To Clear Up a Few Things

The last post has generated lots of interaction and I’ve enjoyed all the private messages,  comments, and the in-real-life conversations. You all have been so thoughtful and kind, even in the places where we differ, and for that I’m so thankful. I wanted to clear up a few things that came up in some of these conversations.

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First of all, if you’re an email subscriber, I think you received a, shall we call it, *bonus* post in your email. You probably discovered that it was not, in fact, on my blog. In getting the last post ready, I needed a link from a previous post that I never published. In that process, I somehow accidentally published it, and immediately deleted it. I talked in the last post about writing in preachy style, and that was a post I couldn’t feel good about publishing, and it was never meant to be viewed. I have to be honest with myself when I write, and sometimes there is ugliness within me that results in reactive, confrontational style writings, and I feel a check in my spirit that keeps me from progressing. My motives in writing are something that I take very seriously, and sometimes they expose areas that need sanctification and growth.

Some of the response from the previous post involved what I didn’t say, and probably could have included for a more rounded out perspective. I wrote in generalizations and rather broadly to keep from bunny-trailing into other topics that certainly overlap with feminism. So I want to clarify a few things, but instead of leaning in for a closer look, I want to zoom out for a larger picture.

When Jesus came to earth and lived among us, and then died, a new Humanity was birthed. He spent his three years in ministry sketching out the outline of this new society. Through His teachings and in parables, He described this new way of living. His followers would love both their neighbors and their enemies. They would not fight back when wronged and would actively love the wrong-doer. They would live in life-long covenants of marriage, broken only by death. They would not give their lives to riches and to the storing up of earthly possessions and would love Him above all else. This wasn’t just a revision to Jewish morality, it was a whole new Culture. A kingdom, He called it. And then the apostles, in letters to the early churches, colored in the spaces of the sketch, practically detailing what this new society living would include. Husbands would love their wives as Christ loved the church and would live with them in understanding. Wives would love and submit to their husbands and children would obey and honor. Men would not wear religious head coverings but women would, in honor of the authority design God created. Together they would enjoy abundant life, live with hope for both the present and the future, and their lives would taste of fruit- love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control. This is just a small composite of the whole thing, but to get the whole picture, you’ll have to read the entire New Testament.

When we become God’s and He infuses us with His Spirit, we aren’t  merely just born-again and saved so we can go to heaven. We become part of His narrative, part of something so much bigger than ourselves. Something that defies geographical and social barriers and limitations.

So often, when topics such as womens’ roles come up, we seek to understand it for ourselves and the implications it means for us, instead of seeking to understand them in the context of the narrative and the Kingdom. That means, when God gives instructions both to men and women, He cares about more than just the men and the women. It is crucial for the well-being and the design of the larger Kingdom Society. I suppose you could say, the success of His Kingdom hinges on our obedience to the way He wants it to work.

Women living obediently cannot alone, make the Kingdom run smoothly. That’s not a load we could or should try to carry. That’s not a burden that churches should put on us. We can’t do it alone.

And that’s where some of the rub is in all this. We live in churches and in homes that don’t perfectly reflect this Kingdom model. In fact, so much of Christianity bears little resemblance to Jesus’ sketch. And because of sinfulness, many women live with abuse or spousal unfaithfulness. How is a woman to be Christ-honoring in situations like this? What is her role?

I’m not going to sit here and pretend to have answers, because I don’t. I can’t imagine living with that kind of pain. I also don’t know the pain of being made to feel that I was in some way inferior, or of less value to God because I’m a woman, and that my thoughts or questions were unimportant. My dad has consistently shown me what God must look like, all throughout my life. Even as a child, he wasn’t threatened or annoyed by my many questions, but encouraged me to think, to wrestle, and then to own my faith. This is among the most precious gifts a dad can give his girl, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

If this has not been your experience, and you instead live with the pain of what I described above, I’m so terribly sorry.  But please don’t write off God’s whole design on account of one part gone terribly wrong. The answer to being silenced isn’t in finding your voice and then seeking, above all else to finally be heard. Its in finding the God who hears and who accepts and who values, and then settling into Him. You will find the sweetness of His voice and His peace and He will give you identity and purpose that nobody else can or should.

And I think in conversations like this, we dare not box in and create constructs that go tighter than God’s design. I think a man who lives with his wife in understanding will value her input and seek it before making decisions. I think it could also include him pitching in and helping set the table for dinner and bathing the children afterwards, and being understanding of the demands of long days at home. I think women can be God-honoring and enjoy new tools and building things. And while it took many sweaty minutes and then Youtube to help me conquer ratchet straps, for you it might be fun and easy. I think there’s space in gender roles for fluidity and flexibility. I suppose I’m just not ready to compromise on God’s design, as sketched out in Scripture.

