Not sure when it happened, but I’m not afraid anymore. Not of people, opinions, backlash or well, anything “people-y”.

I wonder if that’s a good thing.

People used to scare the crap out of me. But somewhere in the last several years, bravely living an untethered life became more important than my life as seen through the eyes of casual critics, and the everyday passersby. A cage door swung open, and though it took me a while to see it wasn’t an illusion, I stepped out on the ledge. Took even longer to stretch out my wings, but somewhere, an unpinpointable line was crossed in my mind and I leapt out and caught the wind of authenticity and freedom.

I’d sure love to be able to document the process. Create a timeline to follow, so others who struggle with that type of slavery could read along and be free too. My journals and blog posts are my only real manuscript of change along the course. It’s all I’ve got, but it’s something. I’m grateful because I tend to forget stuff.

Do you journal? Do you look back at writings from say, 5 years ago and cringe?  Do you look back with awe and think, wow, I’ve grown? Or do you look back and see nothing has changed at all?

Maybe “nothing has changed at all” is something to be proud of. You’ve stood firm, and maybe that’s your goal. A literal standing in one place. Unwavering. Unmoving. Everything you were ever meant to know, you know. Nothing and nobody can add any value to this safe, firm place.

I just don’t see life that way anymore. It doesn’t mean I see it as wrong either, but for me life has become more like a series of moving sidewalks than a straight shot elevator, and if I’m not moving forward, then I’m moving backward.

I don’t get to stand still. To stop learning. To stop growing. To stop trying. To stop failing. To stop succeeding. To stop listening. To stop communicating with those who don’t think like me in this moment of time. To stop believing that everyone has something to teach me. I don’t get to do that anymore. I don’t want to do that anymore.

I get to rest a lot more than I used to, because I’m not managing other people’s perceptions, and I get to enjoy life more because nobody is “out to destroy me”, but I don’t get to stop the pursuit of truth and justice and connection and kinship. Regardless of whether I think I’m right or wrong, or I think you’re right or wrong. Five years from now, I’m going to look back on today and have a whole new perspective.

I wonder what it will be. I hope whatever way it goes, it has the running threads of joy and freedom. The same as I feel today.

What will yours be?

Love, Val

This is my life, it is my one time to be me. I want to experience every good thing. – Maya Angelou

Jamel Myles


The bullies won again.

Another child is dead.

A colorful boy, full of life and love and potential for greatness.


Snuffed out.

Game over.

The bullies won again.

His name was Jamel Myles. He was 9 years old. He had just come out as gay to his mom. Or at 9, is it still “mommy”? I think it probably is.

Her first words back to him were, “I still love you”.

Man, does that sound like Jesus to me. Haven’t you received that response before?

“I still love you”.

This love empowered him and made him whole again. Melted his shame and reminded him of his worth. He was proud of himself, and who he was. He was courageous, and bold and thought his friends would be happy for him to live openly and freely as he was.

A happy, uncloseted gay kid.

He overestimated them. It cost him his life.

What has tormented me this morning is seeing debate on the Facebook over Jamel.

This is a dead child, and we are debating his sexuality? We are judging his mother for showing him love?

My God.

His name was Jamel Myles, and he was 9 years old. He is dead.

Jamel Myles should never be open for debate. There is no debating a dead child. It is a time for mourning. Leave this boy alone, and mourn with those who are mourning, and if you find you must debate, take it inward and upward.

God awaits your honest questions but prepare your heart to receive the answers.

Those who have ears, let them hear.

Those who have judgmental mouths and fingers, let them be stilled.

In the name of Jesus.

Love (and sorrow), Val

Giftings Untapped


Turning 50 is blowing my mind a little bit, but not in the “OH MY LIFE IS ALMOST OVER” way. More of a “what is still left inside of me?” way.

Do you ever wonder about that?

What you may have written off as, “I don’t know how to” just because you never tried?

I always admire people who can paint. I think… gosh, I wish I could paint.

I look at my son Nick and remember his gift for languages. How many could he have learned?

Inside of Kai is an incredible dancer. You oughta see him move. It’s beautiful. Effortless. Where would an unselfconscious Kai have gone? Where would he have danced?

