Monday, January 25, 2016

A Silvery Lining

Soft waves of candlelight flickered inside the tiny church. She walked with a limp but wore her thick silver hair like a priceless crown as the young usher escorted her to the front pew. My grandma was a woman who knew tremendous heartbreak as deeply as she had experienced happy endings. And I believe the impact of how she loved and lived her life, is still unfolding.

After she was seated, a few final notes were struck on the piano and the tempo rose into a crescendo of the wedding march.

The white satin dress, outlined with silk floss embroidery and strings of accents pearls made me feel like the walking was really floating so I tightened the grip on my Dads' arm.

You turned to face me and we laced fingers together like strands of twisted cords.

All I know is that it was a broken road that led us both to that sweet moment. 

I wasn't looking for anyone when you came gently into my life. And there we were, exchanging rings of silver and gold in hopes that maybe, this time, the circle would not be broken, because we both had rings tucked away in drawers from promises that had died.

So, you and I somehow fell in love with hope.

I think I was in love with the idea of us that day. 

The you-ness with me. 

That together we would have us-ness.

And now, twenty-five years, later I'm still taken back by the sweetness of our with-ness.

Looking back, I can see how we were baptized together, bound with slivers of hope and fragile faith. And how the brokenness provided unlikely portals for God to pour His love into us and out through us.

But true Love, demands a response beyond complacency.

All these years? Even on the days, I didn't like you? I've always been committed to ––us.

We've learned to live out the gospel of grace. 

Upon grace. 

Upon Grace.

And God? He's been building in us, character to match the calling He has placed upon our lives. 

As we continue to walk it out, take deliberate steps to live it out, we are proof to our children and to the world how the moments that matter, are the ones lived in love.

Big and flashy doesn't compare to the sweetness of the everyday and the ordinary, which is transformed into the sacred, when done in the name of Jesus.

I can think of many things that you, loving me, has done. The one I hold the closest is how your love has set me free.

All these years your answer to me has been mostly, "Yes."

Goodness knows.... many of the things I've chased were nothing more than vain pursuits. But you have always given me the room to dream and find that out anyway.

God has kept us. From the cry of a newborn to the holding of our grandchildren. There in the everyday piles of unlaundered life. In hospital rooms. Through cancer. Holding out hope in unexpected last breaths. The tragedy and the beauty and all the unveiling of each other.

We have simply lived the best we knew how ––a faithful life.


The deepest need  of our two souls that candlelit night? Was to know more of Christ so we could be better known by each other.

Miraculously we have done that, despite ourselves and all our human failure.

The lacing of our fingers is how I see our lives together. You fill in empty spaces with quiet strength and surprising discernment which I need desperately to offset my passion for life and spur-of-the-moment choices.

Your integrity is a blanket of protection, not only for me but for our family.

Your words are gentle and assume the best in others.

You are a man who works hard, goes last, and quietly serves where others don’t see.

I'm your biggest fan. I believe in you, I honor you. I adore you. I'm a student of your soul. I can tell in your voice, in your eyes, in the promptings of the Spirit ........the deeper things of how you doing.

Because our souls are weaved together.

I still stare at you in disbelief of how it could be that you and I are  ––us.

Last week I ran my fingers over strands of silver hair that had slipped out from under your ball cap. May we wear this silver hair like a crown.

The best news ever? Twenty-five years later, you and I aren't the same people were.

I came into this marriage trying to hide my obvious emotional limp and now I'm just grateful for all pain that it took so this part of life could happen.

I have found the one my soul loves.

I thank God for unanswered prayers as much as the dreams that have become a reality.

Brokenness allowed more light to shine, revealing the silvery lining.

My hope for us now?

Keep laughing. Keep loving. Keep living for Jesus.

Still amazed that you and I are really... only...  us.

A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

So grateful for every day we get to live out love together.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Celebrating this week with my husband.

Grateful for our God of second, third, and "thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand" chances.

Happy 25th Anniversary JQ. The impact of our lives together..... is still unfolding.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Thin Places

Single-digit air pricks my skin, as I let our dogs out for their morning romp. Thick strokes of frosty orange hues separate the dark of night from the rising of light. Against a shadowed sky, slender ringlets of smoke are rising from houses across the canyon and every roof sparkles with a thin dusting of snow that has settled across the entire landscape.

The light rises to meet the dark.

The stark places are illuminated by the glint of cold.

It seems like this has been a week of thin places, where the darkness in the world has done its best to overshadow light and life.

The news is hard to hear. So many impossible situations. From the fear driven beats on social media to the momma who is wondering how life could change so fast for her family and the boy who is now in a battle for life.

And that kind talented young man with his whole amazing life ahead of him? Gone. And in the shattered days that have shaken untold numbers of people, there are many whose lives are now altered forever.

The thin places in my soul are for the aching and the broken and the breaking.

