Monday, April 27, 2015

When Your Life Has A Theme

My days have had a theme.

I didn't choose the subject matter, but it keeps following me and changing me. 

Monday started with several e-mails requesting prayer. There was a personal message asking for prayer. People on social media listing prayer needs. A meeting about –prayer. A phone call that rushed past the how-are-you's and skipped to, "would-you-pray-for-me?" Another phone actually asked, that I would stop praying, –if that was the reason behind their world being shaken up. 

In the grocery store, right in the middle of avocados and tomatoes, a person I barely know, poured out their problems and broken places. So with one hand on her shoulder and the other on a shopping cart handle, we prayed. There was yet another conversation about prayer, one which I did not initiate, and I told that person straight out, “I think, you think, I pray more than I actually do." 
You probably won’t find it at all surprising, that I also found myself in a situation, where someone had a video she wanted to share and it was on the subject of –prayer.

I don’t know the name of it, but the gentleman who was being interviewed, held my short attention span the entire time, as he told how his small town has been radically changed for good, because people there began to cry out to God earnestly and seek Him in prayer.

I hesitate to even write about prayer. 

I’m certainly not an expert on the subject. There are however, so many needs, endless hard things surrounding me, all of which I have no answers for. So, I simply find myself talking to God about them. 

That is really what prayer is; simply talking to God. 

If you have a heart of compassion, prayer allows you to enter into the lives of others. 

Once I wrote a blog post on "Impossible Prayers." It is still one of my most read blog posts, because people have problems and they go to, “Google” instead of God and search, “impossible prayers.” Apparently the search engines throw my blog post out there. I’m not sure that when they read that post they fully grasp the answer they were seeking, but I hope it points them to Jesus.

Too often, we only pray as a last resort. 

The rest of the time we tend to think we can handle things fine on our own. This week I was reminded that I need to be talking to God about things throughout the entire day, just as I would if I were spending time with a person I can see. If I were spending the day with you, we would just have ongoing conversation right? Well, God is a Person, not a vague vapor in the heavens and He wants to have conversation all day with us too.

So with this repeated theme of prayer, I did what any reasonable person would do. 

I prayed. 

I prayed in the shower. Sometimes I prayed as I drove and as I cooked and especially while I was writing about praying. A few times this week, I was just overwhelmed by the weight of some things and stopped long enough to lay on the floor face down for a few minutes. I prayed some short-of-breath prayers while I was exercising. I prayed in my favorite chair, where on the very best kind of days I sit and read in the morning, with the window open slightly so I can smell the damp air and hear the birds fuss outside.  Honestly don't be disillusioned. That doesn't happen as often as I'd like.

Sometimes I actually pray a verse over a situation. That is always a powerful prayer. I have verses I pray over my husband, my children and verses that I pray for myself in the areas I struggle. Perhaps my favorite way to pray is by walking in different neighborhoods. As you walk there are just things that come to mind to pray for homes and the people who live in them and for the schools and the children and teachers. 

Not every day, but as many as my husband is home, he and I pray together at night. Nothing fancy or impressive, because it isn't how well you roll the words together with God, but how earnestly you pour out your heart to Him.

Sometimes, especially when it comes to prayer, I think we make it too complicated. 

Prayer is our response to the person of God who loves us and who is always inviting us to join Him in what He is doing. It's crazy, but God is willing to do things in and through us, especially when we pray.

In the years that I've been falling in love with Jesus, I have learned a few things about God and prayer. 

The biggest thing I know is that God actually speaks to us through the Bible, through His Holy Spirit, the church and even circumstances, to reveal Himself, His purposes and His ways. And none of those things will contradict each other. So when I pray, I'm usually responding to something I know to be true about God. 

I know He loves all people. His heart is for the broken, the widow, the orphan, and those who are taken advantage of in this world. God will not despise a contrite heart and He opposes the proud.

Prayer is not asking God to do things for me with self-centered motives, though I'm sure that has happened. Often, when dealing with difficult people I will end a prayer, with these words, "Lord this is how I see it, but You know their hearts, so I trust you."

