Shopping for Value

I’ve always liked to shop.  The artfully arranged displays, colors folded into precise geometric shapes, and the assortment of curated merchandise make me feel hopeful.  Hope that I could be more attractive.  Hope that I would be enough.  Hope that having something was the same as having it all together.  Unlike the price tag, the promise of such things wasn’t explicit.  It was in the garments hung in rainbow-colored order, the soft lighting, the scent of a lit candle, and melodic music that lulled me into thinking I wasn’t just purchasing a shirt but an assurance of a better life.

It’s as if my potential couldn’t be fulfilled until I owned the right things.  Shopping was like being sent to wardrobe for a starring role in life – exciting, full of promise, and redemptive.  It was an escape from whoever I was for a chance to discover who I could be.  And, clearly, who I could be was better.

Intellectually, I know this falls somewhere between silly and sad.  We come into the world with nakedness and nothing.  Yet, still, our inherent value compels someone to pick us up and hold us close.  As babies, we don’t care how we look or what we wear.  We don’t question our worth.  We know we matter.  “I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know,” (Psalms 139:14).  We have this instinct that tells us we deserve nourishment, warmth, and love.  We demand these things with cries, cooing smiles, and outstretched arms.  For most of us, our needs were met.  We were loved and we were enough.

I don’t know how we are born with such a knowing only for it to get all twisty and tangled.  I just know for most of us, it gets twisty and tangled.  What was once smooth becomes matted into muddled thinking of what constitutes value.  The prettiest clothes, the right weight, the tidy house, the well-behaved children, the doting spouse, the big paycheck, the esteemed title, all become measures offering the same distorted reflection of value as a fun-house mirror.

If we aren’t careful, we confuse who we are with our intellect, possessions, or worldly recognition.  We consider our constructs more than the constancy of our soul’s predetermined and unalterable value.  I suppose in life’s messiness, in all that remains unmet, we seek out instead of seeking him.  As challenging as it may be sometimes to find the perfect pair of jeans, that can still seem less ambitious than finding this elusive God of ours.  Yet, happiness has never been in the having; knowing has never been in the intellect; God will never be in the material and love will never be owned.

All of the assurance we ever need comes from the love of God.  Unlike the perfect outfit, it’s been there all along.  All we have to do is put it on.

May you wear it well.

Hi all,

I always feel like there are so many things I want to tell you in this little section that it is often the hardest thing I write. Like, I want to ask you if you notice that I am not posting as much or being as active on social media — but then I think, hmm, maybe they don’t!  Maybe I should just keep quiet about that.

Then, I think of telling you that I have been in a discerning mode for the last several months but that isn’t quite the best way to describe it. It’s more peaceful than discerning tends to be and I think I may actually be getting the hang of this letting God’s will be done thing. Life really is much simpler when we surrender to His will.

But then I think, oh dear, does that sound like I have everything figured out and I have left Christianity to simply be like Buddha and his big fat belly and just be? No, nothing is really that simple. (Except maybe growing big bellies!) Anyway, I just wanted to check in with you and be candid even if I’m momentarily incapable of being clear. In short, I am here less and with Him more. And, I am good. I remain as grateful as ever to share this faith journey with you.  Love ~ Lara

 

Self-acceptance blooms

Self-acceptance blooms

Midway through potting a plant, I could tell the flower was tilting, so I pulled the whole thing out, hollowed the dirt, carefully centered it, and filled the gaps with the black magic of Miracle Gro. Since it was still leaning, I added soil to the other side hoping its weight would tilt it upright.

When I finished, I had a pretty plant in a pretty pot lurching asymmetrically like a staggering drunk. Despite my efforts, it was crooked. This could be a metaphor for everything in my life, but it’s not. Well, maybe it is, but that’s not what this is about. It’s about self-acceptance.

My husband replanted the flower for me, and it looks lovely, nothing like the botanical version of the leaning tower of Pisa that it did when I planted it. I have come to accept that there are many things that I don’t do well. So much so that I often find myself saying, “That’s not my gift to the world.”

Most of the time I’m okay with my lack of gifts, but the crooked plant bothered me. I love to work in the yard, frequent garden centers, propagate succulents, and ask my husband to move heavy pots from place to place on the patio. So it frustrates me that I couldn’t do this seemingly simple task well. My husband doesn’t even like yard work, yet it’s nothing for him to plant a flower upright. It seems unfair.

Things that always appear easy for other people often felt hard for me. This always made me feel a little defective like maybe I should have a diagnosis, or my mother should finally admit she dropped me on my head as an infant. Still, I realize that my focus shouldn’t be on what my gifts are not, but on self-acceptance.

It’s so easy to get caught up in our deficiencies and forget all of the things that we do well. We forget that God made us for a purpose and it probably doesn’t have anything to do with what’s on Pinterest. Maybe it doesn’t even have anything to do with what we want to be good at.  He just wants us to love him and others. This doesn’t require a complicated skill set, and I don’t think it’s something we could ever do wrong.

By distracting ourselves with that we are not, we lose sight of who we are, which is always going to be beautiful to God despite our inherent imperfection. This is the mercy of his love.

The most important thing I have learned is that God loves me regardless of anything I do or don’t do. He doesn’t measure my worth by what gets crossed off my to do list or what attributes the world might value. So much energy is spent trying to prove we are enough, we are worthy, and we have value. But we don’t have to prove anything to God.

Knowing this makes it a little easier to embrace and share my gifts with the world even if there are still many days that I struggle with identifying any. My gifts may not include planting a flower upright, yet miraculously I still grow towards the light.

After all, even a crooked flower can bloom.

 

I realize I need to start thinking more about what my gifts are to the world.  At first, all I came up with was making banana bread but before I knew it had added rescuing cats, reuniting dogs with their owners, being a good friend, loving my family, a few more things that had to do with cats, teaching Children’s liturgy, writing, and dancing to “I Will Survive.”  

What are your gifts?  Please share!  Sharing is a gift!  Also, if you liked this post, you may want to check out: http://larapatangan.com/2014/09/04/one-word-you-need-in-your-life-right-now/