I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.
You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;
Your works are wonderful;
I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.
Psalm 139:14 The Voice (VOICE)
I have never doubted that I was loved. By God, by my parents, by my husband, my children, my friends.
But I have always doubted that I am wonderfully made.
That it is some sort of weird fluke that I love theology and glitter, decorating and liturgy, a yard of chickens and a house of worship, a dinner table jammed pack and a solitary retreat.
I have believed the lies that say that my love of pink diminishes my validity as a serious thinking person. That the intensity of my love for family and gatherings is a sign of an unrealistic Pollyanna-esque outlook. That posting pretty Instagram pictures means I am being fake.
But lately God has been arresting me in these man-made lies, reminding them that none of these things have come from him.
That instead, the truth is that I am a unique creation, filled with wonder and awe (which feels really strange and braggy and embarrassing to say out-loud.) That even though I am not perfect, that even thought I am still growing and learning, a completely work-in-progress, that I am still wonderfully made.
This is something I have NO problem believing for you – I absolutely believe that you are a unique creation, filled with wonder and awe. I would sing that from the roof tops and make you a glittered bunting to hang over your doorway so you could be reminded each and every day if I could. I believe it so deeply in my bones that you and everyone on this planet is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” And yet. And yet this is something I have never embraced for myself.
Why do I have a hard time believing that I am wonderfully made? Oh, so many reasons. Reasons both deep and shallow. Reasons that come from childhood interactions and reasons that come from societal norms and reasons that come from the institutions I have been a part of and reasons that I cannot trace to any specific genesis, but are still very much present and real. Reasons that have to do with body image and what it means to be feminine in our culture and reasons about how success and intelligence are measured and celebrated, reasons that have to do with the glorification of cynicism and the mockery of earnestness. So many reasons. Based on the popularity of the I am Enough movement, I am guessing you have some of these same reasons – and could probably add your own. I believe the Enough movement is born out of this same struggle – the struggle to make peace with who we are instead of who the world or our families or our churches or our workplaces say we should be. The desire we all have deep inside to own how we are created.
So here is my first step. Over the next month – or longer if life interrupts – I want to take a little time in this space to stop apologizing for how I am made, and instead to begin the sacred practice of celebrating my uniquely created self. I want to learn how to receive, with a grateful heart, the deep soul knowledge that I am who I am for a reason, and that the reason is good, not a flawed fluke of misappropriated interest and talents.
And I will begin with the Sacred Practice of Owning My Style.
All too often we separate our lives into categories – sacred and secular, important and trivial, – forgetting that the lines are only drawn by our attitudes, the lens through which we look. We are the deciders – the ones who get to choose whether we treat something or someone as sacred, worthy of care, worthy of bringing into the light, worthy of celebration and honor. We are the ones who put things and people into boxes and categories – hiding things we are ashamed of in dark closets and under old beds, dismissing whole parts of our lives or hearts as irrelevant because of our insecurities, the fear of being mocked or proven wrong causing us to sweep whole bits of our truest selves off to the side, where they won’t draw attention or get in the way of who we are supposed to be, who the world tells us we should be.
Which is just plain dumb and a lousy way to live this one beautiful life.
But still a lot of us – myself included – have fallen prey to this way of thinking. We have all fallen short of recognizing the glory of God in how we are created, and in the marvelous created world around us.
I turned 42 last month.
42. Decidedly not young, but not that old. Hopefully firmly in the middle, maybe even a little less than middle-life.
A lot of people told me that I would love my 40’s. I have not found that to be true. Yet.
Instead, I feel as if I have landed in a second adolescence. A second shedding of identity, a second reckoning of who I am and who I want to be.
There was a lot of navel gazing this summer. I rode a roller coaster of emotions, the highs – glorious mountain tops and the lows bottom of the pit low. I spent most of August in a fog of depression (something I have been experiencing from time to time since my twenties.)
I am pretty sure some of this navel gazing has to do with age, and some of it has to do with stage of life and some of it is situational.
I am a slow processor. I need a lot of quiet and a lot of time to sort through how I feel and think about things. I need time to sit on the couch and stare out the window. Time alone to float in the pool, wander in the garden, stroll through the flea market, paddle across the pond. This aloneness is how I pray and I how I work to unpack and sort through all the whirling thoughts I cram in my heart and brain while I am busy handling the daily demands of my life.
The past 4 years have been incredibly jam-packed with change, and losing two grandparents within two weeks time this summer, well that pretty much broke the dam of Things I Could Handle Well.