Those who in no way pretend to have it all together. The ones who carry the weight of grief and addiction and rejection. Those who mourn and wail and cannot find relief from the pain. Those who try to walk the endless days and long nights of depression. The ones who can never get it all together.

My heart beats thin for people who are faced with no hiding place for their pain.

Those who are shattered by grief in whatever form it has been delivered.

My heart and mind and soul cannot forget the depths of it.

Grief is such an understated word. A single syllable.  Some people use it lightly when they joke with indignation, "Good grief!" I'm not sure that anyone who has actually lived through grief would ever use the word so casually.

For what I know of it, grief is an uninvited heaviness that arrives with a tsunami of uncontrollable crashing emotions that toss you into the depths of its turbulent waves and you think just the mental angst of it will be the end of you.

They say grief is sorrow of the mind, but it was the most physically altering thing I've experienced.

And then the ashes of your life blow over and you are left smoldering in the aftermath ––wondering what is even real.

Grief is what landed me in a crisis of faith. 

Because if God is real then life had become some terrible joke? It made me question everything.

I often think of Job, who in one day lost it all. His children. His wealth. His health. And his response? He fell to the ground and worshiped God.

Much of the book of Job, reveals how misunderstood he was by his wife and his so-called friends.

It's easy to think that the beautiful and the affluent somehow have a corner on God and His blessings, when in fact, God is close to those who are brokenhearted.

I think grief has a way of stripping away what isn't important. It dashes personal agendas and self-confidence and wanting to speak shallow words.

It asks the unspoken questions.

It demands a response.

As gracious as God has been to speak to me in some of those questions, Gods ways are not my ways nor are His thoughts the way of human thoughts.

For me, pretty religion did not answer the depth of my pain.

But Jesus is near the brokenhearted. 

Not the person with the plan or the power or the where-with-all to make another thing happen.

Oh, but those who are folded into a fetal position from pain? They are held by the God who unfolded His love for us by becoming a baby and dying on a rugged cross for all the darkness and sin of this world.

My grief is what brought me to the place where all the pretense was stripped away.  Some sorrow leads to a living death, but if we allow it, sorrow can bring real life.

My sorrow and pain and grief were the catalysts that brought me to a true and life-changing understanding of Jesus.

My weakness is where Gods glory is best displayed.

Everywhere I turn it seems like there is suffering.

But what if walking in a season of pain is a sacred place?

A place where something deeper is going on that we may not know the full story until we are no longer walking this earth. What if people need to see how you live it? Imperfectly. But leaning on the God who says, that what we experience here cannot compare to the glory that will be revealed.  

So keep I keep looking at the ancient story of Job, the man who suffered so deeply yet  responded in worship.

Grief and pain and sorrow are what made my hard heart, soft.

It makes thick places, thin.

And wherever there are thin and broken places, the Light and the glory of God will surely shine, making even the darkest places come into the light.

So draw near to those who are suffering.

Draw near in encouragement.
Draw near without words of advice.
Draw near in prayer.

- - - - - - -

What are some ways that God has used to change your heart?

How can I encourage you today?

Monday, January 11, 2016

What Fires You Up?

I bought a beautiful new calendar.
I have my favorite planner.
I found a fresh new journal to keep my prayers and thoughts recorded in.

I picked my One Word.

A word like flourish has beautiful meaning that seems to need a long list of things-to-do for it to become a reality.

It is a word that needs some plans to go bigger and move faster. Strategies to do more. (Ughhhhh!)

Lara Casey is a smart one. In her planners, she poses this question: What did not work last year?

It didn’t take long for a list to start forming.

Maybe it's upside down goals setting. What I know is that I had to identify them to realize that I do them. 

So. here is the short version of 4 things not on my to-do list for 2016.

Overcommitting. No doubt. I am a yes person. I adore the word yes and want to be known as someone who had a yes in her spirit. This can be a problem since I'm easily distracted and often times too willing to be the answer to others little emergencies. Last year, my yes was given away in so many places that I neglected some of my most important relationships. I love to be flexible and available, but I need to be prayerful and wise about what I do. Sometimes I have to say no, so I can say yes.

Comparison.  When I read a bio or intro on a blog, or on the inside of a book,  it is often overwhelming to me just how beautiful, talented and young people everywhere are. And it seems like maybe their stories and lives are so interesting and compelling. Their words fresh and fun. And while that may all be true, if I'm not careful I fall into the trap of comparing what God has given me to do what others are doing. That focus does not honor God. Not only does comparison still my joy.... it steals everything. It's not how the Lord thinks. SO!  "I will hold myself (and others) to a standard of grace, not perfection."