Bella wrote a book in her brain at age 13. A story of conquering her insecurities. It got her through junior high, and it’s incredible. Stunningly original. What if she had put it on paper?

It hit me today that I’ve never tried painting on canvas. Not once. Never took a class, never looked up “beginning painting” on YouTube, just chalked up that one creative outlet as “not my talent.”

But what if I am a painter? Seriously. What if I am like… this massively gifted painter?

What gifts are dying to come out?

Literally dying.

Inside of me.

Inside of you.

In the 90’s as a young single parent I didn’t have the money for private school for Nick, or any of the privileged opportunities for him. His grandma paid for martial arts though from the time he was 5, and he’s living and breathing martial arts today. That was just one opportunity, and he excelled and brought it with him into adulthood. He is a martial artist through and through.

How many more talents are in there?

Life was different in the 2000’s when my twins were small, and I, like a lot of hopeful parents, wanted to expose them to everything. See what they liked and wanted to pursue.

Bella was pretty much forced to play violin from age 5. She wasn’t great, but good enough to play well into high school orchestra. She always sounds best if she plays with others who are great violinists. What would she have been great at if we’d let go of the “good enough”? If you’re a violin mom, you know there’s not a lot of room for anything else. Her first violin teacher strongly urged us (unsuccessfully) not to let her play tennis. It would interfere with the stroke of her violin.

From the time she was 4 her tennis coach pointed at her tiny little self and said, “that one, that’s the one to watch. She is headed for first singles at the college level.” She was four. He saw it. We wanted it. She pursued it casually on weekends, and begrudgingly played violin every day.

As a high school senior we’ve discovered casual doesn’t get you to first singles, but it gets you to second. To good enough even if your potential was for greatness.

On the flip, solid dedication doesn’t necessarily get you to great when it’s not your gift.

Her violin teacher never once said she had a gift. She didn’t. I knew she didn’t but we were so deep into it by that point. So much money and time invested. What a waste to let it go…

Oh but hindsight is 20/20 isn’t it?

I’m so tired of hearing about and living in unreached potential, aren’t you?

Aren’t you ready to tap it? Surpass it?

Gosh, I am. I really am. Not in the striving for success way, but in the draw out the gift way. I want to see what greatness is still inside. I want to know a gifting that with some effort, some dedication, some discipline, just might blow me away. Something worthy of 10,000 hours of practice to master.

I just don’t know what it is yet.

Is there more than one? I’ll bet.

Do you want to search yours out with me?

No, I’m not trying to coach you, and I don’t want your money.

I just wonder. Is there a blank canvas with your name on it?

Could be fun to find out together.

Love, Val

I Woke Up 50


What just happened? I woke up and I’m 50.

Nine months ago we moved. Not too far away, but into a house less than half the size of the other. I handed each kid a bin (no lid) and said, “this is the amount of stuff you can take.”

Oh, the thought that went into every single item.

The kids’ rooms are very small. 8×10 maybe, and have no closets. A queen bed, a small chifforobe (this word always screams To Kill a Mockingbird to me), and some fairy lights for Bella.  So if it can’t fit in the bin, it can’t fit in the room.

The whole house is this way. Very limited storage, and one place of shelving for display. That’s it.

This has made us into reluctant minimalists. Well, let me rephrase, it’s made THEM into reluctant minimalists. It’s fulfilled a longtime dream of mine to become one. However, I did not have that type of brute discipline before. But now I must.

Every single thing that comes into my house must have a place first. There’s no more “oh I love this! I’ll FIND a place for it!”.


There are no places left.

If something comes in, something must go out. We work on “replacing” instead of adding. When you came here, you had three pairs of jeans in your bin. You grew two inches? Donate those, get three more, but do not shove the short ones in the back of the drawer. There is no room for stuffing things. Remove, or don’t acquire. That’s how it works. Oh, and it does work.

What does this have to do with turning 50?

Time is limited. I just moved into a smaller life space.

Tick tock.

This isn’t depressing. This is amazing. It is again, forced minimalism. I can see a little more clearly that time isn’t endless, as I once thought it was. There’s not so much of it that I can be frivolous. I cannot. If something comes in, something goes out.