We need to keep short accounts with God about things that hurt us and cause us to have negative feelings toward another person. If we don't forgive others, it separates us from God. Unforgiveness is our obligation, since Christ forgave us. It is at the epicenter of how the enemy trips us up in this life. 

In the video we watched this week, about those people who were seeing God do astounding things in and around them in response to prayer, the speaker said there were two things he felt were important to remember when praying. The first was to pray with a sincerely repentive heart. The second was to pray and ask what is on God's heart to do.

In light of how deep and wide the subject of prayer is, I think that is well stated. –Just talk to God sincerely and seek what it is He would have you do and say. 

We live in a very, "me-centered" world. When we step outside of that we find that God has so much more for us to be part of, when we make it about Him.

One haunting verse in the Bible that often comes to mind in relation to prayer is this:Often we don't see God move on our behalf, because we don't ask. And when we do ask we don't receive because we have wrong motives.  James 4: 2-3 

On this earth I am at least going to ask God for things that I feel He puts on my heart. It is up to Him how He will respond. 

One of the most frequent things I hear people say to me about prayer, is that they don't know what to say to God. 

JQ and I have spent too many years around people who prayed loud and long and seemed to really have all the right words to say. Read here to see what God has to say about that kind of praying?

That isn't how we pray at all.  In fact, I love to listen to my husbands earnest words that are sincere and often few. I believe it's his heart speaking, that moves the heart of God. 

God honors prayer that seek what His will is. 

Prayer isn't marking off a list of wants, needs and desires. It is more of a pouring out of our hearts honestly to God about the things that come to my mind, filtered through our souls. And when we lay them all out there for Him, we can walk away knowing that the Lord has heard us and will somehow be moving in and through those things to further His Kingdom and for His glory.

When we pray, we enter the battle on behalf of those we are praying for. 

Volumes of books have been written on prayer, yet mostly we just need to do it more. 

Prayer is the one thing I can do that will live beyond my life here on earth. Seeing how God answers prayer and moves through prayer has increased my love and faith in Him. The more I pray, the more I pray.

If I could encourage you today in one thing, it would be to talk to God throughout today. He doesn't need empty memorized words. He wants your heart to speak to Him.

Ask Him where He is moving? 

Where can you join Him?  

Don't worry about the words. Just submit your heart to Him and see what He does.

I'm praying earnestly for you.

What could happen in this world, if we all made prayer a theme in our lives?

Linking here. Visit them?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Embracing Today

Arriving home from school, I can still hear the creaking sound our old screen door made as it was yanked open and the clamor that followed as we pushed up the narrow back porch steps. Often my brothers and I made a game of leaping two or three steps at a time, shoving each other to win the race to the top. Then all out of breath, with screams of irritation and delight, we burst into the heart of our home where more times than not, my mom would be standing behind the gas stove, cooking. 

For eighteen beautiful springs I lived in one place. A place where cottonwood trees stood like towering castle walls on all sides, creating a leafy canopy overhead. Lilacs formed a hedge just to the south, near a cement duck pond and the sweet aroma of it filled the house in the mornings when all the windows were opened. And the apple tree near the front porch would explode in white blossoms that would drop a carpet of petals surrounding the base, inviting anyone who would dared come close, to sit down and drink in their extravagant beauty.

And we just thought that she liked to be there waiting for us.

Those years, that season of life, imprinted much of what is beautiful, what brings comfort and the things that make me feel most alive.

Things like fresh bread straight from the oven, cookies by the fist full and chocolate anything.

Growing up where I did, people had big appetites and it was okay not to be on a diet. Maybe it was all the clean air and endless places to run, but I never remember hearing talk, about what to eat and what not eat. We just ate and enjoyed it.

We were served crispy fried bacon and eggs for breakfast with toast heaped with loads of real butter. Lunches were often PBJ's and thin potato chips, followed by supper, which was almost always a four course meal of meat, vegetables and potatoes topped with gravy. It wasn't until I left home that I realized gravy was not a food group.

And if that were not enough, if possible, we had an afternoon snack.

We didn't do organized sports, except neighborhood baseball games in the field in front of our home or a bike race to the stream not far from our front door or when we were just a little older, the city swimming pool was only a half mile away.  I think it kept us from being cookie cutter kind of kids that did what everyone else was doing.