I may have muddied the waters more, in an attempt to clear them, and if I have, I’m sorry. I don’t plan on elaborating more, as it’s time for me to move on mentally from this topic. But thanks again to all of you and your graciousness in engaging. I really do appreciate it!

Vicki

 

 

 

Regarding Women Going Home

 

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I said I wasn’t going to weigh in. And I wasn’t. And then one of you (hi, you know who you are :)), stopped in at my place of work and asked what I really thought of it. We proceeded to have a stimulating conversation, because she’s great like that, and as a result, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

I weigh in because it’s something I’ve been thinking about, and also because it affects the future of my blog.

I feel like this post needs lots of disclaimers, and no matter how I write, there will be differences of opinion. I love healthy interaction and I welcome it, so chime in, but please be nice!

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, the world of evangelical women blew up when John MacArthur’s two word response, when asked about popular author and teacher, Beth Moore, was “go home.”

The older I get, the faster I’ve gotten at filtering through the outrageous and the hysteria. This opinion piece by the Wall Street Journal is well worth your while if you want to understand how outrage works and the effects it can have on a society. It is a secular piece, and uses some rather, interesting, words, so if you can overlook them, I think you’ll enjoy it.

So after my friend asked me about it, I actually dug into what really happened and listened to the video clip. I had to turn it off because I couldn’t take the disrespect. Not because Beth Moore is a woman, but  because she’s a person. I can appreciate public disagreement but not disrespect.

So he wasn’t very nice, but apart from his personal attack on her, was what he went on to say about women in leadership true? That is the bit that I’ve been mulling the last few days.

I suppose to answer this you have to establish Biblical authority and relevance, because the Bible does in fact have instructions for women. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand so much of women and how they were treated throughout recorded Scripture. I don’t understand the times where innocent women and children paid the price for men’s recklessness and sin. I don’t understand why women seemed like little more than property in the Old Testament, and why they aren’t included in genealogies and family lineage. I don’t understand why Jesus in Matthew 15, ignored a woman from a minority race and referred to her as a dog before healing her daughter. By today’s standards, this was textbook “toxic masculinity” and racism.

It finally clicked for me today, when I was washing a stack of dishes, that God doesn’t have to explain His actions. Creator privilege. An artists draw a picture- he controls who uses it. Bobby makes a paper airplane- he says who can fly it. If God indeed made us, than He has the right to set the terms. But we aren’t just owned by God, we are beloved to God, and for that reason I choose to be a Christian. Even though there are parts about Him that I don’t understand, I’ve found Him to be trustworthy. A Creator that made a perfect world, watched it decay in sin and suffering, sent a part of Himself to die for it, and then comes to live in us? That’s why I’m a Christian.

I suppose most of what is going wrong in the world today could be chalked up to copyright infringement. Society and culture re-defining God’s terms for His kingdom and then wondering why it seems like it’s about to fly off it’s axis. Setting their rules and then looking for His grace.

Feminism, to me, is one of the scariest copyright breaches that is taking place today. Feminism, as I’m using it, is the blurring of lines between the sexes, not in questions of value, but roles. I would wholeheartedly agree that in the sight of God, both men and women are equally valued and loved, but have distinctly different roles and callings. A woman who is made to believe that she is of less value to God or needs to go through a man for a relationship with God is a different conversation and one that makes me sad.

Culture is rewriting the terms for what it means to be a woman (and subsequently- a man) and that is what MacArthur describes in his response. Women thirsty for power and control. Women finding their voices and then roaring. And I think when we’ve crested the wave, and ridden it to the bottom, we’ll find that power isn’t what we thought it was and it’s cost us something very dear. For all the successful strides towards equality and opportunity, women have never been more emotionally vulnerable and fragile. We read a lot about self-care. Maybe it is because it is emotionally exhausting doing what we weren’t meant to do. Maybe in fact, God is merciful, not mean, in His instructions to us. Maybe home is the best place for mothers because they do it best. Not because they aren’t qualified to do anything else, but because no one else is qualified to fill that role. Maybe submission isn’t sexist, but actually appropriate for healthy relationships. Maybe men filling spiritual leadership roles is the patented design by the Almighty and the only way homes and churches were designed to thrive.  His Word seems to indicate that.

I did a quick Pinterest search for “quotes about women”. And then I searched “quotes about men”. You want to guess what I found? It shook me up a bit. They both had the same kinds of quotes about women. The first search pulled up quotes like:

18 Strong Women Quotes to Remind You How Resilient You Are #MotherandGrandmotherGifts

And the second search pulled up quotes like this:

Quotes About Strength  #Quotes #Strength #Inspiration

Even if I was to suspend my Christian beliefs, I would still find these kind of “empowering” quotes…. embarrassing.

So many of the quotes in the search results seem:

– Petulant.

-Almost childish in their demand for attention.