Everything must go through a filter. What are my goals? My purpose? My giftings I want to pursue? What artistic attempts do I want to check out before I… uh… check out?

What if I say yes to something that doesn’t fulfill one of these goals? If I bring something in, what will go?

Yes to ____, no to family.

Yes to ____, no to creativity.

Yes to ____, no to LoveManifest.

Yes to ____, no to writing.

Yes to ____, no to ____.

What if I say no?

No to ____, yes to finishing that book.

No to ____, yes to writing a new song.

No to ____, yes to time with friends.

No to ____, yes to taking the puppy to training classes.

No to ____, yes to quiet time with God.

No to ____, yes to learning to fish with Vik.

No to ____, yes to finally learning to cook something GREAT.

No to ____, yes to creative collaboration.

No to ____, yes to learning a new instrument.

No to something old and tired, yes to something new and full of adventure.

What am I willing to give up in exchange for a yes?

Yeses are so important. I want to say yes a lot. I just want to say yes to the right things. Yeses that were meant for my yes. People, animals, writing, singing, playing, seeking God in his creation, laughing, doing this last high school year with the twins really, really well, and ultimately, just being present in all of these things. Being present in the life God gave me to savor.

There is a limited amount of space, and today I was handed a new bin. A little smaller than the last one, but it’s empty. By the end of this weekend, it will have my priorities inside.

So here’s to Part Two: Chapter 1

I’ve got the colored pencils out, and things are about to get interesting.

Love, Val




Drain the Tub


Need a bath?

Yeh, yeh, I know, I’ve written about this before, but it’s different than the grace bath. It’s the years-long-accumulation-of-grime-you-can’t-scrape-off-with-a-straight-razor bath.

I’m talking to those who have been sitting, stewing in dirty water for years, and are ready to get out. Who know what to do but don’t want to lose friends, family members, communities, or religion. Over all of which have compromised faith, purpose, and integrity.

Who have had one foot in the muck, and one on the mat for years.

But it’s time to make a move.

Just adding clean water to the dirty tub won’t make it a healthy environment. You can’t put good on top of nasty and call it holy. Sometimes we have to go back to what we know is good and true, and start over from there.

Pull the baby Jesus out, and drain it. Stand there naked with your stripped bare faith and be in it until you feel safe enough to add to it.

Stand in the clean red letters, even when it feels lonely. Even when they come knocking with their self-serving selves. Stand in the clean.

You and Jesus.

You will meet others outside of the tub, I promise. They won’t want your money. They won’t want you to buy what they’re selling. They won’t rely on you for anything more than to add to the goodness of their lives strictly because you are in it.

No bait and switch here.

This is where the dinner party you were invited to doesn’t turn into a Tupperware Party.

This is where the feast is for you. No exclusion. No “one party with you in it, and the real one for the elite next weekend”.

You are invited to partake in the real one. The one with Jesus in attendance and not just discussed. You are welcome. You are celebrated. You are worthy of so much more than you even know. You are loved. You are priceless. You are who God intended you to be, and He delights in you.

As you are.

As you are.

If this is not the message you are receiving, then it’s probably time to consider your environment. Probably long past time.

Drain the bath. But please don’t throw the baby Jesus out with it.

Love, Val

Whale Watching


Have you seen the whales? Have you at least seen the videos of the whales? Big majestic Blue Whales in Monterey Bay? Wow. Just… WOW!!!

The first time I saw whales breaching was on a catamaran off the coast of Maui. The guides were beside themselves and yelling “YES! SHOW YOURSELF AGAIN!!” and the whales did! They would jump out and play and splash. It was as though they KNEW how thrilled we were, and they participated in that delight!

30 years later, and I live on the ocean between Bodega Bay and Tomales Bay; a perfect spot to watch the whales migrating, and yet I rarely see them. They’re there! But they’re either just beneath the surface when I’m looking, or come out as I am distracted. I have a telescope and binoculars right there in the open for those “DID YOU SEE THAT?” moments. No need to unsnap the case, or fiddle with anything, just put your eyes to the glass and you might catch a glimpse if you’re really, really trying, you catch the exact spot, and the timing is just right.