Big Things.  Bigger is not necessarily bigger. More does not always equal more. This is the deal. I honestly think that small things are what I am to be faithful in 2016. One day at a time. All around me are quotes such as "If your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough," or  "Do big things for God!"  I've bought into this thinking before and it usually is more about me than what I'm doing for God. And He doesn't need me to do big things for Him. He is already big and only needs me to take small, faithful, obedient, steps today. That is really all I can handle. I want to be content doing more of what is unseen and unnoticed. And do those things with great love.

Prayerlessness. Last year, through a series of small steps, I was in the Word and journaled prayers and insight for the last 120 days of 2015. It wasn't planned, but as I became committed to the time, it became one of the most life-giving things I've done. It brought new passion, to my time in the Word and my prayer life. This energy can't be manufactured. It's a gift and by-product of spending time with God. As I look around at the piles of random bits of paper and notebooks with only a few pages of prayers sprinkled around, I'm sad that I've spent years not praying as I should.

Now those are a few things that kept me from having a thriving life.

Another question Lara, asks is, “What fires you up?

In the past, I've tried to attach my interests and commitments to that question. Certainly there are many things I love spending time doing. Things I love to do and plans that have found a home in the very fiber of my being. But the thing I often neglect and push past on the way to the other noise in the world, was my quiet time.

The final 120 days of 2015 taught me that spending time in the Word and in prayer is the thing that burns like a fire in my soul. That is what truly fires me up.

As I lean in close to hear what He has to say, it's a slow exhaling of expectations and fear while inhaling His complete grace.

His letter of love waits to speak to the deepest part of a soul. In that quiet place, a heart can pour out all that has been making it race ahead or skip a beat. This is the only place I know to be filled with the words of peace that come from the Prince of Peace. The God who created the universe will not disappoint anyone who earnestly seek an audience with Him.

Between the pages of Genesis and Revelations, is where I can find words of truth to discern the depravity of my own heart. Never in condemnation, but for restoration.

Only in this place, can I sense what God is saying and where He is working. Then I know where I can join Him.

That time is what stokes the burning embers which ignite all the other things that I want to flourish in my life.

What things didn't work for you last year?

What things are like a fire in your soul? 

Monday, January 4, 2016

2016 One Word

New Year’s resolutions never have been my thing. To choose One Word is to have more of a theme for the year than a goal.

This is one reason I love the idea of choosing One Word.

Actually, that isn’t true.

My experience is that the One Word ––tends to choose me.

This year is no different, then here, here or here.

My new word began showing up early last year, while I was still deep into the word, "deeper."

Deeper. That was an uncomfortable word.

It was a year of removing unnecessary things in my life. Some voluntarily and some not.

It was a bit like plowing the ground around my soul. That is never fun. I was a little concerned that I might end up with an equally difficult word for 2016 such as, "obey," "silence," or maybe “move.

I’m happy to announce that while any one of those words would be good for me to do more of, they are not the word that chose me.

These verses ––I fell in love with them.

They are now the first words I see when I open the fresh pages of my new journal.

I'm sure that I want a flourishing finish.

The word flourish has deep, beautiful meaning.

In my 1828 Webster Dictionary, (which is one of the all-time great finds of this one-time homeschool momma) it says; the primary sense is to open, expand, enlarge. To thrive. To grow. To shoot out as in glory. To grow in grace and good works. To make bold strokes in writing. A parade of words..... showy splendor.

Okay. I want some of that.

All I know is that I love this word even though it is kind of fancy.

Last year….deeper…. I spent most of the year ––frustrated.

Especially in the area of writing.

Probably, mostly, because I hate to be a quitter, I was determined to blog to the end of the year and call it good.

Or not good.

Just. Call. It.


I have nothing more to say.

I hope you know Jesus because I’m here to testify that our God has a sense of humor.

Right before the year was over and I'm writing (in my head) the farewell speech, I read the words from Isaiah 59:2.

"My Spirit, who is on you, 
and my words that I put in your mouth 
will not leave you. 
They will be with your children 
and your grandchildren permanently," 
says the LORD.

(Emphasis mine)

It was as if I'd never read them before. 

That is crazy, especially in light of my family verse.

 I will pour out my Spirit on your children. 
I will pour out my blessing on their children after them.
Isaiah 44:3:

I don't know.

It just seems like I would have noticed those verses before now.

That is how the Word of God is. It's fresh and new every single day.

So there you have it. I guess I'm not going to stop writing.

I have no idea what that looks like.

I'm pretty sure it will look different.

And that's okay.

Because my word for the year is, "flourish."

And this: "So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. "

Who doesn't need a prayer like that to start 2016?

I pray these blessings over you, friends.

May this year be marked by thriving, growing, and expanding what is life and light. May we grow in grace and doing hard things with great love. May we pull the stuff that chokes out real life such as unforgiveness and bitterness and busy-ness and begin to cultivate the things that are important and have an eternal impact.

Do you have a word for 2016?

I would love to hear about it.
© Rhonda Quaney