Monday, February 23, 2015

When We Miss the Heart Of Our Children

It was that one time I was asked to speak for a group of moms who teach their children at home.

As I remember it, there was no suggested topic or time boundaries really set out for me.

Let just say –that is always, probably never, a great idea.

The times I've been asked to speak, I've written an outline and walked in with a fairly concrete idea of where I was going with my words and the message that I hope to illustrate, but on that day I did not.

Looking into the faces of worn-out mommies who were trying to grasp a bit of encouragement, I could see women in the throes of not only raising active children, but under the added weight of educating them and wanting to do things well and right.

The words that rolled out of my heart surprised even me.

It was all more of a confession really. How when our daughters were being home educated, I did more things wrong than I did right, even though I was trying really, really hard to do everything kind of perfect.

When we made the decision to educate our children at home, few people gave us any hope that it was a good idea. The more educated the person, the more vocal the opinions against our choice. –Not that we asked for any opinions.

People who knew and loved us were hoping we’d come to our senses before we flat out ruined the kids.  And even though I never flinched while they were looking, in my heart I believed the message they were giving away.

The fact that we took this direction, was deeply influenced by our recent change of heart and our coming to faith in Jesus. Trust me. People who knew us before and after, this coming to Jesus, –well there was no denying that things had changed in our hearts and therefore the course of our lives.

Unfortunately, we had only began to understand God's heart.

Looking back, the overachieving craziness that I began to live, was largely due to my own deep insecurities and selfish pride. That, plus my weak hope to prove that being a Jesus follower and a home educator could really work.  Somewhere deep down I had thought I was going to fail God and fail as a parent.

Without meaning to, I began to set out to prove that this could be done and done well, even though I had no idea what that looked like.

I was always searching for the perfect curriculum. The one that fit the child’s learning style –or at least mine. It seemed like music would be one way to be well-rounded. So our older girls each played three instruments.

–But not the same three.–

I would have had at least one of them playing a full sized harp, (think heaven, angels, etc.,) but there was no one within 200 miles to teach that. Trust me I checked. 

We did Bible memory. 

I had them memorize a large section of Psalm 119. You should go look up that beautiful Psalm. Longest chapter in the whole Bible.

And if that we not enough to impress someone, I had them memorize Proverbs 31:10-31. You know the verses? The ones about that woman who rose early. The woman skilled at what she did and diligent in every detail. She worked hard all day and her husband and children stood and applauded her?

So maybe that last part was just my interpretation.

Well, my girls not only memorized those words, they learned sign language and could actually sign and say them.

Yes. Yes they did.

In-between the math melt downs and the spelling tests, the kids also did public speaking, sewed, decorated cakes and traveled to the outer corners of our world to show horses. And I thought we looked good at everything we set our hand to. That’s how I remember it anyway.

But all that going and doing and trying to make these human-beings into something, I almost missed the main point of everything.

I almost missed their hearts. 

I almost missed how God wired them and the plans that HE had for them.

In my zeal to prove that Home Schooling is a great option for education I missed the fact that you can teach subjects all you want, but still not understand the deep meaning of life.

You can memorize scripture, but it doesn't change a soul unless it moves from the head to the heart.

Because the Word wasn't just meant to be read it was intended to be lived. 

Information and education was never intended to be attained, but to be tools to help us live the lives God planned before we were born, –for His glory.

And if you are a person who knows Jesus as your Savior, we are accepted just. as. we. are.

No performance necessary.

Basically, what I told those women that day, was how as a mom, I wanted to do all these right things, but almost missed the main thing.

And the main thing was never supposed to be performance driven, accolade seeking, or controlling a child’s behavior externally by demanding obedience with the old model of, ”Obey me or else…,”  authority.

All so that things looked good. All so I could look good.

The main thing was always the heart of each child.

The very sacred internal part of the children I was entrusted with.

My overreaching vision as a woman of faith was often misdirected and therefore so was our homeschooling. The fact is, raising children grew my own heart up. God was always teaching me more than I was teaching the kids. 

Of course I think my children are amazing, since they carry with them my DNA and blood, sweat and tears. But it is truly God’s deep grace that makes them who they are. 

So to all the overachievers, and all those who long to be a recovering over-achiever like me, can we learn this?

Children, –all children– need God's kind of real love. 

They need authority that is kind and consistent without a personal agenda. They need parents and people who can, by example live lives that keep the Word of God in view, so they, (and us,) can be changed internally and make a real difference in the world we live.

