Monday, November 24, 2014

57 Things I've Learned in 57 Years

That title is a little daunting isn't it?

The fact that in just a few days I will officially be fifty-seven human years old, -well- there is that. 

The alternative is to not be alive, so I’m embracing the whole messy, beautiful thing. 

After all, I am a woman who was amazed to be alive at twenty. My own lifestyle choices made it doubtful that I would survive that long. Then, what seemed like an eternity of a few days, I was thirty, in a deeply difficult season, of being a single parent. I had buried a husband, my dream life, and most difficult of all, my hope. And then came the big 4-0. What a difference a few years can make! I was living a second chance at love, toting a new baby girl, disregarding how the nurses referred to me as, “the old mom” and embracing my new life with gusto.

Fifty was a little weirder. The two oldest were in college and leaving home in all the mess that can happen as children learn to live their own lives. Mostly, I didn't think turning the corner on a new decade was that big of a deal, and besides, I got my first matching set of dishes, ever, from all the beautiful people that attended the surprise party my family threw. Honestly I don’t think I’ve ever been more surprised. 

These past few weeks I've been feeling around the edges of my life and have some thoughts about it all, which may include how strange it is to qualify for senior discounts, in a few local businesses on Wednesdays, but you have to ask and who can remember to do that?

What I can tell you is that I see things from a different vantage point than all of you who aren't quite as far down the path of life as I am. And even if we are closer in age, I've probably learned a few things different from what you have been learning. I’m not saying I have life all figured out.

Nope, I’m not saying that.

I’m just offering up my heart as honestly and authentically as I can in light of celebrating another year of life even though it isn't a decade milestone. These are just simple thoughts that I feel the Lord has been teaching this rebel heart of mine.

Take it all for what it’s worth, but maybe, just maybe I can save you from learning a few things the longest, hardest way so you can get to the really important stuff.

1.       If in doubt of what to do, love is always the right answer. 

2.       The world, our flesh and the enemy will help us fill every moment of our lives with things that distract us from what we were really designed to do. Battle to be intentional. 

3.       Love people today. You may not have the opportunity tomorrow. Your whole life can change in one split second. Trust me on this one.

4.       The most important thing I have done? Ask Jesus to take over my life and heal my heart. Second is this: to love others.

5.       Hot water is one of the all-time greatest inventions. Most mornings, as I am taking my steaming hot shower trying to wrap my mind around the day, I thank the person and or persons who figured out how to pipe hot water to a shower head. Bless them.

6.       My hairdresser, is a true artist in the deepest sense of the word. The world can be crumbling around me, but I will not cancel my date with her if at all possible, ever. 

7.       Thoughts and ideas that come to me in the shower can most generally be trusted as Divine revelation. Apparently it is the only place I am awake and quiet enough for God to speak and for me to hear.

8.       If you are a bitter angry person there is plenty of opportunity to be more bitter and more angry.  Forgiveness is the key to unlock your real life. *Ahem* Ask me how I know this?

9.       Children do not need their parents to be their buddies. They need their parents to be their parents and to know they are loved unconditionally.

10.   If you are finding your identity in your children, there will probably be a mid-life crisis where you have the opportunity to settle a few issues with the Lord about idols in your life. And some people never learn to truly cut the cord. It is just unhealthy. There is more I could say.

11.   "I'm busy," is a pandemic problem in America. It steals from what life was intended to actually be and from doing what is really important.

12.   Every good choice sets us up for the next good choice. The opposite is true as well.

13.   There is no such thing as small compromises in integrity. Every decision to be honest, trustworthy and dependable counts toward the big picture. Small things are big things.

14.   There is not enough time in this life to maintain people’s opinions.

15.   God wants to redeem everything in our lives, but we have to open our clinched fist and allow Him to have it all.

16.   When people are mean and hurtful, I try to understand their situation instead of hurting them back. This is opposite of how I was raised or what the world teaches. 