Whales breach every once in a while. It’s not a regular display, and only so often do we humans get to experience something so incredible. Indescribable, really. But if we go whale watching, and seek them where they are found, we just might see a glimpse. A breaching.

Have you ever done this with God? Sought Him where He is found?

Wouldn’t that be awesome if there was a “God Watching” trip? Where all you did was scout out where God might be found, go there, and look for Him to breach? To emerge? To break through and show His glory before disappearing beneath the surface?

Do you think God’s like that?

I totally do. I absolutely, positively do. Zaccheus did too. Do you know that guy? He climbed way up in the tree in hopes of just getting a glimpse of a “passing through” Jesus. The cool thing was, this totally got Jesus’ attention. He was all, “Yo! Zaccheus! I see you! Come on down from that tree! I want to stay at your house!”. Okay, not a direct quote, but we’re all translating as best we can, and that’s mine. But isn’t it interesting that Jesus wanted to go to Zaccheus’ house instead of dragging him to the temple?

I think that is just the coolest thing, and so upside down of how we think.

So the question is really, where is this omnipresent God found?

Well I suppose that “omnipresent” just blew this whole blog to bits, but when I need a face to face encounter, I look to the life of Jesus. Where did he go? Who did he spend time with? Where was he found? Then I go there. I look for him, and when I do, I find him. In all his glory, I find him.

With the marginalized
With the ostracized
With the addicted
With the left out
With the questioners
With the demonized
With the “I don’t know”

But you know where else?

I find him in my living room. At my guitar. At my keyboard. In the solitude and in the creative. I find him at the table. In the laughter. In communion with my neighbor. I find him if I’m looking.

LoveManifest centers every vision trip with students around one question:

“Where did you see Jesus today?”

I invite you into this question, to experience the upside-downess of God, because when you seek with all your heart, you will find Him in the unexpected places. Hiding in plain sight. You may just catch his back as he’s passing by, but he is breaching. Are you watching?

Where will you see Jesus today?

Love, Val

Posture Matters


I think maybe the first things I was told about God was that:

1. He loved me, and
2. He wanted to use me

Number one I believe so fully, and completely. Even in my faith deconstruction/reconstruction, this has not wavered. Not only has it not wavered, it has become a solid core belief of mine that was not just told to me, but revealed by God to me.

But the “used” part has had it’s share of, “really?” Has God used me? He has done wonderful things through me. But has he “used” me?

Whether God’s desire to “use us” is true or not, it used to set me into a bit of a panic. If I’m looking at everyone and every situation as a mission to be “used by God”, well, the other must just be a recipient. I’m the anointed, they are the recipient.

Really, they should be so lucky to come across my path, shouldn’t they?

Is God really this divisive?

And if I’m always in the mindset of being used, well, then when am I being taught?

Can I do both?

Can God “use” other people to teach me? Just ordinary everyday people?

We recently moved to Marin County from Sonoma County. I absolutely 100% believe God moved us. It’s a story I can’t make up.

Did God move me to use me?
Did God move me to teach me?
Did God move me to bless me?
Does it have absolutely nothing to do with me at all?
Did God move us all to bless the friends who are living in our former house?
Is God doing all of these things at once?
Did Jesus use his disciples?
Did Jesus teach his disciples?
How much are we missing?

And what about this incredible thing called LoveManifest?

Was this whole adventure into Love about being “used”? Did we teach everything and learn nothing? Of course not. I saw Jesus more in the people in India than I ever saw before. I met Jesus in India. How would I have received such blessing with the myopic view of just being used?

Words matter. Especially when we’re talking about God and people.
Reciprocity matters. Every living thing has something to teach us.
Posture matters. Especially when we are such an ego driven species.

I want to challenge you today to think about being taught over being used. To being the recipient vs. being the servant. Just today. Can you learn from an ordinary, everyday person that’s not just like you? Can you answer “I don’t know” when you really don’t know? Let me know how it ends for you at and I’ll let you know too, because I’m doing it with you, and we really can learn from one another.

Love, Valerie

(Photo taken at AG Eye Hospital in Trichy, India: Dr G. Kammararaj & Dr Vivek Kumra. Two physicians eager to learn from each other)


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