Monday, March 28, 2016

You Can be Part of the Tapestry of Love

"In weaving, tension is a good thing," she said.

Laura makes her art look effortless.

Her hands and feet all work in rhythm, interlacing threads with donated remnants of material or reeds cut from the weed, phragmites, that grow in abundance along the river. There is something soothing about the sound and the process of weaving to an onlooker like me. The natural fibers, earthy tones and random bits of thread feel healing and real.

Standing in the office of Deborah's Legacy, I'm watching something beautiful be crafted out of things discarded and viewed as useless.

The first seeds for the ministry of Deborah's Legacy were planted in the tender hearts of co-founders, Allison Huebner and Jill Vaughn.

Allison and Jill drew from the example found in the Bible of the warrior Deborah, who used her strengths to bring glory to God. The ministry name also has deep meaning because of the loss of Allison's sister, Deb, who died as a result of her addiction to alcohol and drugs.

In her research, Jill discovered a residential program called, 'Magdalene' a part of Thistle Farms.

Deborah's Legacy was loosely patterned after this successful life restoring program.

Now, Deborah's Legacy is beginning its 4th year as a residential program that provides secure housing as a haven from the social, psychological, and economic factors that drive women to desperate means for survival.

Last year my heart got wrapped around these women and their stories.

The work of recovery is hard, imperfect and beautiful. Sometimes it feels like I'm watching my own little girl navigate a winding path while learning to ride a bike for the first time. And when these women embrace the truth of faith? It's like they are riding with no hands! You can see the excitement and hope and a tiny bit of fear in their eyes. The wind of the Spirit and freedom whipping their hair while they are learning to balance it all, teetering, nearly out of control.

There are falls and skinned hearts and a deeper healing. And the hardest work of all, learning to get up and try again. And again.

But it's a beautiful thing when a woman begins to trust that they are loved for who they most deeply are and they embrace their unique, God-given strengths. They begin to move forward and build a new life. They begin to laugh and be thankful for the days.

Ultimately one life changed can affect an entire community.


This is such a key piece to what happens at Deborah's Legacy.

The women live in community with other women and are challenged to hold each other accountable. Through various volunteers and experiences, the women have opportunities to broaden their healthy circle of friends.

The Magdalene House in Nashville has a saying:
 "A community that lets a woman live on the streets, 
can also be the community that brings her home."

And for almost twenty years the Magdalene model has proven that community and love heals.

What I love is that Deborah's Legacy holds out Jesus as the One true answer to every broken, shattered, thing in their life.

His love is what binds up broken hearts and brings the true, lasting, healing that so many try to fill with drugs, alcohol or another man's approval.

The embrace of Jesus is the only one we need.

The embrace of Jesus is all-inclusive.

His love can penetrate any barrier.

His healing can restitch any broken heart.

The vision of Legacy is that of women growing individually and collectively while living in community.

Deborah's Legacy is a community of communities.

The women who come here represent a large radius of communities.

The door is open to all.

The common thread is brokenness. The prevailing need is to be loved.

How far would the ripple effect reach when even one life receives healing?

I don't know the full weight of it, but Jesus talked about leaving the 99 to bring back the one.

The scarlet thread that runs through their story lines, parallel the ones that run through all of our lives.

Soul places that need deeper healing. Hearts that need bending toward greater and greater obedience which will result in greater freedom.

I showed up to be part of helping others and ended up being the one receiving some healing. It's so upside-down to anything I can explain. What I know is that God is moving. People loving people can change the trajectory of a life, which has the potential to impact the lives of their families, neighborhoods, towns and the generations to come.

The thing being offered to women at Legacy House is the thing that Jesus offers everyone one of us. The free gift that He bought for us at great price.

The Weavers Beam makes all things new.

The Lord is using the pieces, the cords, the strain and all the stretching, to weave gilded threads into our story.

Into His story.

And He calls us all to join in the work. 

He calls us to be His tapestry of love. 

- - - - - - -  

Ways to partner with Deborah's Legacy:

Would you pray?

Would you like to hear more?

Personal message me if you are interested in attending the banquet. RSVP by Thursday, March 31.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Way, The Truth, & The Life

Against the gray horizon, tree trunks look like thick black strokes of an artist's brush. Color has dissolved from the sky into muted shadows of sunlight masked by a canopy of dark clouds. Hues of black and silver settle across the lake making everything appear nearly monotone. 

It seems like darkness is hanging over and rising up all around.

In the past? I would have spent these days before Easter obsessing about what my children would wear, what pies would be served on Easter Sunday, and if the weather forecast would be good for the annual hunt for candy.