17.   What looks hopeless at night often doesn't seem like such a big deal when you get some sleep. 

18.   My failures are not my identity. My successes are not my identity.

19.   Worry and fear distract from the important things like praying and living.

20.   Plan A has never usually worked out for me. Thank goodness that is not the only letter in the alphabet. 

21.   In my deepest seasons of pain and hopelessness I learned that doing something for others changes perspective. The act of extending love to someone else in the midst of my pain brought a little healing and a lot of hope.

22.   Laughter cures a lot problems. 

23.   Homemade pie can make any run-of-the-mill day seem like a holiday.

24.   If you are married, love and respect your spouse. Speak well of them always. -Always

(Note: If someone is in an abusive relationship of course they should get out and go to a safe place and yes, tell someone who can help.)

25.   Emotional baggage attracts like emotional baggage in relationships. That is a fact and it's just scary.

26.   "Do the next thing." -Elisabeth Elliot  -In the darkest days of my life, this truth simplified a lot of confusion. Sometimes the next thing is to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer. It's simply that profound.

27.   Mercy is not my strong suit. So guess what? I get pop quizzes in that area. All. The. Time.

28.   I used to have a lot of “Why Lord,” kind of questions. I've outgrown most of them over time. Someday I will see the overreaching picture. I think it will astound me and I'll be glad I got to be part of it.

29.   If there is any wisdom in me, any beauty, anything worth knowing, it is because of what God had done in me.

30.   Forgiveness is a choice not an emotion. No one has enough years of life or energy to maintain negative feelings. So forgive and you will be the one set free. 

31.   A lot of time and resources have been wasted all while thinking I was doing it for the family or for God, when actually it was just selfish ambition.

32. I believe that the threads of our lives and our stories are more intertwined than we can know. Don't believe me? Check out this one example that I l-o-v-e.

33.   I've learned that every open door is not necessarily something I should walk through. Some things pose as opportunities and they are actually diversions that delay Gods real plans for my life and steal valuable time from the important things.

34.   Not every door that is closed is a permanent no from God. One of the things that few people do well is to, “Wait on the Lord.” I could be the president of that club.

35.   Rules and religion are not who Jesus is. It will always be, Jesus plus nothing equals, what the whole Bible says.

36.   Deep seasons of hard, impossible situations are where my faith and my prayer life have been developed the most. Not fun, but worth it.

37.   Bread is very forgiving to make and the process very therapeutic. The secret is fresh ingredients and good yeast. -I can teach you. :)

38.   Be in the Word of God every day. There is no substitute.

39.    Find a mentor. And make sure it is someone who doesn't just tell you how wonderful you are.

40.   Be a mentor. Someone needs what only you have to share. 

41. When you meet with a friend, have a meal with family, put the phones away. Nothing is that important. Really. Don't miss the real life doing on-line life.

42.   Make friends with all ages of people. 

43.   Notice the people that are most often overlooked. Remember, that the Bible says that the people who are first here on earth shall be last and the last here on earth shall be first in heaven. 

44.   Do not live in the past. Learn from it and move on. It is easy to repeat the mistakes of the past. Our own and those of our parents. 

45.   If we are really all full of kindness, mercy and all the other stuff, we won’t just talk about it, we will do something.

46.   Fear is a thief and a liar. The Bible says to pray about everything that concerns us. And I might add we need to pray specifically.

47.   Sarcasm is the use of irony to mock or convey contempt. Some people think it shows how smart and witty they are, but since it is most often at the expense of someone else, I find it repulsive. Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

48.   There are good things knocking on our doors all the time. They are the enemy of best. I've spent too much of my life learning this one.

49.   A negative mind will never make a positive life. 

50.   Many times, people just need someone to show up and care. It looks like a small thing. It's actually the big thing.  

51.   If you don’t worship the Lord in your everyday life it will be weird if not impossible to worship Him on Sunday.

52.   In His mercy, the Lord will pry out of our hands anything that we hold closer to our hearts than Him. 

53.   There are people who have done deeply hurtful things to me, by their words, rejection, deeds or inaction. I have lived long enough to see God’s judgment is beyond anything that I could imagine and that He loves to fight for those who love Him. I’ve also been the person who was guilty of all these things and know that the Lord longs to be merciful to every single one of us.  