And so now, on the other side of summer, with the everyone back in their routines and the temperatures cooling down (something that is crucial to clear thinking,) I am beginning the long tedious work of sorting through all the emotional boxes I packed up while I was Handling All the Things.
We have been in this house now for two years. I know the lay of the land and the rhythm of the seasons here. I am no longer the new kid at work and the boys (who are almost grown) are no longer the new kids at school, Sweet Man has his tractor, we have planted and harvested and put up an entire garden, there are chickens clucking in my backyard, all my siblings are married off, my second book is in the hands of my editor…
Things on the outside of my life are fairly settled for the first time in a long while. Which means that things on the inside are now taking their turn at causing mischief.
And so the shedding. The navel gazing. The roller coaster. The declarations. The opinions. The owning. The identity.
Which brings us here, to the title of this post – to a declaration and an owning of identity.
I have decided to observe the sacred practice of owning my style.
In the Christian tradition Sacraments are defined as “the outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.”
Some faith traditions celebrate and recognize only two outward and visible acts as sacraments (baptism, communion) and some faith traditions celebrate more (confirmation, ordination, confession, marriage and so forth).
Ultimately, no matter what faith stream you are in, or which sacraments your church observes or doesn’t observe, what makes something a sacrament or not, is intentionality.
The intentional decision to say to oneself and the world “this physical and public act of ______ represents the inward and spiritual grace of ________ given to me by Christ, and this act of ________ is also a way that I receive that grace into my life.”
This intentionality is how we live can live sacred, sacramental lives. It is what can turn a dinner party into Eucharist, an evening swim into a baptism, a walk with a friend into healing confession, and a weekday nap into Sabbath rest.
Yes, there are official sacraments of the Church, but our lives are filled with simple, sacred moments everyday that remind us of those official sacraments and vice versa. Our everyday moments and practices can become sacramental if we approach them with intentionality, with an awareness of the graces they are pointing to.
For me, one of the sacred acts I have begun to celebrate and receive from is in owning my style.
This sacred act is one I am practicing in order to live out what I would tell any of you with complete conviction – that we really are all fearfully and wonderfully and amazingly made.
I want to carry this knowledge deep in my soul. I want to believe it down to my tippy toes for myself, as strongly as I believe it for you.
We are all made in the image of God. All our creativity and love and generosity and questions and knowledge and hope and wisdom and whimsy and compassion and righteous indignation and mercy and passion and hospitality and all the things that make us ourselves – these are not mistakes, or weakness, or flaws. These are gifts. These are not things we need to apologize for or hide.
Maybe you have no problem remembering that you are wonderfully made and hallelujah for that! But I am relatively new at it, and so I need some practices to help me remember, to help me live it out.
Which brings me to my house.
For as long as I can remember I have had my own sense of style – both in terms of fashion and in decorating.
My fashion sense gets lost from time to time due to life and weight and mood and budget, but I have been decorating my space with great purpose since the age of ten.
And for a long while it was good – I did what I liked, I decorated how I wanted to decorate, I didn’t really fret about what other people thought or what was trendy or current. I fell in love with vintage, with shabby chic style, with Mary Englebriet, with Country Living. I followed my bliss.
And my bliss, as it happened, was something other people liked as well. Magazines came and photographed my house, people walked in our front door and said “ohhhhh” and “ahhhhh”””. Even P Dub got in on the action on Instgram by “liking” my kitchen and leaving comments.
It was lovely. And easy.
And then I fell head over heels in love with Joanna Gaines just about the time we moved to a mid-century farmhouse, a house that was pretty much a blank slate.
And all of a sudden I was paralyzed. So many choices and a very specific budget and all the stress of completely turning our life upside down meant that I no longer knew my own mind or style. I know longer trusted myself.
So I tried to go the white-on-gray-on-white farmhouse route. But just couldn’t hang.
I need color. Desperately.
And so, despite the gray walls and white floors, I began to let the color creep back in. And I loved it. It made me giddy. I did happy dances as I arranged my colorful books and vintage globe collection.
But it wasn’t exactly Jo-style.
But whatever. I loved it. And yet… the doubt, well it had begun to creep in.
Then I got a couple of emails from magazines wondering when this house would be ready for pics.
And my anxiety shot through the roof.
You see, we have no baseboards.
The bathrooms are still stuck in the 70’s.
There is fluorescent lighting EVERYWHERE.