Those were days before I understood who Jesus was and Is.

Before I grasped the weight of my sin or why Jesus had to die at all.

I was caught in a trap of devotion to religion, performance, and general thoughts of being morally good. That's what I believed would help me grope my way through the darkness.

If you know me, you may have heard me say it. How the darkness I walked in could be felt. How it was like being trapped in a deep black tunnel with a speck of elusive light at the end. But the pinpoint-sized glow only gave me a hint of the direction to stumble toward, not light for where to place my foot on the path in the journey.

I thought I was good and good people go to heaven. But the problem with self-defined beliefs is how I had no sure confidence when I had prayed enough, given enough, gone to church enough.

I wish I could write this more eloquently. Not so you would think these words are amazing, but so you could hear the truth of it.

Jesus said there is only One way. 

He came to make the way. He came to pay the price. He came to finish the work.

He came to remove all the barriers, except the barrier of His message.

The message that He is the Way. The Truth. The Life.

I hear it all the time, how the message of Jesus messes with how people think it should look like.

Jesus fed the hungry, calmed the storm, healed sick people on the Sabbath and embraced those who were marginalized. It definitely messed with what people said it should look like.

This week I was reading about how darkness came over the whole land for three hours, as He hung on the cross.

The Light of the World had been willingly extinguished.

But here, and here and here, Jesus told how He would suffer and die and on the third day, He would rise again.

The cost of it is more than I can fully grasp.

He was abandoned by his closest companions, tortured beyond recognition and was hung between two criminals. Is it hard for you to read this? I know it's hard on my heart to write about it. And I'd much rather discuss topics such as the current spring fashions and trending Pinterest recipes, but this is the message that changed me. 

This message of Jesus dying on the cross is the one that brought me from darkness to Light. This has lifted me from the dark pit of religion and all the messy stuff that darkness breeds.

When we read about people who encountered Jesus in an authentic way ––they were changed. Deep down, radical, ridiculous, unexpected, and unapologetic ––change.

My heart needed to feel the weight of what it cost Jesus.

Jesus is the Master artist who has not only weaved threads of light into the darkness, His death and resurrection has brought victory over the darkness.

And it's blinding light for His glory.

We are all messed up and fall short.

We are also, so loved and adored that Jesus was glad to die for us.

Knowing this should move us out of pews and move us into circles.

Circles of friends that will help us grow in our relationship to know Jesus better.

It should move us into circles in our communities ––to serve.

Circles in our hard-to-love family –– to love.

Circles wherever there are people who might be looking for light in the midst of darkness ––to shine.

For years. And years. I tried to understand why Jesus had to suffer like He did.

This Friday coming, would be the worse day in History, except for the beautiful truth that three days later became the best day in History.

The Son of God was lifted up on a cross to take on the sins of the world.

And three days later He rose from the dead. 

To the surprise of His own disciples, to the shock of His haters, this is the victory over sin and death.

The victory promised since the days of Genesis when God said a Lamb would be provided for our sins. And it's laid out for us in the book of Revelations, the promise of how Jesus will return as our Conquering King.

We can celebrate this Easter week, not from a place of defeat but from a place of Hope and of new life.

So shades of onyx mingle with light and the darkness is overcome. 

He is Risen.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Catching The Days

The beauty of people who write down their words is how they can come over for coffee anytime even when distance separates. I don't know Annie Dillard, but it's as if she's been at my home, speaking to me these days.

Annie said this too, "How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives."

She seems to be a woman with an understanding about the importance of how she spends her time.

I'm not sure that I've ever done extremely well at how I spend the currency of my time, but this season, in particular, time seems to be slipping through holes in my purse.

I'm naturally a spontaneous idealist who spends concentrated amounts of time alone so I can spend concentrated amounts of time with people. Chaos and whim are close friends of mine.

For almost a decade my course has been altered by the realities of age and passing the baton to a younger generation in many ways. There was cancer, my mom's sudden death, my ministry focus being flipped on its head trying to land right side up and our youngest child getting married and moving away.

And I quit my perfectly amazing job, with the best bosses ever, where I got paid way too much for what I did ––so I could have more time.

At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I felt like the Lord was moving me into something different.

Yet, last year was perhaps one of my worse for living intentionally.

I think it's honest to say I've lived through a 'more-than-half-way-through-life crisis.'

So now, an entire year later, what is my excuse for not being organized and task-oriented with bullet points on daily lists that stretch out horizontally to well scheduled months and a solid five-year plan?

Even if that isn't what life will ever look like for me, I have some dreams and boxes full of scribbles on snippets of paper with ideas and half-whispered prayers.