I've been inhaling spring, and all that it awakens in me along with this season of life.

Watching every announcement of its arrival with each yellow daffodil and blushing tulip and the entire bird kingdom singing loud before the sun rises outside my window.

And I’m hungry.

I’m hungry for this new season and how spring is arriving on its own timetable.

How green shoots are pushing out of hard places and micro-sized maple leaves have opened up on one huge tree and how the cottonwoods are reluctant to release their buds.

I’m starving for these days that grow longer and warmer nights and the familiar sound of jet-skis with full open throttles on the lake as they surge and soar in the swells. And the smell of campfires and the taste of s'mores, even though I prefer to just eat the chocolate plain or maybe on a single graham cracker.

I still ride a bike and love the feel of wind rushing against my face and the sound of my breathing as moving air fills my lungs and soft clinking sound the gears make when I shift and the chain as it spins against the cogs on the chain wheel. The burn is my muscles is a welcome feeling. It means in this moment I can still move and the body is still responding to being pushed past an office chair.

I want to tuck seed below the surface of tilled ground and wear dirt under my fingers like it’s a fashion statement.

I want to feel the sun on my face and go walking and waving at people I don’t know, but who are glad to be out embracing this season too.

I’m grateful to feel alive and want to grasp where I am, right now, in this season of life without apologies and to stop listening to the banter of the world that I can be more if only I ……


I want to have deep and hard conversations with those who are brave enough to actually move beyond the thin layer of veneer friendship. 

And I want this to be a season of not be offended by those who are always offended.

In fact I want to be that person who really loves people with abandon, where they are.

I mean really. Love. People.

Because love, or the absence of it, tell the world what we really believe.

I want to hug who I can, with all I have in me and kiss them on the cheek as if it is my last chance. Because I have lived long enough to know... you rarely get a memo when your last chance to love them might be.

I want to pull over to the side of the road, even though I may be late, when the clouds stack just a certain way and the sun makes it all magical and capture just a glimpse of all the beauty of God that is around me.

I have an insatiable appetite for what is real and honest and tangible and uplifting.

Today, I am profoundly moved by what a privilege it is to be an ordinary person, playing a part in the story that God is writing on earth, in this season, right now.

This season is embedded in my pores and senses with certain memories, and tastes, and smells and all these emotions.

And God reveals His glory in and through it all.

When I was young, I pedaled my little bike as fast as I could to reach the next destination, only to throw the bike in tall grass, as I dismounted in a small heap.

I didn't know to take my time arriving.

I didn't fully embrace the world I was blessed to live while I was there.

So today, I want to embrace this right-now-season.

I want to inhale all the sights and sounds and tastes of it, because I think it all matters. All of it. The pain. The joy. The discomfort.

I hope you will slow down today and embrace exactly where you are.

Put your finger on your wrist and be thankful for the throbbing pulse and your one beating beautiful heart and live today like you mean it. 

This season that is arriving will soon enough be gone.  

I’m sharing one of my mom’s go-to recipes.  There are only six ingredients that whip up to make a pan full of chocolate happiness that has been delivered to so many homes, in every kind of season of joy and sorrow.

Monday, April 13, 2015

When Shopping Equals Love

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Not long ago I had the opportunity to attend "Party with a Purpose," which was the beautiful idea of Lina Sutton. Those who came had the opportunity to sip coffee with an option to purchase beautiful handcrafted gifts, (some of which I may have kept for myself.) It was a relaxing time to gather with friends, laugh, and impact the lives of people around the world. How often does that happen all at the same time? It has opened my eyes to simple ways that I can link arms with ministries who are doing a great work of loving God and people. Lina also has a sister, whose family is in the process of adoption, a subject that my heart is so tender for. So, I asked Lina if she would share with you and I pray you will love what she has to say as much as I do.
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We recently celebrated Easter, where we were reminded of the good news, that through Jesus not only can we have a relationship with God, but this relationship changes every aspect of our lives. I think sometimes in our desire to live for God, we focus on the big things, but can overlook the seemingly small, ordinary ways that He wants to use us. I Corinthians 10:31 (NLT) says “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”. Romans 12:1 in the Message puts it this way. “Take your every day, ordinary life –your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life– and place it before God as an offering”. 

