Wednesday, May 11, 2016

To Live A Flourishing Life

This week I'm grateful for a bed that seems to wrap it's arms around me when I'm finally able to free-fall into it.

I'm grateful for the shower that pours over me in the dark hours of dawn on each new day.

I'm grateful for a husband that is living this wild journey right alongside me.

I'm grateful for my daughters who prove that God extends lavish grace. And these seven grandkids? It is beyond me how life can be this good.

Can you stand one quote from a five-year-old?  She was singing and paused to tell me this, "I love you more than 79 and 2000 pieces of french toast."

Friends, that's a lot of love.

It's a season of upheaval and I'm trying to embrace the complete shakeout of these days without allowing my soul to be crushed under the hustle of it.

Recently I spoke on: "Fierce Flourishing."

For weeks, I prepared.

The irony isn't lost on me that "flourish" is my One Word for 2016 .

I gathered enough material to file a college level dissertation with my research and findings.

Complete with metaphors, analogies, quotes, verses and personal stories.

The speaking was of course, uncomfortable in its own ways, but I felt like I was able to share something meaningful from my heart.

As it usually works in things like this, I was learning more than I could share.

And one of my main takeaways is this: to flourish is a soulish thing.

Farming and ranching were once the biggest demands in my life, so naturally that picture of planting and tending and cultivating is so applicable to illustrate flourishing.

Flourishing plants have deep strong root systems that provide support and help withstand the winds and storms.

And the goal is to plant with the hope of the long view in mind.

We plant with the expectancy of a harvest.

I emphasized the need to learn a wise "Yes," but perhaps even more important to learn a firm, "No."

Because busyness can be a religion that keeps us from the deeper things of flourishing.

Flourishing isn't a point that we arrive, it is the way we travel. 

And as I fell into bed at the end of another exhausting day, I had to ask myself the hard question, "Am I really living a life that cultivates flourishing?"

I just talked to a group of women about it, but for months, I've felt like I need to do some soul-tending and pruning myself.

It is important to me to love well, forgive quickly, remain, stay, and continue in the things I've been given to do. Of all people, I should be able to live within the boundaries of a day, because our days have a limited capacity with expiration dates.

My level of busy has weakened my level of abiding.

Carl Sandburg was speaking about the impact of the life of Abraham Lincoln when he said this: "A tree is best measured after it has fallen. That is when we are able to capture the breadth and length and width of its girth. The rings of life experience speak volumes to our friends and family. They give us proof of a flourishing tree or one that was suffering through rot and disease. A flourishing tree impacts generations; the rotting tree barely survives its own life span."

I don't want to barely survive my own life span, I want my life to be a flourishing tree that impacts generations to come. Yet for some time, I've been surviving instead of thriving.

If 2016 is the year that I'm to embrace a deeper life of flourishing, I'm going to have to move past just surviving.


I've decided to rest from writing on the blog for a time.

My thought is to take the summer off. In five years I haven't taken a break here, so it seems good to quiet the noise in my head. I'm not sure what this break will look like, but I'm excited to just freefall into it along with all the other things going on.

I don't want to let anyone down. I adore you all. Your messages, e-mails, and comments are priceless to me. I value each one of you so deeply.

"I love you more than 79 and 2000 pieces of french toast."

If I could encourage you with one thing for your days ahead.... I'd tell you to spend more time with Jesus. That's what I hope to do.

Monday, May 2, 2016

More Than, "Just A Mom"

Of  course, she never mentioned it.

Considering the fact that I knew her my entire life it seems like it might have come up in just one conversation.

When my mom was seventeen years old and a senior in high school she was given an award by a major metropolitan newspaper for her writing. She received a certificate of achievement and a trip to the big city.

In the picture that was published of my mom in the newspaper, her hair was dark and styled, the lipstick appears to be deep red and her smile was so big her eyes were squinted shut.

She wore a look of pure joy and half-embarrassment.

It gave me a glimpse of the young woman who would someday be my mom.

That was almost the only notoriety she ever received.

A year later she was getting ready to be a first-time mom. And before it was over she had four kids of her own and after us, she was handed two others who needed the strength and stability her arms and home could offer.

Mostly we were an ungrateful lot.

Especially me.

While other kids I knew had moms with careers, big vacations, and the newest cars, my mom was “just a mom.”

Her degree was in early childhood development and her platform was an old house she made into a home.

She got her masters in making hamburger 200 easy ways, removing Kool-Aid stains from the laminate flooring and finding mismatched socks.

She lived in a day when there were no, zero-spill sippy cups.

No internet to google symptoms.

No disposable diapers.

Honestly, how did she survive?

But day after unending day, she climbed the mountain of laundry, stood at the podium of her stove and served another round of handcrafted macaroni and cheese to her yawning audience of four.

No one applauded her when she got up in the night with another sick child, even when she was sick too.

None of us complimented her for all the cupcakes she sent into classrooms, the hours spent helping us with homework, or the miles she put on the car to deliver us to our next event.

There were no rave reviews written for the 30,000 plus meals she served up over the 30 years of having extra people around to feed.

It never occurred to me that she may have had ideas what life could be like if she had pursued her own dreams or developed her own talents.

In a culture that tells women they owe it to themselves to follow their dreams, my mom thought it was better to help us follow ours.

Her eulogy is one of a servant and a super-heroine.

She was a peacemaker and she championed the cause of the hurting and the neglected.

It took me half a century to realize much of what it cost her.

In fact, I’m still unwrapping the sacredness of having a mom like her.

In another time, she probably would have had a mommy blog or wrote about living on a large acreage or even hosted a food blog.

She could have been the editor for a website because she had the untapped skill set for it.

She may have thought her calling was small or insignificant in the whole scope of things.

I know now that it was a thankless job and she earned every gray hair on her hallowed head.

Somehow I just thought she would always be sitting there in her favorite chair with her glasses slipped down on the end of her nose, weaving the needle and thread in and out and in and out on the design on her latest project.

She always said she made her quilts with love.

Actually, she weaved that truth into most of what she did... living her life with love which is the test of all true religion.

I didn’t realize it was a gift to be able to drop in for breakfast at eight in the morning always served with Folgers coffee. Or how lunch was served at noon and supper was always ready at five.

She lived the gospel in the unseen things of honoring her husband and sacrificing for her children in places that only God really knows the depth of.

I wonder if she ever speculated what life, “could have been,” if she was more than “just a mom.”

I wonder how many days she thought her job was too mundane or her accomplishments too small.

I wonder if she ever just wanted to throw in the spaghetti encrusted towel and just run away.

Of all things she could have done with her life, I never, not one time, heard her speak of regrets.

She did say with candor that on hard days, her own mom reminded her, “….in this family we don’t give our kids away.” And once she said that maybe after the kids were grown she’d go back to school.

By the time, there was no one to take care of she’d become content to write her legacy onto the lives of others.

Instead of being a published author, she wrote her life of love in our hearts.

Not only am I still realizing the gift of her, I’m still unwrapping the sacred gift of being a mom myself.

It is the single best thing that ever happened to me.

Three times.

Before motherhood, my heart was too small, too self-focused. Something about dealing with small humans revealed deep and messy issues of my own and is a constant reminder how my flesh wants to rule the world. At least my world.

Being a mom must be in part, God’s way of pushing us to love others more than we love ourselves.

If you are reading this, I hope you will be grateful for the mom who gave you life.

If you are a mom I pray you can embrace the divine beauty of your holy calling.

And no matter what your life may look like, keep living the gospel by loving others and doing the things that no one sees.

It matters.

Our greatest accomplishments aren't actually accomplishments, but what we do in love.

© Rhonda Quaney