My desk? Well if you've seen a picture of it looking fabulous, it was staged.  On a normal day, the clipboard system I use for projects is randomly stacked three layers high with no flat surface visible.

Of course, I pretend to know where everything is.

Recently I was whining about my days disappearing like peanut M & M's. (Which are a favorite snack.)

A friend  suggested a Personal Retreat Day. She sent me a simple outline based on a 9-hour day to help refresh and get more organized.

This Saturday, it happened.

It could be difficult for some people to do this retreat at home, but for me, being at home was such a gift.

I had to make a few rules, because I'm easily distracted by laundry, dishes, etc.

So this is how I did the retreat:

Part One: (2 hours) The Personal Day Retreat suggested beginning with a short physical workout and a long spiritual workout.

I got up early. Put on my yoga pants, made coffee, did a few dishes and threw in a load of laundry. (Yes. I know. But keep reading....)

At 7 a.m. I was in my office reading, praying, journaling.

At 9 a.m. I did a 20-minute workout on my mat with the window open and the birds singing. I had beautiful music and coffee. This alone was enough reason to do this again.

Part Two: Calendar organization (1 hour) The suggestion is to look at how you've spent your time, and look at how you plan on spending your time in the next month.

Since I haven't done this well all year it took me a little longer than everyone else in the whole world. The beauty of doing this part? Freedom. It was like the blood began to circulate in my mind again. Next time I do a Retreat Day, this will probably take me much less time.

Part Three: (2 hours) Upcoming speaking and writing schedule. It was so good to actually spend time praying and thinking through as well as organizing what I will be doing in the coming months. It also helps me know I need some boundaries with what time is not spoken for.

I took a walk with the neighbor about this time. It was good to take a break and get some fresh air.

Part Four: (1 hour) Honestly evaluate your life. Spend time grading yourself on every component of your life. The areas suggested were: faith, marriage, family, office, computer, ministry, financial, social, attitudinal life, author life, speaker life, and physical life. 

This part was telling. I actually prayed that the Lord would speak to me about these areas. I certainly have ideas about where I fail and where I do better but there were some areas that He brought to mind that surprised me. Some were just hard but good. So good to know that God always, only, shows us our stuff for redemption, not condemnation.

Part Five: (1.5-2 hours) Writing, reading, something to stir the soul. 

This was refreshing. I was able to do a little bit writing, reading and lots of stirring of my soul.

Part Six:(0.5-1 hours) Dream 

I prayed more during this portion of my retreat. It was good just to dedicate my dreams to Him. We'll see where all this goes.

I actually spent closer to twelve hours doing my first ever Personal Retreat Day. At the end of this time, I had even cleared off my desk, backed up my computer and deleted all the clutter.

What I felt was a sense of peace.

My Personal Retreat Day has taken the hurry out of my head and my soul.

The Personal Retreat Day helped me peel back personal life layers and ask the Lord gut honest questions. It has given me a sense of partnering with God instead of just going through my motions of another day.

My struggle has been to align priorities around relationships and activities that will have a lasting impact. I needed to take a look at what I'm doing well and what I'm not. To see in  black and white print what I want to cultivate and what I want to weed out of my life.

It was a time for self-reflection and God-reflection.

A one-day holy break.

This was not a day to figure out how to do more but how to go deeper in what is important.

The next Personal Retreat Day is already on my calendar.

I've got a few ideas to incorporate into the schedule.

Of course, this is an ongoing project to implement a daily schedule for a person who's an impulsive stargazer that has traveled more than half way through this life journey.

It feels like I've cast a net to capture some of the days that lie ahead.

I would love to hear how you recharge and refresh. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Call To Real Community

Pink spills across the evening sky reflecting off windows of houses with soft glossy luster.

The air has a faint scent of dryer sheets as I pedal on the narrow road that winds through my neighborhood. Warm air whips a few strands of hair against my cheek as I breathe in deep and count slow: "One....two....three....four..."

I feel my chest rise and belly expand and I continue to breathe in.... ""

Then the slow exhale mixes with pure oxygen and movement.

It's a one-mile loop to circle my neighborhood. I don't ride here for the adventure of it, but because it's the community I live in.

We've lived here for well over a decade and mostly I've tried to keep to myself.

These people? We appreciate their well-fertilized, neatly manicured lawns, but what we have in common is our location. There is a cross-section of people from deeply varied backgrounds.

There are single folks, couples, and large families. Some are retired from long-term employment and some have had long-time disabilities.

There are men who are caregivers for their wives and women who have buried their husbands. Teenagers around here, drive fast and text through intersections.There are people who park on our lawn crushing sprinkler heads so they can retrieve their mail and others send their kids and pets over to our yard.