-Taunting and fierce

-Verbally manipulative

In a strange way, as a woman, I don’t feel empowered when I read those quotes. I feel smaller. I feel a shrinking of all that is feminine and beautiful and generous. I feel the loneliness of a self-made bubble. The despair of thinking that it’s me against everyone, especially men. The emptiness of promises that can’t be kept.

Fragile like a bomb? Bombs are two things: volatile and destructive. I want to live with the discipline of self-restraint, of care and of building others up. How is being bomb-like supposed to be empowering to women? Is the idea to blow up the men?

Ironically, feminism is the ultimate reduction of the woman. It makes smaller, less generous, less compassionate, and less soft. It strips the woman of all that is rightfully and beautifully hers, and replaces it with empty promises. She is a social genetic modification, this new woman, and the modifications have weakened her and left her vulnerably exposed.

I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to post this. I’ve painted with a wide brush.  I’ve used terms without defining them. But please know this. I care deeply about women and am the biggest champion for meaningful, vibrant, and abundant living. And I’m old fashioned enough to think that we don’t need loud voices and bullhorns and hashtags to be influential and to make a difference. I think the influence of women graciously serving their families and the steadiness of walking in truth and with grace is more powerful than any platform anywhere.

Go home? I don’t mind if I do. Home is a rather nice place.

Vicki

(In considering future content for my blog, I want to be conscious of what I’ve just written. I struggle sometimes with writing in a preachy kind of way about things I care deeply about. And because I have a mixed audience, I am choosing, going forward, to not have spiritually instructive kinds of content. It’s just a personal thing God has asked me to do and I’m choosing to honor that.)

 

 

 

 

A few of my Favorite Things

It was the Girl’s first day at home in weeks. She was tired from long weeks of work and weekends away with Very Good Friends. She decided to wage war on her house. It was a very close battle, but the Girl won. Sources would confirm that apparently, a woman armed with a broom and rag and with fire in her soul were indeed forces to be reckoned with. They also noted that frequent breaks for iced coffee and chocolate crunch cake, and Celtic music playlists seemed to boost her morale. Areas of most intense battle included her bedroom Ceiling Fan, with it’s remarkable layer of dust, the interior of her Microwave, a few Very Unorganized Kitchen Cabinets, and the removal of exquisite but equally embarrassing Spider Webs. She sat down, very tired, and remembered that somewhere in the dusty basement of the Internet, she had a blog. Did she have anything to say to her readers? What did they want to read? Her response to John McArthur and his “go home” remarks to Beth Moore? The Girl is too tired to engage in the hysteria. Something inspiring and motivating? Again, the Girl is tired. Maybe she should just share a few of her favorite things she’s been enjoying. She could do that and so she did, but she decided to stop writing in third person because it was too cumbersome:

A few Good Books:

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Snow Treasure is a favorite chapter book from when I was a young girl. Based on true events, it is a story of how a few brave, young Norwegian school children outsmarted Nazi guards by smuggling gold out of the country in front of their very noses during World War II. I was happy to pick it up at a thrift store this weekend.

The Following of the Star by Florence Barclay is one of my favorite love stories. Any of her books are well worth your time but this story is one of ultimate love and commitment, centered around the three gifts that the Magi brought to Jesus.

Instruments in the Redeemers Hand is proving to be a rich resource for understanding ourselves and how we fit into the broader story of Redemption. It addresses the pain and brokenness of a world wrecked by sin, and how redemption is both personal but also part of a much grander story. I like that it is very Scriptural and strong without being preachy. Tripp writes graciously and beautifully and his words ring with truth. I’m only half way through it but I’m really enjoying it so far.

A Few Favorite Purchases:

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When I saw this print on @houseofaaron’s Instagram, I knew I needed it. I like to keep perspective shaping verses in my room as decor and I loved the whimsical art surrounding the verse. Being appreciative of and embracing temporary joys while still yearning for the Eternal is a delicate balance. You can see more of her work here in her Etsy shop

Another purchase I’ve been enjoying is my new Bible. I’ve had my older Bible for years and it’s just like a dear old friend. Marked up and falling open to all the right pages and it feels right in my hand. However it is falling apart and I’ve been on the hunt for the another good one. I prefer the ESV version, but when I found this NKJV Bible at Ollies, I decided to give it a try. I like the wide margins on the sides for note taking and I like that cross referenced verses are actually written out, instead of just the references beside the verses. I don’t like that the words of Christ aren’t in red, and I’m having to get used to a thicker Bible but so far I’m liking it. Did I mention it was $10? If you have an Ollies nearby, keep them in mind for your Bible needs. They have a decent variety and they are all priced well below retail value.