54.   Everyone has a story. Mine goes something like this: I was a person who was living for myself and self-destructing. I met Jesus and He has been changing me into who I now am. Since I'm still here He isn't done with me yet. All of our stories intertwine to make up the Main Story.

55.   The Lord Jesus Christ is not shaken up by all the crazy things people twist and deny about Him. He is seated on His throne. He longs to be merciful to all.

56.   We live in a "best foot forward" society that silently screams, "Those who have it together… are the ones who live in the right house, in the right neighborhood, and who wear the right size, who have their smiling family and their perfect appearing life on facebook, instagram, and twitter -they're the ones who have it together, right?" The correct answer is no. God knows the heart and too often what we can see with our eyes does not equal reality. 

57.   I used to want people to think I was someone special. Now I just want to be the person who makes someone else feel like they are someone special.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Well friends, I wish I could give you a cupcake piled high with your favorite frosting, for getting to the end of this list.

Did anything here resonate with you?

What has the Lord been teaching you?

Happy thankful week!

Monday, November 17, 2014

When You Want Your Life To Be A Sweet Aroma

On one shelf, glass bottles of expensive perfume crowd together. 

Just looking at the rows of artfully contoured containers, you would think I am obsessed with the aroma of musky floral and pungent citrus scents.

The truth is, they were all a gift to me.

One friend, who adored good perfume and high-heeled shoes, purchased them all.

She was one of the first women to call me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Just a few years before, she had suffered through surgeries, treatments and complications herself. In light of my own diagnoses being so fresh, the shock of the news still hung heavy on my heart. This cancer-veteran spoke with brutal honesty of the road that stretched out ahead of me.

I was unprepared for the insight being offered. It was the final stroke that crushed my teetering emotions.

After that conversation I retreated to my office with a box of tissues and came undone. There is just no consoling a woman who is overcome with fear and for a few minutes has displaced her hope.

As my cancer journey unfolded this friend had her second cancer diagnoses delivered.

She battled long. She fought hard.

After her death, a box of clattering glass bottles were delivered to me as a gift.

It has been an odd journey to be the beneficiary of these vials. It's as if I was entrusted with the incense of her life.

I’m a woman who keeps things pretty simple. 

I have one ring, a few pairs of earrings that I wear and one type of perfume that I deeply enjoy. 

These past few years I have often paused to spritz one of the sweet bouquets into the air. Her apparent favorite was Mariella Burani. There are multiple bottles of it. The container is made of thick rectangular shaped glass, topped with a cap of red-orange resin roses.  The fragrance, to me, has a vanilla-orange that co-mingles with a musky rose scent.

For a fleeting moment, its almost as if I can capture a vapor of my friend and the life she lived. The drifting scent is reminiscent of her sparkle and spunk. Once again I can see her clear blue eyes and thick wavy blond hair that bounced when she laughed. The essence of flowers starts off a little bold like her personality and then as it settles in, a genuine warmth and authenticity linger.

I savor it until it fades.

And fade it does.

All of our lives are like that.  

The Bible says it like this:

" do not even know what will happen tomorrow. 

What is your life? 

You are a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes."

James 4:14

Of course when you are young, that seems like a vague statement that applies to older or at least other people. It's hard in the today-of-life to realize there are no promises about our tomorrows. And I don't want to focus on writing an obituary yet, however we are giving off an aroma of something with our lives and leaving a lingering impact of some kind.

My deepest desire is to leave a light scent of heaven in the wake of my life.

As I contemplate and celebrate the life of my friend, I realize that no perfume can embody her courage, perseverance and deep dignity with which she passed through the thin veil of this life into eternity.

The word fragrance has beautiful poignant meaning. 

According to the Webster 1928 Dictionary, the root of that word is from the Arabic, meaning to reach, or stretch. I think that adds a layer of depth to the whole concept of smell. Aroma is something that reaches farther than the place it originated. It has movement and impact reaching beyond the five senses and touches something much deeper. 

Something spiritual. 

Something eternal. 

In the crushing and the breaking is where the fragrance is released. 

