Frivolousness

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Frivolousness. Because a little bit of carefree in the middle of life's confusing times can be therapeutic. On our way home from our nephew's wedding in Wisconsin last May, we stopped at a Goodwill to stretch our legs. Because when you are on a road trip it is important to stretch your legs. At a thrift store.  And I found this adorable shirt with birds on it. It makes me smile when I wear it. I feel like chirping and flying around. And it's Zara. Not that I care that much about labels, but it's always fun to find something like that when you thrift. The jeans are about 6 or 7 years old, my old bootcut jeans. Last year I cut them off so they fringed at the bottom. This year I cut them a little shorter. Breathing new life into something I already had.

Ahhh. Yes. Birds and being outside and breathing new life.

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We Work at It Because We Are Family

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The other day I was on a walk around the farm and turned the corner to see the fence down for the sheep. Our neighbors have sheep and we let them graze on our property. We are kind of like grandparents to the sheep. We get to enjoy them without all of the responsibility. When I saw the fence was knocked down, I looked over to see the sheep grazing in our neighbor's side yard. Since our neighbors were both gone, I called my son and we took on the task of getting them back inside the fence.

I've been thinking about the sheep outside of the fence for a couple of days.

We wander outside of the Kingdom when we are arrogant, judgmental, sarcastic, and condescending toward others we don't agree with. Whether our opinions are to the right or to the left, if we respond in these ways we are outside the fence. We may genuinely want others to see the ways in which we believe they are living outside of the Kingdom, but when we do it in a way that drips with arrogance, judgment, sarcasm, and condescension we're outside of the Kingdom.

The world does indeed watch how Christians treat non-Christians who don't think the way we do. I don't think the world cares as much about how we treat each other, though. I think it's a turn off, but I think if we validate and agree with them on various topics, we are in. If we don't validate and agree with them, we are out. However, God really cares about how we treat each other as Christians.

Watching this kind of drama unfold on social media is like being back in high school. It's like watching the movie Mean Girls. I've never watched the movie in it's entirety, I had no desire after seeing some of the clips. I am not going to pay to subject myself to two hours of reliving high school and call it entertainment. But really, the kind of come backs I've been seeing on social media from both sides trying to prove a point are full of high school and everything, but love.

These comments and behavior are not only from the "conservative evangelical pharisees" or the "progressives who will burn in hell", it's from both. It just so happens that there are a bunch of us outside the fence way over on the right and there are a bunch of us outside the fence way over on the left. We are flipping each other off with our cutting words. And I can't imagine Jesus treating anyone the way we are treating each other.

I've always told my kids that if they could learn to love each other well and get along with their siblings, then they will be able to do that with just about anybody, because loving and getting along with family is the hardest. But we work at it because we are family.

Our pastor Louie says, "It's a terrible thing to be right, only."

The back of the farm is where I go for most of my therapy sessions. You know, the times when I am not actually meeting with my therapist or spiritual director. Yeah, that's where I am. I need both. And I am totally good with that. But when I am not meeting with them, I am on the back of the farm. A lot. It's where I go to sort things out. To cry, to yell in anger, to dance in rejoicing. The other day on the back of the farm, I was weeping about all of these hard topics that we as Christians aren't getting along well about. Out of my weeping heart came this plea:

God, what if I'm wrong? Am I wrong? All of these different voices from really smart people who have researched and studied, who have PhDs, and ooze intelligence, don't agree. People with really good hearts who want to follow your ways and love you and love their neighbor and have prayed diligently, don't agree. I am going to keep walking down this path of my beliefs, theology, and doctrine with open eyes, open ears, and an open heart to you. If I am wrong, God, I beg you to make it clear. And while I journey help me to love those I don't agree with. Help me not to take a stance of arrogance, judgment, sarcasm, and condescension because I really want to so bad sometimes. I am sorry, forgive me. Amen.