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A Few Favorite Scripture Passages:

Isaiah 40 (the beautiful word pictures of a universe holding God, who stretches out our heavens as a curtain and then draws near to us, His creation, at the end of the chapter, to renew our strength pretty much gives me goosebumps)

John 17 (there is something about the Father/Son intimacy and the way Jesus pleads on behalf of His disciples to His Father that sometimes makes me cry when I read it. That’s the love we are to have for each other. It’s a great, big, enveloping and spacious kind of love.

Proverbs 30 ( random, I know, but Solomon’s series of lists towards the end just really amuse me. He just kind of amuses me in general. I wrote another blog post about him here.  He references cranky, annoying women rather frequently and it makes me wonder how his 700 wives/ 300 concubine thing worked out?

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A favorite recipe: Cabbage and Sausage

I think cabbage is probably one of the most underappreciated and overlooked vegetables. It is lettuce’s heartier, more versatile cousin and it is yummy cooked or raw. One of our local friends is a a cast-iron chef and he introduced us to this dish. It’s so simple and plain but the flavors pack a huge punch.

Basically you saute an onion and garlic (if you like) in about a half stick of butter. Cut the cabbage up kind of mediumly (not too fine, not too course). Cook it down until the cabbage is nearly  soft and then add the can of Rotel and the sausage. This brand of sausage is delicious and while it’s a bit more expensive than other brands, it’s worth it.  Season it with salt and pepper and you’re ready to go. It sounds overly simplistic, but there’s a depth of flavor there with the spices in the tomatoes that is hard to describe.

And lastly, to continue the Martha Steward vibe:

A Few Household Hacks that Actually Work:

Using a pillowcase to clean ceiling fan blades is pretty much genius. The dust bunnies collect in it and it keeps it from falling everywhere. It makes it so easy, then, to just wipe the blades with a wet rag and cleaner, and the mess is minimal.

Use Lysol Clinging Toilet Bowl Cleaner with Bleach (wow, that sounds awkward!) for mold buildup along the grout lines in your bathtub or shower. The Clinging kind is essential because it’s thick enough to sit on the mold and attack it. I let it sit for few minutes, and came back and the mold had disappeared. I’d tried every other trick in the book and this is the one that worked the best.

And I’m saving the best til last:

My favorite nephew:

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He made me an aunt and he has brightened my world! Hudson is the most perfect, funny little human and I can’t wait to read him books and take him on adventures as he gets older.

I think that’s all for now. I’m struggling a bit with vision for my blog and that keeps me from writing sometimes. I don’t know what my niche is and there’s something about hitting “publish” and sending it to Everywhereville that leaves me feeling a bit vulnerable. Maybe if you’d introduce yourself in the comments or just say “hey” i’d have a bit more of a face to put to my audience. And to those of you who’ve subscribed recently, welcome to this space! I’m glad to have you!

Vicki

The Flowers You Carry

 

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picture from the web of another bouquet

They brought them back to our vacation cabin and carefully set them on the kitchen counter-a stunning arrangement of local flowers and greenery, purchased inexpensively from the local farmers market. My aunt found a pretty white pitcher to put them in, and they graced the counter top for a few hours.

We gathered for dinner that evening, and the flower arrangement had been moved to the dining room table, for us to enjoy over our delicious food.

The flowers appeared in the living room at some point, where we gathered for worship on Sunday morning.

I don’t know who else noticed this flower progression, but someone was quietly moving them, room by room, to give life and beauty in whichever room we were occupying.

They sat, wilting and tired, on the coffee table when we left for our homes. But when I got home and reflected on our trip, I realized they had kinda followed me home. Something about them begged to be considered and I’ve been thinking this week about the power of the things we carry through life.

There are so many people in my life who carry warmth, generosity, truthfulness, faithfulness and confidence, and who naturally brighten any place they’re in. They have tasted God’s goodness and flowers have sprung up. And when I know they sometimes face discouragement and exhaustion, I know they’ll be okay because what they carry not only blesses the world, it sustains them as well. They are the finders of God’s goodness, not just the seekers. And when they find it, they begin to carry it.

I think life must be more than an eternal I Spy Game, with some vague, far off prize of eternal life at the end. I think hidden throughout the rooms are little tokens of the bigger gift. Earth-sized portions of joy and fulfillment, meant for us to find and enjoy now while whetting our appetites for the consumation of all desire- being with God Himself forever.

What that looks like practically involves a lot of ordinary life. It means wearing lenses of gratitude that can find abundance and joy in the most unlikely of places. It means choosing truth over things that play with our minds, and steal our peace. Its the difference between surviving and thriving. Between being a taker and a giver. Between being a spectator and being a participant.

We all pick up and carry something throughout our lives. What we end up with is the sum of the choices we’ve made, the things we’ve pursued, and the thoughts we’ve entertained. These determine whether we carry flowers or weeds. Whether we live in abundance or lack and whether God’s goodness is a constant reality or a distant dream.

