Life

A Tail of Woe

LifeValerie 1 Comment

I know I used 'tail' instead of 'tale', it was on purpose. I've had critter problems this summer. I love animals. A lot. We have a duck, chickens, two dogs, and honeybees. Our neighbors asked if we would like to bottle feed a couple of lambs for them and I was extremely giddy. I would unashamedly baby-talk to the lambs every time I gave them a bottle. I really love animals.  I do have a problem with bats, though. A big problem. An unhealthy, irrational, sacrifice my children to save myself, fear of bats.

And that is how it began. A bat flying in the house and it flew into hiding. We couldn't find it. Well, I shouldn't say we. Because I was locked in the bedroom hyperventilating. Finally, after several hours minutes, it was found.

Then there was the time I awoke in the middle of the night to the smell of skunk. "Wow", I thought, "that is the strongest skunk smell ever. Almost smells like it's in the house." It dissipated a little bit, we went out for the day only to arrive home to awful skunk smell and the realization that there were four baby skunks in one of our window wells. Thankfully, my brother-in-law Blaine (who is pretty much McGyver) was able to safely remove all the skunks and return them back into the wild, at my request.

I am so glad that I asked Blaine to let the skunks go because otherwise, we would not have had the pleasure of meeting them again on a walk around the farm. The dogs found them first, I saw black and white, and started screaming "SKUNK!" and took off running with my daughter Liza up the hill. (I ran with Liza because it wasn't a bat. Had it been a bat, I would have pushed her out of the way to save myself). Unfortunately, one of the dogs was sprayed. I had no tomato juice, so I covered the dog in tomato soup and tried to bathe her. She hates baths. So, she took off running and jumped up on my pallet bed on the back porch, covered in skunk stench and tomato soup. We were able to finally get the dog and the pallet bed cleaned.

The next day, the kids and I went to my parents' home on the lake. I had to get away from the smell of skunk which was still lingering inside the house. As I am walking across my parents' yard, I see something crawling across the yard. "What is that?", I asked out loud even though I was alone. I got a little closer only to realize it's a BAT! I couldn't even get the words out. "b..b...b...bat...", I whispered. My dad was watching from the window and he knocked. "DADDY, IT'S A BAT!", I screamed. Because when you are in your forties and have an irrational fear of bats, you can still call your dad 'Daddy'. Daddy to the rescue.

And then yesterday happened. A black cat showed up in our yard and it was lying there and wouldn't move. It did not look well at all. I tried to give it some milk and it ran away and hid under the pallet bed. I took the milk and pushed it under the bed in hopes it might drink if I left it alone. I thought, "Oh no, that poor cat has come to die under the pallet bed." I kept checking on it throughout the day and it would stare at me, no movement, and refused to eat.

Last evening, we went out to check on it and there was a puddle of cat pee. On the pallet bed. No cat. Just pee. I felt sorry for it all day thinking it was going to die under the bed, but no...it peed and left. Didn't even say thank you for the offer of milk.

Summer isn't over yet. I wonder what the next encounter will be?

I will end with happy animal photos, to remind me of the good encounters.

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The Fork in the Road. Again.

LifeValerie 6 Comments

I’ve been thinking about feelings lately…grief, pleasure, suffering, desire, love. Our pastor Louie talks about the decades of life. The twenties are the dreaming decade, the thirties, disillusionment, and the forties we come to a fork in the road where we can grow deeper or disengage. Of course, there is some leeway in this. For me, disillusionment was sprinkled throughout my twenties and thirties, but life altering disillusionment and a fork in the road hit me hard in my mid-thirties after a personal tragedy. Now in my forties, I have found myself many, many times at a fork in the road. Why can’t you come to that place only once, choose deeper, and get on with your life? But it doesn’t work that way, the battle is fiercer than that.

When I stand at the crossroads, the question I am facing is whether or not as a Christian I am really willing to live as a disciple of Christ. If I am living as a disciple of Christ then my character is being transformed and I need to say no to death and yes to life.

I often listen to sermons and lectures to help keep me going on the right path because there is always the pull to go opposite of where I should. I heard Ravi Zacharias say, “(1.)Anything that refreshes you without distracting you from, diminishing, or destroying your final goal is a legitimate pleasure. (2.) Any pleasure that jeopardizes the sacred right of another is an illicit pleasure for you. (3.) Any pleasure, however good, if not kept in balance will distort reality or destroy appetite."

Ummm. Ouch, Ravi, that really gets to the point.

Let’s define what pleasure is. I think that maybe when people hear the word pleasure, they may think only in terms of sexual pleasure, but Ravi said, "anything". So, okay… "anything" could mean the pleasure received from telling someone off, gossiping, over-eating, having wealth, control, and power. "Anything" could mean the pleasure from the pursuit of a profession, education, a specific kind of lifestyle; these things can also get in the way of our final goal. Desires and pleasures are good when they are kept under God. Really, who wants to live life without them? Not me.