I don’t need bottles of high priced cologne crafted by chemists, to remember the life of this woman. She lived a life that gave off a sweet aroma and a lasting impression.

Her real fragrance came from the inside, from her very soul.

While the advertising world speaks of the power of a fragrance to be able to create an atmosphere of allurement, to be provocative, exotic, uplifting, intoxicating, grounding, calming -all in the same sentence- I find myself drawn to the aroma of one life well lived.

One life filled with sincere faith, hands lifted high in honest praise and a heart surrendered to Christ. That is where there is peace, hope and the promise of eternity in heaven.

Everything else will fade.

Linking up here:

Monday, November 10, 2014

When You Are Preoccupied With Your Own Life

The song by Matthew West, “Do Something,” pulsed through my car speakers as I dug intently through my tousled mess of a purse. I was looking for the bank card I had haphazardly thrown into the heap at my last stop.  This only added to my frustration. I had been running late all morning. Late to pull myself out of bed, late to my first, second and third appointment. Now, I found myself sitting at a gas station, in a part of town I rarely go, thinking it would have been a good idea to get gasoline when the “forty-seven miles to empty,” warning came on, forty seven miles ago. The digital warning on my car no longer blinked red, it stayed solid while making a harsh alarming noise to announce there were no more options until fuel was added.

Once I finally located the card I turned the key off and began to exit my car. That is when the sound of people screaming jolted me out of my little world of procrastination.

In the gas station island next to me a man and woman were in a confrontation. They flung their arms and angry words as if no one else were around to witness it.

I decided this would be a good time to leave.

And leave I would have, except that my putting things off, had left me in a situation, with no choice but to wait. 

So I made sure the door was locked and acted preoccupied.

For a few moments they took their conflict to the other side of their van so I glanced over to evaluate the situation a little more closely. Inside their older multicolored vehicle, sat two adolescent aged children staring straight ahead.

A small amount of compassion seeped into my heart. I continued to look busy. Surely they would move on soon.

That is when this ridiculous thought came into my head. “Ask her if you can help.”

It was an unwelcome idea that I dismissed immediately as I preached to myself about not getting gas yesterday, or waking up earlier today or being more organized any day.

I glanced over at the ongoing confrontation.

Again I felt the simple prompt. “Ask her if you can help.”

It was not an audible voice but it was a persistent, uncomplicated thought in my mind to which I responded out loud, “No!”

Nothing about this could made sense. When has it ever been a good idea to walk up to a stranger who is involved in an escalating fight and introduce yourself?


But soon, I found myself getting out, slowly going through the motions of getting gas, muttering a prayer for help and the how-to, when the enraged woman came to the side near where I stood. In one crazy burst of faith, I touched her arm and stammered, “Is…. is... there something I can do to help you?”

The woman spun around and to my relief dropped her arms as if to surrender and began to pour out their story.

They had given the clerk $20 for gas, started the gas pump and gotten back into the van since it was cold, to wait for the pump to stop. Usually the clerk would set the pump to turn off for the amount pre-paid, but that had not happened and they now owed an addition $60 which they did not have. The argument had escalated as the cashier was threatening to call the police and the man and woman were blaming each other for having no options with which to pay the extra money.  

I glanced at the wide-eyed children in the van.  I turned back to the woman and without even giving it a thought, I asked her if it would be okay if I took care of the difference. Her face softened in disbelief. The man continued to fling angry words. She burst into tears and we hugged.  

Inside, the clerk was in a foul mood in light of the conflict. She waved her finger to an ATM machine and told me I would have to have cash, that she would not take my debit or credit card. I fumbled to operate the machine. My adrenalin was running high and I had never used a machine like it. Peering around the edge, I could see the man and woman pacing in front of their van.

Squinting to focus, I read through the process again.  This time the machine kicked out the necessary amount of cash. I turned back to the cashier, who coldly snapped the money from my fingers and did not look up or say thank you.

It was almost comical at this point how things were playing out. I was wondering how I would explain this to my husband. Plus I mused, this probably wasn't even God telling me to help these people.

I approached the van and the woman.

I told her it was taken care of and I hoped they would have a better day.