I’ve been overwhelmed this week with immense gratitude for the family and friends who surround me. Who carry their flowers faithfully and consistently. Who walk, room, through room, finding and experiencing God and then showing that picture to others. I feel so blessed and I just want to encourage you to keep on, not just seeking, but finding as well.

~Vicki

 

 

 

On Living In Pause

 

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Hey everyone!

If the third time’s the charm than I’ll be publishing this post this evening. There are about 14.5  thoughts running through my head, and they all connect,  though somewhat tenuously, so putting them together on here has been difficult.

As I mentioned here, at the beginning of the year, I hit pause on certain interests in my life, things that were starting to affect me negatively. I love learning, and figuring out people and new ideas. I enjoy new literature on a multitude of topics such as ministry, relationships, singleness, and social issues.  I have advocated personal growth and intentional living on here, in the pursuit of living more vibrantly and wholly as women in Christ. It is a message I will probably always be passionate about, but the why’s and the how’s have been changing for me over the last six months.

The book of Isaiah is nestled chronologically in between some very difficult places in Israel’s history. There is fighting, sin and idolatry and God continually threatens to destroy them. Then God shows up in a blaze of glory and fury in Isaiah and records in beautiful language, who He is and the reality of who mankind is as well. There is some poetic interchange between God and Isaiah as He establishes just What It Means to Be God and Isaiah who attempts to explain What It Means to Be Human. This beautiful-back-and-forth has continued through the centuries as the created and the Creator interact. A few themes have emerged as I’ve read through this book, and one of them sums up beautifully what I’ve come to during these past six months in pause.

I’ve come to quiet.

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” 

And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
    and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust[a] forever.

At first glance they are beautiful verses that could likely be found somewhere in Hobby Lobby on a sign or coffee cup, or maybe under a pretty picture on Instagram. However, to accept and embrace and live in these promises requires asking some very important questions. In returning to what, will we be saved? Quietness in what becomes strength? What is righteousness?

Answering these questions requires one to make truth claims, and Christians are finding that harder and harder to do. We want to know who everyone else says God is, and we want God to say, “Blessed are you. You are___________________(insert name) and I will do ____ (insert thing) for you.” Sound like an exchange between Jesus and His disciples? It is, but it leaves out the most important part- the dramatic personal belief and declaration of Peter. Popular Christian literature and psychology has inverted this concept and most likely the millennial Christian today would connect more with Jesus’ address to Peter, than Peter’s beautiful declaration of Jesus.. Our primary desire is to be understood, to have an identity and to be accepted. We seek to figure all that out through books and podcasts and tests. We’ve been led to believe that in understanding ourselves and in being more self-aware, that it will somehow lead us to God. In the past ten years, as I’ve watched this evolve, it’s been interesting to note that this hasn’t solved the human problem. Even with all these formulas, Christians are still depressed. Still confused. Still lonely. Still looking for God.

Where is He? I found Him, or maybe He found me in the quiet. In the seeking of Him through His words to us. In turning off the noise of the thousand voices that too are searching. In the reading of old books whose themes reflect His values. He’s there. He’s here. He’s findable. But He won’t compete with the voices and He won’t re-arrange to fit our versions of ourselves and how we understand ourselves to be.

It is only in finding Him that we can understand and are willing to accept who He says we are, but we also find that we aren’t that big of a deal. I suppose that’s probably a bit of a drastic statement but I find myself somewhere between oh what a worm am I and if God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.  This has been liberating for me, though at first glance it seems rather demeaning. As one who is prone to over analyzing and overthinking, it has been good for me to come back to God and let Him settle me back in His truths and my place in Him. And when I’m most connected to Him, I’m less likely to stumble all over myself.

Anyway, this has gotten kind of long and deep and it wasn’t supposed to. But I’d like to encourage anyone else who is is also struggling with the overload of ideas and concepts and books and podcasts to just hit pause and find God for yourself. Return to quiet and there find strength. And if you’re like me, you’ll find the daily things with which we tangle, start falling into place.

-Vicki

 

 

 

Italy and Switzerland~ the Dolomites

I have been pushing off this post for so long for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I feel like my pictures don’t do justice to the majesty of what we saw and secondly, there aren’t quite the right English words to describe this part of the trip, and thirdly, I’ve had some technical difficulties with WordPress. However, last night after thinking about our trip with awe and thankfulness, I discovered that I might  have a few words for this part and the rest you’ll just have to imagine. 🙂

One of the technical difficulties I’m facing is the inability to download my photos from a file to this blog. I am able to access Marylou’s pictures and she has graciously let me use them on here. All but one of the pictures are hers and if you want to see even more stunning images and a more detailed summary, go check hers out.

So we left the crowds and the colorful concrete jungle that is Venice, and hit the open road, heading north. We were surprised at how quickly the flat coastlands gave way to rolling foothills, and I remember seeing our first set of baby Alps, and it was quite impressive!