So then what happens when I stand very close, face to face with a desire that feels like life, even though I know deep down going in that direction is death? There’s the fork. It would feel good to fulfill my desire and satisfy my pleasure. It is extremely difficult to walk away; to walk away without saying what I want or doing what I want, and turning my back on illegitimate pleasure. And I am for sure not going to walk away if I have not defined what my final goal is.

What is my final goal? My goal is putting into practice the double love command. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus can change the way I see others. He can change the way I see myself.

Dallas Willard said that "love is the intention to do good." If satisfying my desire and pleasure does not do good to God, others, and myself then I am not showing love. And if I am not loving well then I am not living as a disciple of Christ. So I walk away from disengaging and toward depth because of love.

Although, it is not enough to know all of this, to listen to sermons and take notes. It is only through personally experiencing the presence of God that I will have his strength to choose pleasure that brings me closer to him and desire for myself what he desires for me; and what he desires for me is himself. I have felt Jesus with me, heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit, watched God move in my life. I have experienced the power of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. I have received his forgiveness and tasted his grace. I do not want to go through this life without him and yet, I am still enticed to swim in a deep pool of selfishness. Oh, God, I know there is an enemy who wants to convince me that you are not who you say you are. Help me cling to Truth.

One of the sentences in my notes is from Dallas Willard, "Fruit comes slowly." This is me wrestling, struggling, and making mistakes every time I come to another fork. I am a broken, hurting, messy woman. If you find yourself in that place, I open my arms and embrace you. Come on over and we can hang out. A group of broken, hurting, messy people struggling to be disciples of Christ, can make a difference in this world...just like those first broken, hurting, messy struggling disciples of Christ.

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Roads go ever ever on,

Under cloud and under star.

Yet feet that wandering have gone

Turn at last to home afar.

Eyes that fire and sword have seen,

And horror in the halls of stone

Look at last on meadows green,

And trees and hills they long have known. -J.R.R. Tolkien

Feelings

LifeValerie 2 Comments

It's a rainy Tuesday morning and I am sitting on the back porch with a cup of coffee and the dog cuddled up beside me. Listening to the thunder in the distance and the rain hitting the ground. Listening to God. I just read these words from Ravi Zacharias, "Unless we live with the eternal in mind while addressing the specifics of each day, we will live as temporarily suspended, with faith always seeking sight."

It isn't very easy keeping faith without sight. I try to look for God in the ordinary. The ways that he is present that I too often ignore. Like right now. Watching this thunderstorm. Evidence of God's presence.

And yet, I want more.

I would like him to intervene. And intervene in the way I want. Richard Foster talks about a path of promise, problem, provision. That in between the promise of God and the provision of God, he brings problem. And he brings problem so we can become the kind of people that are able to receive his provision.

And yet, I don't want the problem. I'm kinda tired of the problem. I want good feelings.

I remember being a young girl and hearing this song called "Feelings". Anybody else remember that song? "Feelings! Woah, woah, woah....Feelings!"

We live in a world consumed with feeling good. If it feels good do it, if it doesn't feel good, don't. Because everybody should feel good.

Satisfying the desire for feel-good feelings. It fuels teenage rebellion. Prompts a mid-life crisis. Encourages a spouse to be unfaithful. Sets in motion addictions...porn, alcohol, drugs, shopping, food, exercise, work. And after we have exhausted all our attempts to feel good, we are left not feeling very good.

So here I sit with the problem rather than trying to escape the problem. I will wait for God's provision rather than trying to arrange for my own. And I will remind myself of your promise, God, that I come from you and I will return to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, Henry!

LifeValerie 6 Comments

Last night it was only Henry and me at home. It's been a long week and I have been feeling crushed by life. Henry was very engaged in something he was doing, so I grabbed some kleenexes and went to the back porch for a cry fest. I was just ready to open the floodgates and Henry came out, sat next to me, got really comfortable, and started to talk. My first thought was, "Noooo! I only want to sit here and cry."

But then I saw his face. So beautiful. His skin, his dimples, his big, brown eyes.

"Mom, will you make me some almond butter? That sounds so good."

So we went into the kitchen, I made some almond butter, and Henry started talking in our dog Roxie's voice. You see, Henry and Liza have this voice that they say is Roxie's, and they carry on a conversation that is supposed to be the dog talking and not them.

And the voice is annoying.

So annoying.

"Okay, Henry, that's enough, buddy."

And he kept going.

"Henry, I said no more."

And he kept going.

"Henry! Enough! I told you to stop and you aren't. Why are you doing that?"

He looked down with a sad face, "Sorry, Mom."

And in that moment a million things that I used to think were funny and my mom did not, came flooding back to me. In a millisecond.

"Henry, you are forgiven for not obeying me. And do you want to know something? I used to do that same thing when I was your age. And beyond. I could really annoy my mom and she would tell me to stop, but I kept going."

"Really?!"

"Heck, yes! But not without getting in trouble."