She began to thank me, but I looked straight into her eyes and said, “No, don’t thank me. It was Jesus who wanted to bless you.”

As I was walking back to my car, she called to me, “Hey! What church do you go to?”

I was honestly surprised at the question, but everything inside of me came alive. We had a short conversation about the where and when and the come-as-you-are, of the church we attend.

Driving away that day, I replayed the whole unlikely event though my mind and knew that I had just participated in something bigger than me. Somehow in my messy life I was able to shine light into someone’s darkness. Perhaps I was the answer to their child’s breath prayer or maybe Jesus had planned the whole thing to show them that He is real and loves them right where they were.

All I know is that I got to be a few lines in their story that day.

That was two years ago. I have no idea if they ever set foot in the church building, but there is a lot of freedom in knowing that God cares about them enough to bring them help. It wasn't about me being a nice person, but about God Himself being real and tangible in their situation.

I think of them from time to time and when I do I might pray, but mostly I praise God for them.

Moments before I encountered them I was preoccupied with my own life, while jamming to Matthew West as he sang about all the pain in the world around us and how we just settle in to be, “angels of apathy.” Ironically when I was confronted with a need and the opportunity to be part of the answer, I just wanted to lock the door and hide.

They changed my heart and the destiny of my day. They made my small world a little bigger.

It reminds me, that when I follow the Holy Spirits lead, it doesn't always feel safe or even make sense. And when action accompanied my faith by stepping out into the uncomfortable and unknown, it resulted in stirring the smoldering embers of mercy, compassion and unconditional love for people in general and for the God who loves us all right where we are. 

Right in our mess.  

Right now.

What is God asking you to do?

Listen to the song?

Linking up with these lovely ladies:

Monday, November 3, 2014

What Fills Me Up

After sharing about the state of our home, the dog incident involving my favorite shoes and posting a real-life picture of a currently happening fly strip, which had to remove on that same Monday because my grandsons found them to be extremely intriguing, with all their sticky gross-ness –well- I thought maybe it was time to give up writing if that is all I have to write about.


However, that is life and my real life right-now and still and on-going. And from the slow grinding progress going on with the reconstruction, it may be my life for some time to come.

And since I fight the pull of being worn thin just like you do friends, I thought this may be a good week to share with you some of the places I get filled up. 

I was reminded that much of what fills me up in a normal day isn't what you might think. Even though I am a girl with multiple e-mail accounts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, and pinterest-y loves. Yes, in the on-line world I belong to a variety of communities. Some are to encourage one another and some I write for. And then there is this space where I wander around and share words filtered through my heart. Thank-you for the grace and the love and for making this space part of what you do every week. 

Surprisingly, in a normal week I spend a lot of time alone to have something to give away. So can I remove any misconception for you? 

This is where I read, pray, get quiet.

In the summer the window is open and in the winter I have my favorite blanket. Consistently this is where I need to be, to spend time with the Lord. If you ever wonder why I do what I do, can I just tell you? I serve a God that is amazing. Not just some abstract God of anyone's imagination, but the God of the Universe. The Lord Jesus who reached down and drew me from the deepest pit and redeemed my life. I certainly don't have it all figured out, but what I do, I do for Him. I live to bring glory to His Name. His Kingdom is what I care about, not my own. 

So I come here, read His Word, seek His guidance and strive to walk out my days, for His glory.

Behind that green curtain, which matches nothing in this room, is a window that has been stripped and is waiting to be dry-walled over. There is a story there, but mostly you need to know that it's hiding a project that will probably be one of the last things to be addressed in our reconstruction. Still, this is where I write. It is my happy space.

I've had a lot of crazy jobs in my life. I have dug ditches, operated heavy equipment, farmed, ranched, worked as a switchman on the railroad, spent some years loading luggage and bringing in airplanes at a small local airline and perhaps my favorite, served up coffee as a barista.

Some of that stuff, you just never get out of you. Thank goodness! Good coffee is one of those things. If you ever want to make may day, a skinny latte will do it. I try to drink glasses of water, but my world is fueled by a considerable amount of coffee.