Here are a few questions I wish I had asked myself when I was in the middle of raising children:
  • How important is this activity to the overreaching goal of pointing my children to Jesus?
  • Am I going for an outward appearance and external compliance, or am I doing what will reach down and touch the heart of this child.

Because in the end, all the activities will pass. 

The accolades and the trophies will fade. 

But how we live out our love, will linger in our children’s hearts. That will be a legacy that has nothing to do with activities or appearance and has everything to do with how we impacted our childrens very souls, which is to know Jesus and care about what He cares about.

May we earnestly seek the heart of God and not miss the true heart of our children. 

Linking up in these beautiful places.

Monday, February 16, 2015

When Beauty Needs Redefined

Can I ask you an honest question? 

What do you think beauty looks like? Give me your first unedited thoughts? 

All around us are images of what is perceived to be beauty. 

If you are like me and aren't sure what that looks like, we can just Google the word, “beauty.” 

When I did that, images of airbrushed women appeared. My search also revealed, page after page of products that promised to deliver beauty through weight loss, flawless skin and how to be better photographed, all to appear more beautiful. 
If you want to write a book that will sell, just write one about how to be more beautiful. Make sure you have a retouched photo on the cover to prove that the inside is going to deliver beauty on the outside.   

There are things that I've learned, from living over half a century now.  

One of those things –beauty is misunderstood.

I love the Webster 1828 Dictionary. I have the thick printed version which goes into detail of origins and root words, but I appreciate that there is a simplified version on-line here as well. 

There you can read that beauty, “is an assemblage of graces.”

That is just so interesting to me. 

The first thoughts of beauty are most often focused on the external, but the root meaning of the word shines the light on the internal. 

Let that definition soak into the very pores of your soul and pulse through your beating heart.

Beauty is an assemblage of graces.

And the word, assemblage is a fun word. 

It is actually listed here, as one of the top 100 most beautiful words in the English language. It simply means, “a gathering.”

So beauty, is an assemblage, or a gathering of graces. 

Graces carries with it a sense of virtue. Something that comes from the deepest parts of who we are. So I stopped to think of who some of the most beautiful people I know are. 

The first beauty that came to mind is my friend Esther, whose husband left her alone to raise three children. Even after decades of living in this area she speaks with a hint of New Jersey accent. She always touches my arm and asks how the family is and reminds me how she prays for us often. Esther is nothing less than stunning in her royal blue coat and her crown of wavy silver hair. Her beauty is timeless and cannot be altered by the hard years. Her face? It's full of light. 

It wouldn't seem like a man could look like beauty, but I believe I know men that are. One of them is Milt. It would be easy to pass by him I suppose. He is a widower and it's getting harder for him to get around. He was married to a tall, true beauty of a woman. They worked hard, raised some children and then one day his wife began to show signs of Alzheimer's.  

He cared for her with deep tenderness for a long period of time, but finally had to take her to a place that could provide the care she needed. Milt went to visit his bride most every day, and often he went twice a day. She didn't even know who he was, but still he was faithful. It was a difficult, long journey, but he loved his wife, until she drew her last breath. Milt lived out beauty that is rare. That’s what I see when he is sitting in his chair passing out bulletins on Sunday.  I am crazy over the beauty of his soul. 

It makes me cry, when I read and see the beauty of Kara Tippetts. Her story has become a testimony of faith to the world, as she and her husband cling to the promises, that this earth is not their final home. Cancer is quickly taking over her body, but not her soul. Even in the most graphic pictures that reflect the battle of cancer and chemo, she is honestly full of light and beauty. Her words are so entirely rich you need a glass of something, to wash them down. I'll just warn you, grab a box of tissues and be amazed. Her life is blinding with beauty that cannot be produced by a self-help book.

The Word says in Isaiah, that the Lord will give us beauty for ashes. 

Seem like such an odd thing. 


Heaps of burned flakes, which represent the hard and ugly things of life. The things that makes us weep and mourn and draw near to God because there is nowhere left to turn.

God calls that beautiful.

God, is an upside-down God to our way of thinking and is in the business of making things that are not if they are.

Those that I see living beauty out, somehow aren't focused on what seems to be dark fact or painful reality. 

Beauty is when we live lives of intrinsic virtue and integrity. 

When the deepest parts of who we are show the world what God really looks like. Those who respond in love to the darkness that may surround them –that is beauty.

God unfolds a far better story than we could write, but we have to live with love in the dark places that make no senseSomehow it is in the quiet suffering, we contend with the loud ugliness in the world around us. 

I think that is how we live and gather graces. 