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Life Lessons

Valerie 4 Comments

Life lessons of a forty-something:

  • I was on the back of the farm a while ago feeling sorry for myself. Someone that I had invested in, encouraged, believed in was very hurtful to me. Two years ago. And I'm still feeling sorry for myself. I heard a quiet voice gently ask, "Why is this still impacting you? Why did you invest so much? Was it also investing in yourself?" And I had to answer, "yes" to that last question by the Spirit--it was an investment in myself. Another dent in my people-pleasing armor.
  • When we say yes to a lot of things, we say no to others. Even if the word "no" doesn't come out of our mouths, we still say no because we cannot say yes to everything. I want to make sure I am not too often saying no to those most important to me. Dallas Willard says to love your neighbor, you begin with those closest to you. Who are your closest neighbors? Yourself and your family.
  • I see parts of myself in both Hillary and Donald. I can be controlling, manipulative, twist the truth, outright lie, say very inappropriate and hurtful things. If I want repentance in this country, it needs to start with my repentance.
  • Dr. Henry Cloud taught me that to forgive someone doesn't mean you have to trust them for the future. The person you forgive should show the fruit of repentance to receive trust. I can proceed with caution and set boundaries and that doesn't mean I am a bitter or unforgiving person.
  • It is wise to define what love is because sometimes, what we may consider to be loving, really isn't.
  • I've been a doormat and that is hard to admit about myself. 
  • My spiritual director told me the way I got through life during my first half won't work in the second half. She said I could do it, but those who do aren't that great to be around. She's right.
  • Getting older and losing youth is harder than I thought it would be. I thought I was more prepared to accept it, but there is a grieving process. The way I look in my forties is not the way I looked in my thirties, that's for sure. However, the more I surrender, the more beautiful I see myself. There is something very alluring and enchanting and stunning about an older woman who is confident enough to simply be.
  • I am continually overwhelmed by the way God loves me and reveals his love to me.
  • There are times when we need to remind ourselves of what we already know...style is my creative outlet and it's fun. The way I dress and decorate is an expression of myself. It's not a major. It's not the most important thing in life, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy it. God delights in our delight.
  • Christians bashing Christians is ugly and nothing new. All we have to do is read Paul's letters to know it's nothing new. The chosen twelve didn't even see eye to eye. I have a friend who is more conservative than I am and I don't agree with everything he says. I also have a friend who is more liberal than I am and I don't agree with everything she says. I am grateful God is a God of individuals. The God of Isaac, Abraham, David, Esther, Peter, Mary Magdalene, Valerie. The God of Anne Lamott and Billy Graham.
  • Doctrine and theology do matter. And that's for me to work through with God and the Spirit-guided wisdom of other Christ followers. 
  • When someone forms an opinion of my character based on social media without having recent face to face conversations or never having met me in person, I hit the disregard button. It's a new Facebook feature. Okay, it's not. But it should be.
  • I am rereading a book called Longing for God by Richard Foster and Gayle Beebe. Some books deserve more than one reading. This time I am going slowly. Lingering. I am spending time with Augustine. A quote from the book, "Essentially, Augustine asserts, all of history reflects one of two things: either we love ourselves or we love God. Either we align our will with his or we are self-willed."

Oh God, I have so much more to learn about you, about myself, about others, about loving and living. Teach me, Jesus. Guide me, Spirit. Father me, God. Amen.

This is a photo I took when we were touring the Fort at Mackinac Island. I loved the staircase, the lighting, the open door; it looked beckoning.

This is a photo I took when we were touring the Fort at Mackinac Island. I loved the staircase, the lighting, the open door; it looked beckoning.

Sacred and Significant

Valerie Comment

I heard James Bryan Smith say the words "you are sacred and significant" in a sermon a few weeks ago. Isn't that a beautiful thought? I am sacred and significant. He emphasized how fundamental our thoughts are to our transformation.

I stood on the back of our farm not long after I had listened to that sermon from James and I was feeling inadequate, not capable, less than. I looked down and there were three four leaf clovers. And there was the abundant life. Not that finding three four leaf clovers means things are always going to go my way, only wonderful things will happen; prosperity for life. That's not the abundant life he wants to offer me. He is offering an abundance of himself. Nothing else compares to that... no amount of earning someone's good opinion or receiving their praise. As I was out back on the farm crying because I felt worthless and lacking, I was standing in an abundance of him.

Wow, I must be sacred and significant.

The other day, I watched a Taiwanese Drama. Yeah, so now not only do I watch Korean Dramas, but I've added Taiwanese and Japanese Dramas. Anyway. A man who was a lifestyle coach was helping a woman transform. I won't ruin it by telling you that in the end they fall in love since you are all going to watch this Taiwanese Drama, I'm sure. And he told her the first step in change was changing how she perceived herself. He stood her in front of a mirror and he had her look at herself and see herself as the beautiful woman she really is. He said these words for her to embrace: "I am at my prime. I have the charm of a mature woman and the freshness of a girl. I am very beautiful. But I didn't realize it before.

I am sacred and significant. But I didn't realize it before.

