That Time We Went to California::

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So a little background for this trip:

We are a group of girls who met at a Bible School fairly many moons ago, and I, in fact, was in the same dorm with Jen and Sarah. We are all discovering how much fun traveling  is and thought it would be fun to do a big, international trip sometime, somewhere, but we didn’t have enough experience under our belts to do something so big, so we thought we’d practice on a smaller trip.

Easter weekend is a nice, extra-long weekend for some of us so we set that as a date and then came the fun of choosing a location. After coming through a long, cold winter, we all knew we wanted someplace sunny and warmish. So we threw a few ideas around and ultimately ended up choosing the Big Sur area, in California. This area is known for its scenic drive along Hwy 1, and its amazing views. We all booked flights into Monterey, found a cheap motel in Marina, and rented a nice little car for all the sight-seeing.

We flew into Monterey on Thursday afternoon and after eating a delicious Thai lunch and sort of getting our bearings, we hit the road with the first stop being the Carmel Mission in the beautiful town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. This Franciscan mission was the second to be established in California and has beautiful gardens. There’s a history video you can watch, describing the attempts to convert the native Americans to Catholicism and what that all entailed.

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It was quite literally a feast for the eyes, all the flora and fauna that are not native to any of our areas. Calla lilies, for example, bloom randomly in ditches in this area. We then headed back to our motel to settle in and then we did a Walmart run for picnic supplies for the next day.

The next day day found us all raring to go at about 7:00, thanks to the time change. But, to our disappointment, there was dense fog, so thick you couldn’t see much of anything. This was the day we had set aside for driving part of Hwy 1, which boasts incredible views. Mountains are on one side, and sheer drop-offs and the ocean lay on the other side. While we were disappointed with the visibility, the fog gave the views an ethereal, almost other-wordly feeling, and Sarah and Jen exclaimed how much it reminded them of Ireland.

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In all the research we had done about what to see and do in the area, Calla Lilly Valley came up as a place worth seeing. We knew we were pushing the end of their growing season and so our hopes weren’t too high about how they’d look. But just look!!!!

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I think it was a little taste of heaven. The vivid, mossy green of the grasses and hills, coupled with the delicacy of lilies, set against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean had us all rather speechless with awe. It was so amazing, we, in fact, revisited it the next day 🙂

The further south we drove, the more the fog lifted, and when we arrived at Linekiln State Park, it was mostly clear. One of the things I wanted most to see on this trip was redwoods, and while we were a little ways from the legendary, massive, ancient trees, Linekiln gave us a few younger ones. Maybe teenagers, in tree years? Whatever the case, they were beautiful and fulfilled that desire 🙂

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We hiked beside a stream that ran through the redwoods and led us to these beautiful falls. We hiked back, following the stream, and found it dumped into the ocean, and we had our picnic lunch on the beach.

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Our lunch spot.

We headed back north and with better visibility now, we were better able to see the beautiful panoramas that the fog had been concealing. The following picture is McWay Falls. You can’t make this stuff up, folks. It was one of those places where you just wanted, like Peter, James and John, to set up a tent and dwell 🙂

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The famous Bixby bridge. I did a lot of the driving on the trip and while the heights didn’t bother me at the time, I’d dream at nights of getting too close to drop offs and such things.

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We then spent the evening in Monterey on the Fisherman’s Wharf, where we ate the legendary clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls. Outside the restaurant, sea lions were hanging out on rocks, barking occasionally.

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There were so many places that we could have explored more thoroughly and Monterey was definitely one of them.

The following day dawned bright and sunny. We had a little pow-wow and decided to change plans and drive Hwy 1 again, to really experience the views.  But before we retraced our route from the previous day, we headed north to Moss Landing to enjoy a bit of beach time. As one who has spent lots of time on Atlantic beaches, the reality of cactusy succulenty ground cover instead of sea oats was rather awesome.

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On this day, we experienced more local culture by stopping in at a few places such as a farm market with fresh strawberries and other produce that was grown in the area. We drove past fields of strawberries with what appeared to be migrant workers out picking them. A lot of strawberries that you buy at the grocery store come from Salinas, which is where we were on this day. Another high light was stopping at this succulent farm. As we were wandering around, admiring all the unique succulent varieties, the owner approached and we chatted for a bit. He asked if he could take a picture with us for Instagram in exchange for a succulent for each of us to take home. We agreed and sure enough, we were on his business’ Instagram page in a few hours 🙂

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He got the Idaho part wrong. Jen, in fact, is from Ohio 🙂

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We then headed south again, to see the same Hwy 1 scenery in the sunshine. Notice how dramatically different the pictures feel, with blue skies and sunshine.