Gathering, by acts of love, everything that is contrary to what the world teaches.

It’s an inner disposition. 

After all we could be the most attractive person on the outside, but if we have a temperament of hate and selfishness, –beauty doesn't reside there.

The world sells outward beauty as something that will satisfy and last. The Bible says that outward beauty will fade.

Beauty is result of what is embedded in a person’s character. This is why God Himself is the pinnacle of beauty. 

Beauty is the deepest part of who He is and therefore of who we are. For each and every person is made in the image of God and has deep, eternal value in His eyes. 

This is my own quiet rebellion against the world’s standard of beauty. As people who love Jesus we have to stop buying into the worlds illusion of beauty and start living the true definition of beauty. 

Start gathering graces of beauty. 

Begin today making one decision to shine light into a dark world by standing for what is good, noble and true. That is called “virtue.” 

Can you stand one more little word study? The word virtue is nearly a lost word in our language. In its original meaning, virtue is said to be this: “The radical sense is strength, from straining, stretching, extending.”

Living out a life of virtue isn't easy. It involves a straining, stretching and extending. It is in that struggle that we develop strength and true beauty exists.

Those people that I shared about earlier? The ones in who I see deep beauty? Somehow the Lord is bringing beauty out of their ashes.  It won’t grace the cover of a magazine, but God is writing a more beautiful story. 

True beauty has an eternal quality that does not fade. Ever.

The big question that I have for us is this: “How do we define beauty?”

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: 
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, 
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD 
Psalm 27:4

Monday, February 9, 2015

When Love Is Deeply Sweet

They had been together through the thick parts of life. 

The two had fallen in love with the idea of each other and what life might look like together. 

They bought a house and a dog and had some children and they all lived on a nice street.

They had good careers and a promising future. 

As life does, hard days came and they suffered great loss and lived through deep trials.
These things could have destroyed them, but instead this couple dug in and set deep roots. They had commitment. They grew in their faith. Even in the harshness of different seasons, there was hope. 

As time has gone, our lives have criss-crossed.

We've always enjoyed them, but recently as they sat across from us at the table, there was something different about these friends.

A deep sweetness that cannot be manufactured, a oneness which was so beautiful and so tangible, we wanted to draw closer to them and hang on every word.

At first I wondered if it was this seasoned grace that comes in a marriage that has endured life and failed expectations and weight gain and hair loss. Because there is just something deep about couples and people in general, who have lived long enough to know that life doesn't work out like the plan in your head or all the energy that you expend to make your every-thing amazing.


What they had was something much more profound than that. There was a tenderness in how they were with each other. The way they looked at one other. The way one spoke and reached to touch the others hand. As if longing to be closer, yet they were already just one.

And they were so honoring in every word that came forth.

Not that they had to be careful or guarded. In fact it was their gentleness and ease, the love and respect, and a deepness that can only come when there is real surrender and understanding of what love really looks like.

And though the course of honest conversation it became evident what it was we were drawn to.

One shared how just that a few years ago, they had come to understand that the way they treated their spouse, wasn't really what love looked like. They went on to say, they didn't love their spouse like Jesus would have them love. In fact, the one said, that they had missed the true heart of the other.

And they didn't have to tell us that things had changed because their love? —It was palpable.

Words were not needed really. It was so obvious that they had something fresh. Something deep and sweet in their relationship.

A real yielding of self, an honest giving of themselves to each other.

In the falling apart there was a falling together. And the result was a blessing of acceptance, respect and being cherished, in the imperfectness of all of life.

No control. In fact it was more like out-of-control abandon!

Theirs was a deeper surrender and a radical freedom to really live.

What they had is what the world longs for, but most don't know it, because we have been sold something about love that isn't even real.

You see, love costs us something. 

Love sacrifices self. 

That right there? Not a popular message.

And real love is heavenly-minded, not me-minded.

Love transforms.

When true love seeps into the recesses of our hearts there will be a sweetness that cannot be produced or explained.

Love is not distracted or annoyed. It gives up the rights and the clinging to being wronged.

Love cherishes and respects and gives itself away to the other.

And love is present.

As in, turning off the television and the computers and the phones.

Love is the beginning, the middle and the end —of all things.

Love is the key to the deepest things in all of life.

And while all around us there are couples scratching and striving to get ahead, the most missed thing?

Love is the greatest currency we have.

True love.... it looks like service.

Too often we demand to be served instead of giving ourselves away to serve the other.

And love isn't about never having conflict. Love is in how we resolve it.