My neighbor Lynette has been very influential these past months. She has pushed my sorry excuses aside and got me out walking first thing in the morning. I have honestly not been the most willing woman to exercise, but she has kept me accountable and motivated. It has resulted in a better morning routine. I've lost some weight. I've gotten closer to my neighbor. Can someone sing Alleluia?

My friends Lorre and Amanda co-lead a women's Bible Study with me. It is hard and good and a complete highlight of my week to have them be for me and with me on a regular basis. I'm not sure how the Lord will use it in eternity, but I know He is reshaping my heart at the very least. Right now we are about to finish the study of Joshua and Caleb called One In A Million, by Priscilla Shirer. Yes! I want to have that kind of faith.

My church. One of the greatest blessings in my daily life is being part of a community of people who are on fire for Jesus. It is beautiful, refreshing, and life giving. All are welcome.

My family. My husband is one of my most cherished gifts in all of this life. To share my days with him... well it is a real-life love story and God-story. I am crazy about him. C-r-a-z-y. I am deeply known by him and still he loves me. He loves Jesus. He lives without pretense, send texts with emoticons and likes to clean house. Our children are amazing people. Not for what they do, but because of who they are. And our seven grandchildren all under the age of six years old, astound me. They require a lot of energy, but they feed my soul and give me endless reasons for joy and to be a woman of prayer. I cannot get over how much life they bring to my soul.

And then there is the deep well of the internet. I adore places that speak life, energy and refreshment. Honestly I don't have time for much else. I cannot read every post, every tweet, every facebook update, but when I do spend time on the internet I want to walk away ready to do more of what I love in my real-life. So I like blogs that teach how to love Jesus, our husbands, our children. On-lines spaces that encourages us to build up our homes and our faith. Spaces that offer information on how to keep the important stuff first and let go of the other things that keep us from the main things and how to discern the difference.

There are so many, that I do not intend to leave anyone out. This is my short list of places that get me filled up. I hope you will check them out.

Lara Casey: This woman knows what her life is about. She is at the top of her game and doing it all for Jesus. I've started using her Power Sheets. It has changed me. Not so I can do more, though there is that, but mostly so I do what is really important. And what is important is to live on purpose, the only purpose that matters is Jesus. -Thank you.

Denise J Hughes: This woman is one of the most gifted writers and deeply kind women I have had the honor of meeting in real life and hanging out in the virtual world with. She is the visionary behind Deeper Waters which is a beautiful place to hang out friends. So much to choose from in the way of encouragement and she is planning an ocean-side retreat this coming June. I'm going and would love to see you there!

Susie Larson: I love her heart! Her book, Your Beautiful Purpose has shifted my thinking. It has settled my heart into this season of life and what the Lord has for me to do right now. What she speaks is still filling me up to wholeness.

Elizabeth Stewart: Her blog is called Just Following Jesus and that is what she does everyday. Elizabeth has been blogging five days a week every since 2009. Hello amazing! Her blog home is packed with good stuff. I've met her in real life, but weekly I go to her on-line kitchen or sit in her on-line overstuffed chair and feel at home. She and I will be rooming together this coming spring at Jumping Tandem the Retreat.  I know you will love her like I do.  This is one example of what this girls shares that makes me happy. 

There is much more. Like here, here and here.  In my real everyday life,  I have so many women that the Lord seems to send at just the right time with a comment, text, act of kindness, a note on my windshield, a coffee or who mix up a special bottle of oils to indulge my skin with, while I take a hot bath.

You all know who you are and I love you, each and every one.

You are all threads in my story and life. There are so many facets of life and time. So many priorities and areas of interest. You, yes you reading..... you make my world smaller and bigger. You help me be more of who I was intended to be and I hope it works the other way as well.

And this last week I have seen it happen over and over again. Being filled up, encouraged and loved so many places, as only the Lord can.  And the reminder that what I do here is to send out encouragement and love for whoever the Lord is sending it to.

So, what do you do when you need refreshment, encouragement, and energy to keep pressing into life and the responsibilities we each have? 

What kinds of little things help you in a big way in your day?
© Rhonda Quaney