That word community has at its Latin root, "common."

As in, together.

And wherever there is a lot of togetherness, we've probably all learned... it imperfect, hard, and messy.

My neighborhood is a very small example of that.

Even in this beautiful community, I could easily put out tall metal stakes to mark out boundaries, close the garage door and pull the shades.

And too often I've been that person who takes this approach to my church community.

It's easier to dart in and out of places where community could happen. Just nod politely. Maintain a safe distance from certain people. Establish safe boundaries. Keep the conversation casual and short. Avoid uncomfortable topics and hard conversations. Return as quickly as possible to my isolated life.

C.S. Lewis has been quoted by many in relation to deep theological issues, but one of my all-time favorite quotes from him is this: "If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity."

Isn't that just the truth?

Church is hard because it is intended to be community where we share Christ in common. 

Church community is designed for our growth.

Community is a hard thing, but community is the important thing.

"Love is never stimulated apart from community."

Lewis might have been thinking about this verse when he made that statement: "....let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another..." Hebrews 10:24-25

That word, stimulate? Other Bible versions use words such as: provoke, move, motivate, spur, promote, encourage, and my personal favorite ––stir up.

People in community tend to 'stir up' stuff in other people. For good and for bad.

People and their stuff... tend to bring out our stuff.

But in Christian community faith and hope can collide to bring about something miraculous. 

We grow up. 

We learn to get over ourselves. 

But when we avoid achingly-honest relationships we stay stuck in our immature and selfish ways.

Two unsolicited conversations, with two unrelated women, prompted me to write this post.

One precious lady said that she wasn't going to church anymore. The way she saw it, no one ever spoke to her anyway. A few weeks later, right in the middle of a busy check-out lane, a woman told me she quit going to church because she didn't need others. She was just doing her own thing at home.

Both of these situations are tragic to me and seem to fall into two camps of thinking. The one says I don't need people and the other says people don't need me.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. As messy and hard and often hurtful as community can be, I need ––we all need–– those women to show up and use the gifts that only they can bring.

Every single person has a critical part to play, especially in the context of Church. And when someone decides to not show up, the whole group suffers the loss of what only that person has been given as gifts and talents.

I believe that we are made with a soul hunger for relationships that are real.
And if we are honest, most of us would probably agree, that people who are real and vulnerable are the kind of people we are drawn to.

The opposite of real and vulnerable..... is fake and closed. While I believe everyone needs community, when I set up metal fences to keep people at a distance, relationships will never grow easily.

Church community that is healthy takes us beyond our self-interests and superficial pursuits. This is the place we learn to serve others, acknowledge areas of sin and immaturity. Community has the potential to teach us about grace. The receiving of grace and extending grace.

This is the messy part that trips up too many of us. It's hard work.

Sometimes we have to allow community to gather around us and sometimes we have to be the one who gathers around others.

We need to circle the things that cultivate healthy relationships and find rhythm in hard community. 

Often we have to go first and move toward someone in the next gracious act of love to build community.

The practice of Christian community makes the Gospel a living reality, and it will have a ripple effect in our churches, neighborhoods, schools, families and more.  

We may never "feel" like loving our neighbor, roommate, a friend that betrayed us, or that ever-present difficult relative, but when we behave as if we do love them, before long the feeling follows the action.

And a bridge to community will begin.

Love is the binding agent that seeps into the broken spaces of hurt from past community failures. 

The truth is, where there are people there will be more hurt and more wounds. But when we risk greatly instead of playing it safe our lives will reflect Jesus to a world that longs for something real.

Apart from community, we tend to remain shallow, selfish and surfacy. How can we learn to love if we isolate and insulate ourselves?

Love cannot happen in a vacuum. Love happens when we place God at the center and give Him permission to have His way in our lives.

When we surrender to Jesus He will draw us into community, but we have to release our grip of what that looks like.

Breathe in deep and slow as we navigate and circle the places and people in our lives. May we shine Light into the world that sinks into peoples souls.

Remember this? You need people and other people need you.

Church community should impact how we live in every circle of our lives. Of all the place we gather, when we love Jesus we can make an impact for eternity in those places.

One of the primary ways this can happen is to move into real community.

Perhaps there are a few telling questions we could ask ourselves?

     Are we teachable?

     What does our community look like?

     Does our community have room for truth-speaking relationships?

     How do you inspire others to greater love, kindness and community?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Being Brave in Every Season

Rising against the steel grey-blue sky, snow geese flap and wave as they beat their wings to a silent calling that propels them on their epic journey.