The deepest secret to finding real love?

It is simply to know the One who is Love.


I used to think you had to be something special to be loved. Now, I know that we are loved, because He is love, but we have to stop making big plans for ourselves and start being Gods plan to love others.

And the truth is, when we really love, we find all the things we were ever looking for.

We find our God-created identity.

This couple that I've told you about? I love that they stayed committed through all the years and kept hope in the trials, and established faith in the hard parts. But their greatest testimony is the tender love that their lives reflect now, in the serving of each one, to the other.

That is the kind of  love that will leave a greater legacy. A legacy that will reach far beyond themselves.

We can each live that way too. All we have to do is start today, right where we are.

Ask Jesus what that might look like.

Monday, February 2, 2015

When Today Is The Day

I've had a fairly random, messy, chaotic, beginning to 2015.

While many people were at the gym fulfilling their New Year resolutions, I may have been eating gummy snacks with my grandchildren. 

The spaces that desperately need to be cleaned in my home? Well, my side of a perfectly large closet looks like an explosion has occurred. Someone in this house must collect shoes and it isn't my husband.

The kitchen needs deep attention. As in, do-not-look-in-the-oven, (or behind any door) it-will-freak-you-out. 

This Friday night we hosted our Grow Group. I had six of our grandchildren that afternoon. I'm happy to report they all survived. Our dogs shed more than normal when they are nervous and little people seem to make them nervous. Minutes before the guests arrived I had finished vacuuming, and while the two-year-old was in the bathtub, I brushed my teeth and cleaned the toilet. 

How do you just stop living like that?

Every year I dream of getting a fresh start in January.  As if the first of a new year is some magical event when more time and space will appear in life. 
The truth is, more things were added to my life in January. All the regular stuff plus our youngest daughter being home for the first few weeks and a wedding date set for May 30th. We still have windows that are only ruffed-in and half of the garage is full of pieces and parts of the aftermath of months of house reconstruction and mayhem. I have a determined, but aging father who just spent a week in the hospital and a friend my age who lost her battle with cancer a few days ago. 

Deep breath. 

I have lived long enough to know that life will never get less crazy. 

So, thank goodness for this truth, since I missed January 1st through the 31st!

I began using Lara Casey's Powersheets last year. I'll admit, I felt as if I were chipping away at Mount Rushmore to say, "no" to some really good things, so I can say a better, "yes" to some other things. 

Lara wrote a book that recently hit the shelves, called Make It Happen. I've actually devoured it. Mostly because I love her heart for the Lord and how her words have helped me process what is really important in light of eternity. The focus of her book is to define the core of who we are. This, of course, is a process. But if we get started, little by little, peeling back layers of the big picture, stop the distractions and to do those things that matter. Yeah, all of that.

One of the most challenging things for me has been to write out specific goals. I am a woman who is motivated by deadlines. I am a creative that is distracted by shiny objects and Pinterest. I have long failed at goal setting. Mostly because I was going about it all wrong. I was making goals that started with, "I want," and "I will, instead of just getting things in line with His will.

And I really didn't want to make this goal public, but I feel like that is what the Lord is putting on my heart to do. For accountability and to encourage you in your journey, no matter what that looks like for you. 

So without further fanfare, here are my foundational goals for 2015.
1. Go Deeper (My 2015 word!) -to seek the Lord deeply above all else and before all else. Why?  Because I get off track easily and all other paths lead nowhere. Because I need God to direct my steps and I am inherently selfish, and because I don’t have the answers, but He does. Because I want to use the time I have left on this earth well and live on purpose. One of the verses I've claimed for my word deeper is in Luke 5:4-7. Jesus instructs Peter to put out into the deep water and let the fishing nets down. Peter and his professional fisherman friends, had worked hard all night and caught nothing. Still they did what made no sense at all and experienced a miraculous catch. They did it because Jesus said so. I've trusted Jesus as my Savior for a few decades now, I've put a lot of energy into doing things I thought were for the Kingdom. I hope some of them were. But now, I feel the Lord asking me to do some things that don't make a lot of sense. I'm just trusting Him to take me deeper and for the results.

Verses: "Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch." Luke 5:4 and "The deeper your love, the higher it goes; every cloud's a flag to your faithfulness." Psalm 108:4 and "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" Romans 11:33 (There are so many more!)