I’d like to add shopping to that list.

Growing up in a missionary family, I've long been exposed to the needs around the world, both spiritual and physical.  About two years ago, I realized that although I didn't have unlimited finances for giving, I did have an untapped source–my shopping! Specifically in the area of buying gifts. What if I used the money I was already going to spend, but chose to buy products that also went to help people who had urgent needs?

I had the idea of having a “Party with a Purpose” where I could share with others how their dollars could make a difference. I decided to purchase items that people could reimburse me for so they would have the opportunity to see items first hand and shipping costs would be shared. My sisters and mom agreed to help and we invited other ladies to attend. The goal was to “motivate others to acts of love and good works” (Heb. 10:24). I bought items from four different organizations that I had grown to love, that are doing a great job of caring for the poor, orphaned and widowed in a practical way.
I got jewelry from Amazima, a ministry in Uganda that feeds, educates and encourages the orphaned, poor and vulnerable, bags from Freeset, an organization that provides freedom for women from the sex trade in Kolkata, India, and cards and journals from Ten Thousand Villages , a non profit that works with disadvantaged artisans in 38 countries. 

I also purchased coffee from Just Love Coffee, a fair trade company that donates 5% of all their profits to help with clean water projects in other countries and allows families in the process of adopting to raise funds through having their own store front.  My sister, Lissa, and her family are in the processing of adopting a child from Ethiopia, so I purchased coffee through her family’s store front. There are a lot of coffee lovers among our family and friends, and this has been a great way to support and encourage the Zuñiga family as they go through this long and sometimes difficult process!

We recently had another party, this time a family friendly open house. Women may do the majority of the shopping, but making our dollars count is something we can all do! We included a wider variety of products and three more organizations: Mercy House, a ministry in Kenya for pregnant women and their children, Pacha, a Hastings, NE., business that helps with social issues by promoting better standards of hygiene in developing nations through the Raise the Bar campaign and W.A.S.H., and The Reach Boutique , a ministry of Countryside Christian Church in Kearney, NE.

Having a party with friends is a simple thing that anyone can do (and I hope you will!). Besides helping others around the globe here are a few of the fun things that God did through ours: The church we attended began using Just Love Coffee, God used the party as one of the things that led to some friends becoming foster parents, and my sister, Liza, was able to share about the different organizations with her bible study group. The Zuñiga family now has more people encouraging them in their adoption journey and were also helped with adoption expenses. Through the coffee sales and donations by those that attended our most recent party (thanks to everyone who gave!) they have exactly what they need for renewing their paperwork next month!

I love how the gospel changes everything-even our shopping! Don’t discount the everyday things in your life, you might be surprised by how God can use them.
(Lina Sutton is pictured (far left) along with three of her sisters. They are all wearing some of their favorite fair trade accessories.) 

Lina is a wife and mother of four, seeking to use the ordinary to honor God and help others. You can contact her at

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**We would love it if you would want to use your everyday life to impact others with your shopping! Please feel free to ask questions! If you are interested in being part of the Zuñiga family's adoption journey you can purchase coffee hereJust Love Coffee, or donate directly to their paypal account, at

Thank you for using your everyday life to make a difference.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A New Season of Life

In the private corners of my life, I've been exchanging what is familiar for what is arriving new. 

Indeed, this last week was a bit unyielding with reminders that in small and large ways, all of life is about change, not only in the world around me, but the soul within me. 
Early mornings were sprinkled with pastel colored skies that stretched out like a canopy. Even though the morning temperatures remind me that the long season of winter is leaving slowly, robins are building their nest and dance across the lawn. The ground is softening, but still shows more brown than green. Crab-apple trees are exploding with blooms and overhead, the muted cries of grey-bodied Sandhill cranes fly high. They are moving on to the next place in their own migration journey. 

All around, signs of new growth are pushing up and out and onward.

Though I welcome this new season, it's arriving whether I embrace it or not.  

The fragile pages of time and life continue with or without consent and change is always what God uses, to make us more of who we are really becoming.