Since I love to learn about health and wellness and improving my own health, I joined an anti-inflammation challenge with a holistic lifestyle coach/organic chef. In that challenge this week, I listened to this conversation of my coach interviewing a doctor about health and wellness, quantum physics, and neurology. You know, super smart people stuff. How thoughts release a feeling and then the body releases chemicals and neural pathways are formed. To change those neural pathways, the thoughts need to change. And I thought, how can I apply this knowledge as a Christ follower? The kids and I are memorizing Colossians 3:1-17 and it immediately comes to my mind that Paul is saying to seek the things that are above when I've been raised with Christ. In my Bible in the notes it says, "The truth of life in Christ must be lived out in the routines and rhythms of life."

The truth is I am sacred and significant.

So, yesterday I was talking with my spiritual director. I was telling her about the super smart people stuff and she said, "It makes me think of Colossians 3." I said, "You are freaking me out right now because that is what I thought." And then she shared with me how she is reading a book on the exact same topic.

I can't make this up. I mean, I could. I have a pretty good imagination. But I didn't. I didn't make it up. 

And James Bryan Smith, the guy in the Taiwanese Drama, the super smart people, my spiritual director, and Paul are all talking about the same thing.

It frustrates me that I still wrestle with people pleasing and not valuing myself. It's in every fiber of my being. Deep. Down. There. It's also really easy for me to start beating myself up that I still struggle only adding to my sense of worthlessness. I'm complicated and having emotions is a lot of work. But something my spiritual director wrote me in an email sticks with me.  She wrote, "Your responses to him over time become your growth." How full of grace! I am on the path of growth. And now I have the affirmation of how important my thoughts are to my transformation.

Being transformed by the renewing of my mind.

He loves me and over and over he is telling me the same message, layer upon layer. I am sacred and significant. Believe it. Think it. Embrace it. Live it.

 

 

Photo from Dee Jones at   Open Door Photography . Taken at  Yoga Faith  immersion.

Photo from Dee Jones at  Open Door Photography. Taken at Yoga Faith immersion.

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Savoring Summer

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Summer goes too quickly. Always. And it's August and I feel like it should be July. So in the spirit of mindfulness I notice the anxiety that a quickly fading summer brings and I don't really want to do anything with it except go to the lake and float. That should calm my anxious heart.

And cute skirts help. Especially vintage skirts that twirl and have deep pockets. Note to all clothing designers out there: flowy skirts need pockets.

I found this beautiful vintage Banana Republic skirt at Salvation Army a few weeks ago. In the 80s, Banana Republic used to have this safari, expeditiony-ish (that's not a word, but I don't care) clothing line. If you don't know the history of Banana Republic, here is the story.  

Enlightenment to go along with my mindfulness.

Enjoy every last minute of this glorious summer, friends. I am hoping to fill mine with family, friends, fun, laughter, rest, relaxation, good books, good food, good music, bonfires, star gazing, long walks, floating in the lake, and twirly skirts.

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The Beautiful Process

Valerie Comment

I thought I had lost one of my journals; left it somewhere other than home. And I was afraid. I didn’t exactly know what was written in it. My journals are a place for my unfiltered, raw emotion to spill out across pages. Things I am too fearful to speak, I pen. It’s where I cuss, shake an angry fist, scream, cry, and surrender. I question, argue, beg for mercy, accept, and give praise.

We are scared of others seeing the process. It can be ugly. If someone read my journals they would think I had lost my faith, my virtue, and my mind. If I left my journal in a public place and it was found, I would be exposed.

We aren’t tolerant or patient with process. Our own or other’s. We go to judgement, criticism, shame, guilt. I am grateful God doesn’t treat us the way we often treat ourselves and each other. 

I believe it is important to speak truth in love in trusted community, but this is done with leaving room for and trusting in the work of the Spirit. 

Oh God, what are you up to that my human understanding cannot comprehend?

I listen to my kids practice their instruments and I hear imperfection, messiness, and mistakes. I hear tenacity, progression, improvement. The transition from choppiness and wrong notes into a smooth, lovely piece of music. If all I ever heard from them was perfection, I would miss a full appreciation of their art. When we sit and listen to a polished performance at the symphony hall, we can only imagine the hard work that has occurred before this moment. And most likely, we don’t give much thought to the sacrifice, dedication, determination. But when we are invited in and allowed to see and hear the struggle, our hearts expand.

The lows, the highs. The failures, the successes. 

That place where ugliness and beauty come together, where brokenness is met with love and perseverance… that place is redemption.

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