn, if you have never grieved yourself.

There is something about cancer that removes status quo.

There is something about unyielding pain that leads to a yielded heart.

Sitting in a cancer center, reading about how to beat cancer, when all around you are people who look like they are losing the battle -- well it shifts things in your heart.

Cancer opened the eyes of my heart. Hearing the diagnosis, has made my moments matter. It has opened, really opened my eyes … to the fact that life is short and no one is getting out alive or taking anything with them that they worked so hard to own or to attain or to be.

That is why I chase clouds with my camera, go around the block to see the flowers in someone’s yard or pull over in the middle of traffic to watch a sunset. This moment in all of eternity needs embraced.

Cancer pushed me to be more bold.  I would like people to like me, but really I mostly love people, so how they see me is up to them. But I believe God for more than church on Sunday and tidy trappings of living a good life and just going through the motions. I find myself asking complete strangers if I can pray for them. I have long unsolicited conversations in the grocery store. And I look people in the eye often and tell them that the answer to everything, is Jesus.

Having had cancer has made me feel more alive.  It has made me get off the treadmill of life, even the religious life. It makes me say yes to tea parties and Tonka trucks, to late nights when needed and early mornings when possible. It helped me put words to emotions and action to convictions. It makes me pray for the people I see and the needs all around me and for the days when I am no longer here to pray for those I love.

Cancer has made me a more thankful person. Thankful for a team of amazing doctors, thankful for second opinions and second chances.  Thankful for nights when the skies are clear and the stars shine bright and knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a God in Heaven that has named every star and knows how many hairs are on my head today.

Pink has waved like a banner over my heart helping me to discover more of who I am in Christ and to let go of my identity in anything else.  

The thing about the cancer is that it came like an unwelcome guide and took me to places I never would have gone, to meet people I would never have met, and shifted my urgency to live, really live in a different way, because life is a gift that has an expiration date.

Cancer changed my story. It shifted me from one season of life to a better season. The person I was before pales in comparison to the person I am becoming. And all the suffering that I have seen around me in others or in myself --well it pales in comparison to the coming glory. It helped me quit looking inward and moved my focus to upward. A vertical focus will always change our horizontal actions. And even though my feet still walk the earth, my heart is more planted in heaven. It has made me want to be more like Mary instead of Martha, because Mary understood that Jesus was near and now is the time to sit at His feet and live for Him.

To live in the present, let go of what lies behind, to pay attention to the beauty and the world around me, to slow down, to choose love, to surrender and to live thankful. Those are some of the threads that weave in the shades of pink through my life. 

There is nothing glamorous about breast cancer, except the pink marketing. People who find themselves confronted with a cancer come face to face with a personal battle that holds choices and a journey that only they can navigate.  In the walking through it, I found myself being mostly carried. Carried by those who loved me, those who prayed for me. I never want to forget what I have learned. 

What I learned is that Jesus shows up in our everyday life and that I want to live full-out for Him.

How about you friends?

And you are my friends.

How do you respond to difficult things? 

This is such a great time and place to be honest and seek to move forward, no matter where you are in life. 

Thank you for being here. You are loved.

Can I encourage you to stop over to this sweet community?

Monday, October 6, 2014

What Can Happen When Women Gather

 Jumping Tandem -The Retreat,  2013, was "for writers, bloggers, artists, entrepreneurs, and other fabulous people who have an amazing dream."

My friend Cherri Putz and I signed up. The weekend was a sweet time of rest, worship, and encouragement.  I met people in person who I had only previously read their hearts on-line.

Denise Hughes was one of those women.

Her gentle heart is evident in every word that she types or speaks. There are many things that I appreciate about Denise, but how she loves Jesus and women are what drew me to her.

Fast forward thirteen months. Late at night an e-mail came in and for whatever reason I laid in my bed and read the e-mail on my phone. In that letter, Denise shared her dream of developing a new ministry called Deeper Waters. 

She asked me to join her writing team.

I'm deeply honored to be part of her dream, because it is part of my amazing dream too. That dream is to connect with women. and to be in the Word.

In the last months it has been hard to keep it all a secret, as the beautiful space to gather has unfolded.

Last week, Deeper Waters officially launched. There is so much to tell you about, but I wonder if you might just check it out for yourself?

Today I have the privilege to be writing there.

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My mom taught me how to make cinnamon rolls.
The kind that are spread thick with butter, cinnamon, and drops of pure maple extract. They are then rolled, sliced, and baked to a tender copper-color, and they drip with caramel sauce, in which whipping cream is the secret ingredient.
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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Song for Every Season

She tossed long blond hair back with a sweep of her right hand and tucked the dark wood of her violin snugly under her chin. With slender fingers she grasped the bow and drew it gracefully across the strings. Just as our ears were prepared for rich tones of notes strung together like pearls into song, what came out would be long squeaks and flat notes that sent our dogs running under the bed.  This same child played the flute and when she breathed thin streams of air against the metal edge, it was as if all the angels began singing with her.

It wasn't for lack of talent or understanding that she played one instrument well and the other, not-so-much. The music she made with the flute, she played from her soul. Clear notes rose slowly, starting low, then rising, resting, piercing your skin with clarity and beauty.

There is just something about music and meter that can set the tone for our lives.  

 Bonnie Wallace

© Rhonda Quaney