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Our flights home were Sunday afternoon so we decided that it would be special to attend Mass in the morning. We chose a beautiful, historic old cathedral and were disappointed when we got there that morning, that they moved their services to a nearby building to accommodate all the masses of people that were there for Easter Sunday. Before the service started we met the very friendly, and welcoming…. Father or Priest or Pope or whatever he was. He kind of embarrassed us by publicly welcoming us at the beginning of the service, asking us to stand in the midst of hundreds of other visitors and members. I still concur that being friendly and approachable even in travels is key to having a good experience, but sometimes it can bless you in embarrassing ways 🙂 The service was very interesting, and we all ended up getting re-baptized by the same priest and his assistant, who went from aisle to aisle, flicking water at all the people with what appeared to be a little whisk broom. The irony of a few Anabaptist girls, getting “baptized” again, in a Catholic service was not lost on us at all.

We ate a delicious brunch at a nearby cafe before heading to the airport, returning our car and then getting on our respective planes to head home.

It was truly a special trip, and we saw so many beautiful places and encountered so many friendly, interesting people. My memories of trips always include two kinds. The ones where you reap the rewards of doing good research and have those pinch-me-is-this-true kind of moments. Stunning vistas, interesting plants, wonderful food. That kind of thing.

The other memories are the ones you can’t plan and happen organically as a result of experiencing it with people who too see the beauty and humor of situations. They often include lots of laughter. I have two of those memories from this trip. The one happened during our grocery trip, where we discovered, to our dismay, that plastic bags don’t come with your purchase. “We are of good, German stock. We don’t buy bags.”, one in our group was heard to mutter, so we left Walmart with armloads of unbagged picnic supplies which we dumped in our trunk. We then had to reload them all in our arms and carry them through the hotel in front of everyone who was around, which was both hilarious and kind of embarrassing.

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It was a good tip for me to remember for any future trips. Take a disposable bag with you. They are usually lightweight, don’t take up much space, and can be used for multiple purposes. Pictured below is my aunt’s Piggly Wiggly bag in Levanto, Italy. Maybe you could even negotiate a deal with your local grocery store. Feature it in a beautiful, foreign locale in exchange for free groceries for a month????

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The other funny memory is the evening we decided we were going to watch a beautiful sun set over the Pacific Ocean so we rather frantically looked up the sunset time, as well as beaches nearby. It turned into something of a joke, with some of the beaches being closed or inaccessible, and sunset quickly approaching. When we finally found a beach, we laughed ourselves almost silly with the forthcoming sunset. It was a little……underwhelming for all the work we put into finding a spot to enjoy it.

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But those moments are also part of the fabric of a great trip. Learning how to re-calibrate when the unexpected happens, learning how to experience both the beauty and fun of situations out of your control. Understanding that the attitude you take into it determines your level of enjoyment and appreciation. Travel does more than exposes you to new places. It teaches you things about “being” that don’t happen as naturally at home in the familiar, comfortable rhythms of life. It also has a way of putting you and life into perspective. I’m just a small part of a big, beautiful world. My God of the familiar eastern, coastal, sea oats and calm waves is also behind the cactus and the crashing of giant breakers on Pacific sands. I find a bit of comfort in my smallness, because I’ve seen the bigness of my God and His ability to hold everything together. The ache of unexpected beauty, the cramping of a stomach wrecked with laughter from bizarre experiences, the almost palpable nearness of God in a redwood forest- this is why I choose travel over 15 pairs of shoes and daily drinks at Starbucks. It’s why I eat rice and beans frequently and hang my laundry outside. Basically I have become my mother and therefore occasionally get to see the world 🙂

If you are a girl/lady/female and are interested in traveling but want someone else to do the legwork and take care of logistics, check out this post. I don’t know Camille personally, but I think her trip to Italy this summer looks really good. She’s traveled extensively  and enjoys the planning/preparing part of it and is passing this love on to others in the form of an opportunity.  I’ve been to most of the places she’s going in this trip and I can assure you, they won’t disappoint you!

I hope you enjoyed the post. tt serves as a beautiful memory holder to me, of dear friends and a very special place.

Vicki

 

A Year for Coming Home

I’m sitting at home on this Sunday morning, coughing and sneezing from a very nasty cold I picked up in Poland last week. You would think a European-derived head cold would be somehow more charming, but I can assure you, it’s not. It snot. Or whatever.