You have to keep in mind that we’re from Georgia and well accustomed to the sea and to land at sea level, and so even baby mountains really wowed us!

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These stunning views were just outside our van windows on our way to Fiè allo Sciliar, our destination in the Dolomites . The timing of this part of the trip was perfect, with the trees starting to change color, but with the brilliant October skies.

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We kept stopping every couple of kilometers it seemed to oooh and ahhhh more adequately. You’d think a soul would run out of awe but the tank is bottomless, thanks to a good and kind God who not only created such beauty, but the capacity to enjoy it as well. Missing a road on our route took us within a few kilometers of the border of Austria but we didn’t have the time to keep going.

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Because of some excellent research by Marylou, we came upon Rainbow Lake just as the sun was about to set. The crystal clear water made the perfect mirror for a set of craggy mountains in the background. You can’t really make stuff like this up, I promise, and to experience it is to leave you almost speechless, and that says a lot about a group of Hershberger ladies 🙂

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We finally made it, after many stops and photos, and pleasurable sighs, to our destination, and it was one of two places where we only spent one night. In this part of northern Italy, there is a lot of Swiss influence and flavor, and our hostess for the night spoke fluent German, not Italian, and she helpfully pointed us to what was to become a highlight of the trip for me- the Alpe Di Suesi, an alpine meadow tucked in between some more wonderful, craggy mountains.

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This meadow, along with other stunning villages we drove through, was relatively quiet due to the time of the year, but when skiing season starts, these places are crawling with people. We spent the morning here, and it felt as though we had wandered into Heidi’s book, and even ran into one of her goats! We split up and all headed separate ways for the morning. I followed a little road to the top of the mountain and was rewarded with more incredible views. Some cowhands were bringing a herd of brown and white Swiss cattle down the mountain and I stepped off the path to let them all pass, cowbells clanging, and hooves clomping. I also bought a little wooden spoon from a roadside stand, with an honor-based pay system. Those few hours were incredibly special, with the panorama of beauty and a heart full of worship. Clouds starting rolling in and were so low I felt as though I could nearly touch them, so I scampered back down the mountain and met up with the others who had wonderful experiences of their own to share. Dolomites-3

Here we are with the goat. RuthAnne’s goals for the trip included petting all the animals so she got to add a goat to her list 🙂

Lois and Marylou drove Peppy (the van) down the mountain, and Kelly, RuthAnne and I took the cable car down.Cable Car

We hit the road again, this time headed for Tirano, up near the Swiss border. As usual, we punched the address into the GPS and buzzed along. We had left enough margin in our timing for more photo stops, as we were wont to do by this point, but it was mid-afternoon when we finally really tried to actually drive more than a few kilometers without stopping. We were about to stumble upon the most unexpected, memorable part of our trip. I still can’t really think about it without shivering a little.

It started innocently enough, until we hit this spot:

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Of course we HAD to stop and take a million pictures and pinch ourselves to make sure we weren’t on a puzzle box. I mean those are glaciers up there in the right corner! We couldn’t even!!!! Eventually we settled ourselves back down and starting driving. Uphill. Very uphill, and there was no downhill in sight. Soon we were nearly eye level with the glaciers.

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We were soon above the tree line and going around one hairpin curve after the other, winding up a road to who-knows-where. At one point we were about 25 miles from the moon, or so we imagined. The curves were so sharp that those of us in the back had to give the all-clear for the next right or left hand swing. The average gradient was 8%. The higher we got, the quieter we all got in the van. I’d venture to say that was the quietest, non-sleeping time of any part of our trip. We were all controlled and not outwardly freaking out, but you could almost feel the tension rising. It’s hard to describe how lonely and otherworldly it felt up there, above the trees and civilization. The occasional oncoming vehicles were reassuring  that indeed, life was happening and possible, but it just felt incredibly lonely.

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(the photo above is mine, and excuse the quality but notice the road!)

Forty-eight hair pin curves later (I’m not exaggerating), we made it to the top.  At this point, we noticed on the GPS that we were almost in Switzerland so we made a turn and drove for just a bit down a side road to get into Switzerland and then came back.

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Coming down was definitely easier, although Peppy’s brakes were running kind of hot, so we pulled over to let him have a break. Coming down the mountain and seeing the friendly lights of villages was one of the most beautiful moments of the trip 🙂

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When we got to our place for the night, we looked up our route and discovered that we had successfully driven the Stelvio Pass, the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps and the second highest in the Alps. The highest point is 9,088 feet but it seems a lot higher when you aren’t expecting anything of the sort and have no idea where you are!

We settled in for the night; Lois got a back massage for the incredible and difficult driving she mastered, and the rest of us cooked a yummy supper of vegetable stir fry, with groceries we picked up in the welcoming little town.