I've never been one to think that the life I have right now, is the one I’ll always have. There are just days that I am more aware of changes.

It started with time spent with the beautiful, bronze skinned girl I meet with most every week. She doesn't want to talk about the fact that next month she will be moving to a new school and everything will change for us. I’m wondering if our hours together have had any real impact on her heart. Even if it didn't change her, she has changed me. My eyes are now open to see things in the world that I drove by, before I knew her.

There is a wedding coming soon and long lists that need tended to. I'm trying to do just a little bit every day. When it comes to weddings, I’m not as concerned about the one day, as I am all the days of their life spent together. So as much as anything I find myself whispering prayers over the changes they are stepping toward. 

One day a week, I load up all the grand-kids that are available. 

I drive slow.  

There is zero chance that this season will last long enough for me.  JQ and I both try to inhale all the rolling chaos, every slobbery kiss, and every skinned toe. We can’t get enough of life through their eyes. 

A few days ago was the anniversary of my mom’s sudden passing. The loss of her, has settled over my life like an uncomfortable pair of jeans. At every bend and turn I am aware of how unpleasant it is to live without her. There are few days that I’m not reminded of how fragile life is and how mostly there is just an instant between time and all of eternity. She has missed four Easter Sunday meals, the birth of eight of her great-grandchildren, and this weekend, there was an empty chair where she should have been sitting for her youngest granddaughters Bridal Shower. 

It has changed the emotional landscape of my life. It has also made me more aware of others. Their pain, their fears and even the whole resistance to change that most of us battle. 

Still, there is no stopping how the pages of life turn, before we're ready.    

The endings, beginnings, and all of life having its way — hard and beautiful and fading. Always, there is loss inter-weaved with growth. 

There is heartbreak and mystery beyond any human understanding. Most days if we are honest, we are challenged to surrender, to accept, and to embrace, change.

Old routines, along with the familiar and loved things in my life have slipped away as change pushes in.

There is no time to waste in loving those who will allow us to be part of their life and to pray over the rest. There is no time to look back and try to rework in our mind what cannot be changed. There is only time to embrace today, this right now time in our lives, and to do the next thing that really matters.

Always, there’s a bigger picture unfolding, a story being written that’s larger than the one we can see. 

On Thursday, we had cupcakes and said our proper goodbyes at the job I've held for eight years.

These people are all the best of the best. I have no reason to leave except that the Lord has been moving me. Trust me, I've been resistant to His voice, since it really makes no sense. 

Change is mostly like that. –Moving on, when we aren't sure that we're ready. 

It has only added to this reflective mind-set of mine. 

In the time I've worked for this company, there have been, many transitions that have radically changed who I am and how I do life. 

I've seen my children grow up and turn into better adults than I could have prayed. All the wedding dresses, truck loads to new homes, and hospital visits to meet the grandchildren. Countless small changes that added up to bedrooms being empty and hearts being remade with joy and tears in the next season. 

There was the death of my younger brother, my own life changing cancer diagnoses and seeing my mom pass though the invisible veil that separates this world and eternity.  

So many seasons of change that brought unprecedented changes in the condition of my soul.

I am convinced that these years have served to draw me closer to Jesus. 

And now I’m being lead to a new place.

Honestly I’m trying to throw my arms around the unknown of where God is taking me in this new season of life.

Change is always inviting me to trust in God with the details and my lack of understanding. 

In response to living in the unknown, Elisabeth Elliot often said, "Just do the next thing."  

As long as we are living and growing there will be seasons of change ahead. I just want to be faithful to do the things God has set before me to do.

It feels like I'm standing on the cusp of something, perhaps its just spring, but maybe its the turning towards a new season, and I want to mark it.  

What I know? Where God is leading, God will illuminate the path. And where I go, God is already there.

That is what I am wrestling with this week. 

Plus there are some kites to fly and some orange infused water to drink.

What season do you find yourself in?

Did your life happen just the way you thought it would?

*Photo of my grandson on his bike was taken by his mom with my camera. Since she risked being hurt in the name of getting a good shot, I thought I would include it in the collage above. Thank you Amy. :)

Linking up at Jennifer's.

© Rhonda Quaney