My visit in Poland, minus the head cold, was actually very pleasant. It is quite magical to have big, snowflakes swirling around you while surrounded by very old and beautiful buildings in old cities. It was fun to actually need scarves and gloves and boots. But probably the best part were the inspiring and interesting conversations I had with my dear friend who I went to see, and with new friends I made over there. Because of how much we wanted to say in a short amount of time, and because of my cold, I lost my voice. I was literally only able to whisper when I left Poland early Wednesday morning. Sometimes it is your heart you lose in places, sometimes it is your voice 🙂

I suppose being thousands of miles from home is a really good place to be when considering a new year and new possibilities. And being forced into silence due to a voice issue, is probably also beneficial for introspection and looking forward.

I wrote a blog piece here about my goals and direction for this past year. It has been a good year. For those of us who love learning and who love ideas and who are always curious about what’s around the next corner, it can be overwhelming. We don’t always know when or how to stop and so putting some safeguards into place for me really helped me.

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Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

I think even in taking a break from all the noise out there, and getting involved with every issue that comes along, there is still a lot to sort through, a lot to try to understand.

My generation is the generation of the wanderers. The wonderers. “Not all who wander are lost,” is our slogan as we exchange city limits for open roads and mortgages for cool retro vans. And I get it. I love the thrill of the unknown, especially as it relates to travel. The foreign languages in international terminals and exotic destinations on airport screens tease of places to explore and new cultures to love.

I think this way of thinking has subtly moved into areas of faith and into how we see God and each other. It has moved us away from each other as we all experience God on our own individual journeys. “You do you, and I’ll do me”, while it sounds good, can easily turn into walls that we build around ourselves, protecting us from the hard parts of relationships but also keeping out the potential of the beautiful. Spiritual life on the road can also give false illusions that God’s goodness or abundance is a thing to be experienced around the next corner, or at the next pullover. Chasing more, but never really getting there. I think the scariest part of spiritual wandering is that there ultimately is no desired destination.

Some of the above is where I could naturally go spiritually if not for God. And I think for me, the years of 2019 and 2020 are the years for coming home. The Bible is full of beautiful imagery for dwelling. (“I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”) For postures of stillness: (“be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in God’s work.”) For the boldness of confidence in knowing Who and What we have and are believing. For abiding.

This seems like it should take away the thrill factor of faith but it actually doesn’t. It just provides the framework in which it can most deeply be enjoyed and experienced.

Tuning out the noise of all the authors and speakers and platforms and everything that goes with that is a practical way for me to park my van. Choosing instead to have God and His Voice and His Word as my filter for everything in life is a practical way to erect my tent and to live in God’s house. God’s kingdom is full of tents, and here we engage with each other and build each other up, and here we reach out to those who have yet to find and experience Him. Abiding in God’s house collectively is how we best interact with each other individually.

This might sound all poetic and fru-fru, but here is what it means for me practically:

  • I cannot learn and tangle with ideas and literature and music merely for the sake of learning or fitting in with certain crowds. Whatever I pursue intellectually should ultimately lead me closer to Christ and truth.
  • I must learn honesty with myself and my desires. Why I want to pursue or engage with something is sometimes more important than the thing itself.
  • It does not mean spiritual or personal laziness. I must find ways as I dwell in God’s house, to exercise my faith and to encourage growth that are God- honoring and Spirit-led.
  • It means a narrowing of my worldview and my focus. It means exchanging some abstract for the grittiness of reality, which many of my kind can struggle with. It also might mean saying no to engaging with popular but questionable issues that come along.
  • It means putting in the work of relationships and going the second mile when it’s hard. That’s what living in tents next to each other in God’s house is all about.

I probably could have worded it better because it could sound depressing and restrictive and stifling, but I can speak from experience that this past year for me in this has been incredibly liberating. It has cleared my head and my heart, and it has replaced anxiety with peace, and wondering with knowing. It has given me confidence in knowing Who and what I have to offer to a broken world.

I have no idea who all reads this, but if you struggle like me in these areas, and life can quickly become hazy and complex and confusing, try parking your van and coming home this year. God’s house has the best views!

Vicki

Disclaimer: This is not to diminish the necessity of owning and coming to grips with your faith. Our faith journeys should include asking hard questions, prowling around down in the foundations, and really seeking to understand. But it should ultimately lead us to God’s house and His people and His kingdom. Some of us can easily stay in the questions, get lost in the basement, and consequently miss out on some of the most wonderful aspects of what it means to be part of something so much bigger than ourselves.

 

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