The following day we did a train-trip up into St. Moritz in Switzerland where we spent a few hours. The Bernina Express train does the same route but we found that taking the local train, with windows that we could open, was a good bit cheaper. Here is the local train station in Tirano: Bernina-59

The train trip was wonderful, but our experiences along the tops of mountains the day before was hard to beat! We sort of expected to see more Swiss country with towns and chalets but we really just saw a lot more mountains and glacier lakes, and lots of tunnels. Train travel is always relaxing in the country and this was no exception. We enjoyed walking around the glitzy resort town of St. Moritz, and it is definitely different from any Italian city we had been in. For one thing, everything was in francs and everything was expensive! Finding a burger meal for less than $25 was impossible so we opted for kebabs in a little shop off the beaten path. French fries, kebab meat and a special sauce made for a deliciously fattening meal. The dear little grandpa running the place charged me $.13 for my meal and about $300 (I think) for Lois’. The language barrier and credit card machine confused him a little but we got it all worked out. Visit Marylou’s page to see our take on some of the Gucci and other designer stores in this town 🙂

St. Moritz is beautifully set by a lake and is fun to explore for a bit but if you aren’t into fashion and glam and high-end living, you might not completely appreciate what it offers. T to St Moritz-27Bernina-32Bernina-18Bernina-16Bernina-3Bernina-10

Friday morning we packed up and headed south, this time with no mountain pass on our route. I’m not sure we were emotionally ready for another pass 🙂 They have a great road system and the interstate was similar to American ones. All we saw of Milan was driving around the outside of the city on our way south. Our route also took us along Lake Como, so we stopped there for a bit, to eat our leftover stir fry, and to use the bathroom. The bathroom part is a long story but lets just say there were some desperately happy ladies who finally found a “banyo”and who consequently sang a few songs in four part harmony to the restaurant owner who let us in. We were just that thankful and relieved (pun kind of intended). I’ll probably never sing for a bathroom again 🙂Lake Como-9Lake Como-10

Stir-fry wasn’t really classic food for a Lake Como picnic but we were within 48 hours of flying home and were trying to eat up all of our food 🙂  We saved many $$$ by occasionally preparing simple one-dish meals and then eating leftovers on the road. Obviously we didn’t do it at the expense of trying and enjoying local foods, but it did help our pennies stretch further. Lake Como-17b

Lake Como is absolutely gorgeous and it’s easy to see why the rich and famous vacation here. Again, due to being off-season, many of the places were closed and it really felt like not much of a happening place but during peak season it is a lot more lively.

We then ended our driving back in Florence, where we dropped off the van and then got on a fast train back to Rome. We arrived in Rome in the early evening and ate our last dinner at one of the places they tell you not to eat: the places with the bright menu pictures and where the menus are in English and pushy waiters are out in the road trying to coax you in. Well, we just did anyway and turns out, Roman made-for-tourists- lasagna, though disavowed by the Romans, is quite delicious. Served up by a very flirtatious and charming waiter, and that was the final flourish to our Italian adventure! We spent the night in an ancient hotel with peeling paint and a rather sketchy looking elevator, but we all slept well. Our flight home was early afternoon the next day and we got to the airport just in time, and that was with taking an earlier train than we had originally planned. The airport is out of the city about 30 miles. Our flights home went well and we arrived home tired, but supremely happy and full of amazing memories.

I don’t think I’m done with Italy just yet. I’d love to visit the Amalfi Coast and spend more time at Lake Como, but overall, I’d say we experienced Italy about as fully as one can in three weeks time. However, there are many other lovely places on my to-experience list so we’ll see about a return trip to Italy 🙂

Definitely the most important ingredients of a great trip are good and thorough research, good and compatible travel companions, and an open mind and willingness to explore new cultures.

Italy is an ancient civilization and a proud one, and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of trying to understand it and unpack it in the short time I was there.

There is so much more that could be written about our trip, but it’s hard to know how many details are of general interest, or are dear little gems to just keep in my heart. If you are thinking of visiting Italy and want more specifics, shoot me a message and I’ll be happy to help.

Until next time,

Vicki

 

 

On not living a hashtag

It’s a new year. Humanity is doing its annual declutter, probably KonMari style this year. Bullet journals are being set up and the exercise equipment at the gym is being put through its own paces. It’s a fresh start.

I don’t know if I’m the only one who laughs when they read Ecclesiastes, but I feel like Solomon either had kidney stones, or was looking forward into the twenty first century when he moaned out some of his chapters. Water cycles and wind circuits and life spans are all subjects he laments at some point or another and when you finish his book, you really wonder if there is any hope for humanity.

I laugh at him because I’m really laughing at myself. I think we’d get on marvelously, as we are both prone to overthinking and both like poetry.