Our vent-a-hood is sitting on the floor.
The closet doors are all a hideous brown.
My living room curtains are drop-cloths and tea towels, and one is shorter than the other.
And frankly we have boys and a farmstead – don’t even think of eating off my floors.
And besides all that, what style is our house even in? Which magazine would it be a good fit for?
Is it farmhouse? Is it one room school-house? Is industrial country? Is it shabby chic? It isn’t much Joanna Gaines anymore.
There are vintage toys everywhere, buntings and banners hanging in every room, every room looks as if a box of crayons was spilled…
And then I got an email from one of those join-our-list-and-get-great-deals home furnishing sites, with the subject line: Vintage State Fair
Now, I rarely open these emails because I rarely have the funds to shop these sites – even at that discounted prices. But I have a soft spot for County and State Fair’s, and well you throw the word vintage in there, and boom! You have hooked me.
When I clicked on that link I suddenly realized that Vintage State Fair is pretty much the best description of exactly where my style is these days.
And just that little bit of knowledge, that tiny bit of definition unleashed freedom in me, a freedom I hadn’t felt in a long time.
Suddenly I knew that while I love Joanna Gaines style, it is her style and not mine. Same goes for Junk Gypsy’s and Rachel Ashwell and all my favorite Instagram and Blog designers. I love being inspired by their style, but I cannot emulate their style. I also cannot – will not – fret about whether or not my house is magazine worthy or current or trendy or whether or not my friends will like it. That’s just dumb and egotistical and the exact opposite of sacramental living.
Instead, I am going to own my style with wild abandon. I am going to continue creating a home that points me towards joy and hope. A home that is filled with all things cheerful, colorful, and comfy. A home where people can put their feet on the coffee table, pick on a guitar, read books sprawled over a comfy couch, play with vintage toys, and make pancakes on a whim.
A home that is in its totality is an outward and visible sign of the inward spiritual graces that are JOY and COMFORT and WELCOMING.
Graces that are both celebrated and received in this house.
Graces that Christ offers us in abundance, but that the world can make it hard to access.
When you come through our front door you may notice all the unfinished places of projects still in process, the hodgepodge thrift-store furniture that I love, and ALL the color, maybe you will like those things, maybe not. And that is okay – those things are for me, they are the things that bring me JOY.
But I also hope that when you visit Preservation Acres, you will experience COMFORT and WELCOMING…
I hope you will find a table where you are invited to feast and pray.
A kitchen that is open to all – a place where you can help yourself to a cup of a coffee or a bowl of cereal anytime you want.
A kitchen with room for many to work together, creating nourishment and laughter, memories and dinner.
Spaces for dozing, reading, watching, and singing. A place where you can come and sit a while.
A home where nothing is too precious to touch or hold, to old or to torn to be loved, a place where beauty is found in the mess and the chaos.
A guest room for rest and restoration. A place to retreat and sleep and dream.
These are just a few of the outward and visible signs in my home that I hope will point our family and all who visit towards the inward spiritual graces of joy, comfort and welcoming. Graces that we can all use daily. Graces we sometimes forget to look for and receive.
They are also the outward and visible signs of the inward spiritual grace that I am uniquely and wonderfully made. Approaching the decoration of my house from my personal combination of ascetic and sacramental leanings is how I am wired. Collecting vintage toys that bring me joy AND are fun for our littlest visitors, looking for just the right set of guest room bed linens that my guest will enjoy AND are cute, seeing my kitchen as a place to nurture relationships AND nourish bellies, – these are my callings. They may not be yours. And that is OKAY.
Not all our homes have to be Joanna Gaines or Jerusalem Greer style. They don’t even all have to have any real intentional style at all. It’s your home – do with it what you want. Celebrate your unique created self your way. Own your style – or lack there of!
For me learning to trust that I am fearfully and wonderfully made means that I must stop apologizing internally and externally for what I think makes me different. I must stop comparing my outsides to other’s outsides. I must stop worrying about whether or not caring about the color of my sofa makes me a less serious spiritual thinker. I must stop wondering if my love of preaching means I shouldn’t enjoy party throwing. Instead I must own who I am a gingham loving, party throwing, theology tinkering, glitter crafting, occasionally preaching, farmstead gal, filled with awe and wonder, filled with the soul-deep knowledge that she is loved as she was, loved as she is, and loved as she will be. Selah.
Now, what wonderful part your created self do you need to own this week?