2. Love and honor my husband. The why? So many reasons really. I’m always finding areas in my life that need more of Jesus. The truest test of my heart, the ones that reveal those places, is how I treat others, especially my husband. I want God to have access to all those places. I'm always learning and I long for our marriage to be all that God intended. What I know is that my marriage is a holy gift. Jim and I are better together. Our testimonies are intertwined. He is the lover and protector of my heart. I want it to be so evident to the world around me. I see this as a great need, especially in the church.

Verses: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8 and "A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12

3. Use the resources God has given me to bring glory to His Name. Why? There is always more I can give in this way. This year I want to open my hand to God more. In our finances definitely. Where we spend our money reveals where our hearts are. I want the platforms He has given me to make much of His great name. I pray this blog home could be used better for the Kingdom. I feel God is asking me to give more of this space away to the widow, the orphan, the woman who feels unseen. I am energized by people’s stories and when someone just steps out in crazy faith. I hope to highlight more of this kind of thing here in this space in 2015. I'm sure there will be more added to this goal as the Lord shows me what that looks like. Right now I just want to rededicate all that has been given to me to honor God.

Verse: "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it." 1 Corinthians 10:26

4. Invest intentionally in my children and their children. Why? This seems like it is something that just happens naturally and to some degree, I suppose it may. But my experience is that if I am not intentional, the days just fill up and time just ticks by. I want to know, really know what is going on in the heart of my children so I can pray better. I want to spend face to face time with them as individuals and as a family. Not in some unhealthy kind of way, but as in I want to be a blessing to them. I want to know the heart of my grandchildren so I can know what makes them come alive and do things with them that build real relationships. I want them to know I love them for who God made them, not for what they do or don’t do.

Verse: "Children are an inheritance from the LORD. They are a reward from him." Psalm 127:3

5.  Prayer and journaling. The why? I want to live something bigger than myself. I want to do what matters. I believe that prayer is so powerful and real. Not positive thoughts. Prayer is communicating with the God who named every star and knows the number of hairs on every head today. The Bible has so much to say about prayer. One of the most read posts on my blog is the one on Impossible Prayers. People, word search the internet, "impossible prayers" all the time and that post will come up. Apparently there are a lot of people who have problems that no one has the answer for but God. We have the privilege of talking to God anytime. That's amazing! I want that to be part of my legacy. Praying a lot and praying boldly. Journaling helps me remember what I have prayed so I can praise Him for how He answers.

Verse: "He is near to those who call to him, who call to him with sincerity." Psalm 145:18 and "You do not have what you want because you do not ask God for it." James 4:2

6. My health. Why? Well there are so many reasons, but without energy and health, everything else is compromised. I just desire to feed my body food that fuels it well and to be the best steward of my body I can be. For me, this absolutely does not look anything like the world offers. No fads or products that make all sorts of promises. Little by little, One choice at a time. For me, the only One I want to get credit for any good thing in this area is God.

Verse: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

7. Kill Distraction. Why? Because much energy and time and resources are lost by distractions. One article I read says that the average person spends three hours on social media a day. Television is said to be even more. For me, there are many forms of distractions, but they all take away from what I really want to accomplish in the time I have on earth. Much more could be said, but I can tell you I have fasted from social media for a week at a time and I got a lot accomplished. I'm not quitting social media. I'm just not letting it rule my life.

Verse:23 "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive."1 Corinthians 10:23 and  "Everything is permissible for me"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"--but I will not be mastered by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12 (I love how the Message says it: Just because something is technically legal doesn't mean that it's spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I'd be a slave to my whims.)

8. Do all things with great love. Why? Mostly because there are so many things that come into my path that I may not know what to do, but the correct response is always to love. It doesn't mean I have to take on other people's emergencies and problems, but it does mean I need to respond out of love.

Verse: "Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, Doesn't have a swelled head, Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first," Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

- - -

So there you have the beginning of what my goals look like for 2015. These goals are going to be the foundation for some other things I feel like the Lord has put on my heart to do.

I appreciate how Lara Casey emphasizes that striving for perfect will hurt those around you and your progress. She says, "done is better than perfect."

Thank you!

Her core message is that we need to get our goals in line with God. We need to peel back the layers of our lives and take steps to make changes that are grace-filled, to do what is truly important, not just what keeps us saying we are, "busy."

Some of this could look counter-productive. Such as fewer followers, less social media, less money.

All I know is that I want to stop doing the things that are holding me back and start doing the things that will bring glory to God and make His name great.

I don't need a new year to start doing that.

Today is a great day to make that my focus.

How about you? What are your plans for 2015?

You know all those things
you've always wanted to do?

You need to go do them.

-Lara Casey

Image courtesy of Lara Casey

© Rhonda Quaney