These winged messengers that travel between heaven and earth, herald the news of a change in season.

I've heard it's true. That birds know more than humans about seasons.

Or maybe they simply respond to what they know.

They don't hold a meeting, appoint a committee or consult groundhogs. They don't go by the calendar or the time change or make decisions based on their emotions. They just instinctively respond by setting their bodies into motion.

The winter has been gentle in my part of the world. Green tufts of grass poke through on the slopes that get afternoon sun. In this month of typically frozen temperatures, there have been many spring-like days that feel like summer.

The kind of warm air that feels good to bones that are passed the half-century mark.

Walking along the shore of the lake, flecks of light shimmer off the water and the air is sweet. Fishermen bob and sway in their little boats like a dance with design and sequence. These same men huddled in their fishing huts on thin ice pitched dangerously close to the edge of open water just two weeks ago.

They were reluctant to shift with the seasons.

The change came regardless.

As much as I love this season of the days growing light, a season that will soon turn to lush grass and flowering bushes of summer, I also embrace the warmth of autumn with its rich tones and the great harvest.  I even love the deep chill of winter and the hot chocolate and good books that come with it. And then spring pushes back the veil as it brings the sweet hope of new beginnings and life begins again.

There are other seasons I'm more reluctant to embrace.

Six years ago I was shaken awake, into a season of cancer. It was an uninvited season. One where you want to wake up from the bad dream and wrap yourself tight in a patchwork quilt, huddle on the couch with a hot cup of tea to insulate your heart from the bitterness of it.

It was a day just like today. When the hard edge of winter was slipping away and the time change was about to make every morning brighter. The truth of this season has become more apparent now, than when the word, "cancer" arrived.

Now ––looking back–– I see it better for what it was.

There were people that I met in those waiting rooms ––many of them are now gone. But those days I got to hear some of their story and the season that had landed them there. Holding their hand in silence was a bit like sharing communion, at least, a communion of tears. I met doctors and nurses and people on the elevator. Most of them I'll never see again, and they gave me the gift of themselves.

That hard season didn't leave before it accomplished some much-needed pruning in my life, allowing new life to push forward. 

It has taught me about the in-between times.

The uninvited season.

The times that don't seem to go away.

The kind of seasons that leave little room to make up your mind about the next move because you are only able to do the next move that has been planned for you.

Those seasons of unique pressures that shatter the thin walls of hollow souls. 

Maybe seasons like you've experienced? Measured between infertility and conception and delivery. The space between pain and comfort. The time that lapses between the persistent calling on your life and the realization of that dream unfolding. The eternity between the diagnosis and the healing, the strained relationship and the restoration, the financial crisis and the breakthrough, the broken heart and the blessing or the crisis and the miracle.

We all know that some of these seasons don't have a happy-ever-after, the guy-gets-the-girl kind of giddy end.

These seasons test what we are made of and Who we live for.

The same God who made the moon to mark the seasons, and tells the sun when to go down.... is the God who knows the number of our days and hears prayers said from sincere hearts.

In the most difficult, unwanted seasons I've found a few things that usher peace into the crazy.

I go to the promises. Promises like this one; “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

No matter how hopeless a day or moment may feel, the God of Hope.... will fill us with joy and peace as we trust Him, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The secret ––if there is a secret–– is to be thankful.

I've had to speak it out loud. To put a voice to my own doubt, for the enemy of my soul to hear and anyone else who may be listening;  "....I will praise You, God." "Yes, I will praise You!" "Nothing is too big for You." "And even if I never see an answer to this hard season, I will praise You...."

Something powerful happens when we praise God when things are hard.

I began to learn this praising Him thing... in seasons when my children shattered my heart.

I praised the Lord for opening the doors to my oncologist and the medical staff in another state in my journey through breast cancer.

I was overwhelmed by seeing God's hand in the final days and hours of my mom's life and was moved to praise Him through tears after seeing her exhale that last breath.

Certainly the praise wasn't because of the pain that was being lived out, but because He is God and these seasons will not have the last word in eternity.

We have to be ready in season and out of season. I have to preach the Word to myself and live it before others ––even when I don't feel like it.

Especially when I don't feel like it.

These seasons demand their own time frame. While they can be harsh like winter and produce new growth like spring, the transition of their arriving and departure isn't marked out by weather patterns or hours of sunlight, but by the hand of God.

He has us all on an epic journey.

Our part is to trust Him in it all.

Day after day we live.

Sometimes it's easy to think nothing has changed ––until we look back and realize––  we have changed and so, therefore, everything has changed. 

© Rhonda Quaney