I began to tell some of the many things I used to do. I won't share them all here because...well...I don't want to annoy you.

As I told Henry all of this, his eyes were lit up, his dimples were huge, and he giggled. We made our almond butter sandwiches and went back out to the porch.

One of the things I told Henry that I used to do as a kid was talk in "Rs". You know, like Scooby-Doo. Rike ris. Rand RI rid rit rall ra rime. Henry and I ate our almond butter sandwiches and talked in "Rs". And laughed. In fact, he was actually belly laughing, he thought it was so funny.

Ro runny.

Oh God, you showed up last night. You rescued me from wallowing in self pity by blessing me with the presence of your precious gift...Henry. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for my children. Thank you for conversation and laughter. And even for annoying dog voices.

p.s. I was writing this post this morning from the back porch (my favorite place to sit in the summer time) and Liza came out, sat next to me, got really comfortable, and started to talk. In Roxie's voice. I kid you not.

I couldn't help but take a picture of Henry's cute feet last night.

 

Summer

Life, My StyleValerie Comment

I have decided it is the summer of curls and braids.  And loose fitting clothes.  And lying on the beach, friends gathering in our back yard for a meal, relaxing on the pallet bed with a good book, gardening, watching Will and Liza march in parades with the homeschool band. A summer of transitions as Jack finalizes his plans for college this fall.  Oh eighteen years, where did you go?!  And I am praying for a summer of healing for Henry, that his new doctor will have some insight in bringing strength and endurance back to his body.

A summer of reflection.  I once heard Richard Foster introduce Dallas Willard with these words, "He is content to be known and get his identity from simply being a disciple of Jesus Christ."  I wrote it down because it was such a beautiful description.  And what my heart desires.  Wife, homeschooling mama, fitness trainer, free spirit, the chick that thrifts...may all of these flow out of my true identity, a follower of Jesus.

After a long, harsh winter this summer feels especially needed.  And it's a good reminder that long, harsh winters don't last forever.

Skirt: Avatar from Salvation Army. Shirt: Solitaire from Goodwill. I think they were meant to be together.

Skirt: Avatar from Salvation Army. Shirt: Solitaire from Goodwill. I think they were meant to be together.

Rediscover Style
Rediscover Style
Rediscover Style

New Hope

LifeValerie 6 Comments

My husband and I went away a couple of weeks ago for a long weekend.  We spent two days in a beautiful location at a cabin outside of Chattanooga and then a night in Chattanooga.  A year ago, I was supposed to fly to Florida to take a certification in training athletes, but because of Henry's illness I had to cancel.  So we had plane tickets that had to be used, which is why we planned this last minute trip. Henry is still not himself and it continues to be very frustrating.  I was chatting with my dear friend Kara on Facebook before our trip and she said that she would be praying for "new hope".  That night, I wrote the words "new hope" in my journal.

The cabin is actually located in Alabama about forty-five minutes from Chattanooga.  We approached the exit for the cabin and I am not kidding...do you know what the sign said?  New Hope.  I wanted to take a picture, but I couldn't get my phone out fast enough.  And if you blink, you would miss New Hope because it is small.  In 2012, the population was 2,802.  And isn't that like life?  I want new hope to come more like a big city than a small town, the questions answered, my son healed, life working out the way I want it to.  But often it comes and if you aren't paying attention, you will miss it.

Our time at the cabin was quiet, peaceful, and relaxing.  I spent a lot of time writing and drawing in my journal.  In the cabin, there was art on the walls that had verses from the Bible.  One of the verses was from Hebrews and it prompted me to spend time in that book while we were there.  I was reading in Hebrews 11 in The Message and decided to underline every time the words "by faith" or "by an act of faith" appeared.  I counted twenty-nine times.  I wrote in my journal Hebrews 11:13-16, "Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing.  How did they do it?  They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world."

I have been letting all of this sink in over the last couple of weeks.  And on Tuesday, I had a wonderful surprise to speak with one of my favorite college professors on the phone.  During the conversation, I mentioned that Henry had not been well.  I was expressing our frustration.  How I am trying to remind Henry and myself that even though we have not found an answer to his health problems, and it doesn't seem like God is leading or directing, God keeps his promises.  My professor said, "God is still leading and God is still directing.  It's just that your son is sick."  I needed to hear that because right now, the leading and directing I want is for my son to be healed.  And since I am not getting that it feels like God is silent.  But he's not.

Yesterday morning I was reading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer.  I read Chapter 7, "The Gaze of the Soul".  The verse under the title of the chapter is Hebrews 12:2, "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith."  Tozer writes, "faith is the gaze of the soul upon a saving God."  Oh God, my outward eyes see suffering, let my inward eyes be fixed on you, a saving God.

God is leading, speaking, directing through my friend Kara, an exit sign, the beautiful setting of the cabin,  verses on the artwork, my college professor, A.W. Tozer.  By faith, I am finding new hope.