I wrote a series awhile back on Women and Consumerism and how I changed my thinking patterns on consuming and accumulation. I’m happy to report that this has indeed become a lifestyle and not just a passing trend. To date, I can think of no area in my house that needs to be decluttered or purged, and I even live in a house with a basement. There are spider webs and dirty corners and unorganized cabinets, and a couple cats but nothing that needs to be gotten rid of, except maybe the cats.

Living a simpler life in terms of what I want and acquire has truly been life changing. The hunt for a new purse because my only purse is wearing out has become fun and guilt free. Choosing a new notebook because I need it is significantly more enjoyable than mindlessly grabbing one at a store because it’s just too cute to leave there but I have no immediate need or plan for it. I know minimalism is all the trend right now, but I’m not minimalist and my lifestyle change is a commitment to contentment and not a nod to an ascetically pleasing empty space .

What followed the physical and tangible choices and decisions I made has been really  interesting and it brings me into my goals for the new year. It was about the time that I was most invested in my Amazon business and my little hobby couponing ( both things that contributed heavily to my accumulation problem) that I was also most active in the ideas marketplace- interested in all the ministry formulas, personality tests, psychology analysis (I love understanding how people and things work). I was reading the books, taking the tests, establishing my goals and trying to just, you know, get my life going. However, with time, the information and constant stimulation of all these different ideas started to stockpile and collect like the shampoos on my shelf and I soon realized I was overwhelmed. Because I was living on borrowed ideas and in other people’s hashtags, I got discouraged when my life and goals didn’t work out like theirs. I got a bit disillusioned with life and somewhat Solomonesque in my outlook.

Interestingly enough, it was when I started my journey to contentment in my possessions that I was able to see what was happening and had the clearness of mind and eye to start addressing it.

The problem with the Ideas Marketplace, where as ladies,we both buy and sell, is that it is never ending. There is virtually no aspect of life that is unaffected. Relationships, Parenting, Marriage, Singleness, Health, Spiritual Life, Education- each topic is a virtual community with devoted scholars and speakers, and unique buzzwords and hype. Trying to keep up with them all and do them all well is exhausting and defeating.

It really makes life so complex and complicating and stifles the instinctive and natural. Do X, Y, and Z  if that’s your child’s  love language and make sure that as a single, you make the time for you because others will walk all over you, and eat lots of grass-fed butter, and make sure your child’s carseat is rear-facing until such and such an age, and do this and that and the other if you are reaching out to this kind of person, but if they respond in this way then you must not do those things but instead this other thing and does anyone else have a headache yet too? Now, these things aren’t all bad but they are overwhelming.

A few things jarred me last year in relation to this topic:

  • Reading Elizabeth Elliot’s biography and wondering who will be the role models of today’s little girls. Hers was a life of emotional strength, fortitude and resilience in the midst of hardship and we are trading out these qualities for an Ikea kind of womanhood. Trendy, versatile and even functional, but ultimately light-weight. The ones that show up well on camera and shape up prettily on blogs but collapse under pressure.
  • the realization that a lot of my worldview and thought processes turned to others instead of Christ and His Word to troubleshoot my problems or influence my thoughts on a topic. I really didn’t need Him that much and was content if the ideas contained at least His flavoring.
  • The amount of women  I discovered through books, social media and IRL who are anxious, depressed, discouraged, and lonely. If we have the tools, the podcasts, the relationship books and the platforms, why do we struggle with these things?
  • Jesus’ invitation to rest.  If we are overwhelmed and anxious from doing all Jesus’ things, then something’s likely wrong. He expects our participation in His work, but He also promises to give us what we need to do it.

I’m still an ideas kind of girl. I still believe that an open mindedness to new ideas is a very attractive character quality. I firmly believe that a vibrant, Godly woman will always be a scholar in life and will be ever learning and growing.

However, I think the biggest problem facing women today is not that we are taking in nothing, but that we are taking in everything and consequently drowning.

So this year is a year of simplicity for me in pretty much every area of life. I want to balance my love of new books and ideas and foods with the old, and tried and true. I want to reread old books that inspire and challenge my character. I want to visit old recipes and cook with simple foods. I want to spend quality  time with my Grandmas who are from a generation that experienced hardship and whose characters I want to emulate. I want to further pursue the character qualities of contentment, holiness and wisdom-qualities that don’t photograph well on social media and don’t get any sort of airtime.

I want to explore the whole of God, not just His beauty and his love, because living only in His beauty and love actually makes me pretty selfish. I want to familiarize myself with His Word and have His Voice be immediately where I turn when facing decisions. I want to live instinctively and freely and not by the books and the hashtags.

If you’re overwhelmed, and would like to unsubscribe from ALL THE IDEAS and experience the simplicity of Jesus this year as well, I’d love some accountability in this. I’ll put my email address in the comment section.

Also, my final post on northern Italy will be up soon, hopefully. I wanted to get this New Years post up before June, you know 🙂

Vicki