Wednesday, August 3, 2016

When Your Hopes Are Flatter Than a Pancake


When I was in Italy last summer, I saw several abandoned properties during my walking and boating tours and they captured my fancy. 

There was a villa under legal dispute, a stone farmhouse empty and covered with vines yet with a perfectly mowed lawn right down to edge of the lake, and an archway that once led to somewhere lovely but now opened onto a field of weeds.

I wondered about their histories and how they got to their ramshackle conditions. It was hard to tell if they’d been like that for decades or centuries. 



When I see crumbling and ramshackle places, it's easy to imagine a story for myself in their settings. 

I’d be the heroine {of course}, moving to Italy to buy the abandoned farm, renovate the property {with the help of a handyman} and bring the house back to life. 

In my own story, I’d also meet the handsome but churlish neighbor or cranky village bachelor and in time I’d win his heart.

Then we’d happily turn the old homestead into an olive farm with a few goats to make our own cheese. {Cue book deal and romantic comedy movie script.} 

Oh and then we'd open an inn on our farm so a host of hilarious guests would provide plenty of content for future books and movies.



Maybe you've crafted a storyline too but like me, you realize that our lives rarely unfold like a Hollywood movie. 

I don't know about you, but I feel less like a heroine and more like those old houses sometimes. 

I find myself in desperate need of a change, especially on the inside. I'd like those old vines that are choking the life out of me with my mundane routine, rooted up and ripped out. 

And some fresh color on my tired and chipped exterior wouldn't hurt either. 



I’ve been hoodwinked by my hopes and deceived by my desires. 

And honestly I’m a little mad at them too. 

Those tricksters were up to no good the whole time, making me think a new thing was around the corner, turning my head and spinning me off in the wrong direction.

And now I don't even want my hopes rescued and I don't want anything to do with recovering my soul or renewing possibilities.



But it's kind of hard to discard what I've been training my mind and soul and heart to do for more than a handful of years now. 

Do I really want to have the bricks continue to crumble and the weeds to overgrow and the paint to peel after I look back and see how far God has lovingly nudged me to the edges of what I thought I could ever do and faithfully summoned me to places I never dreamed I could go?

So when you want to give up because your hopes are squashed, could I ever so kindly whisper to your heart to do just one thing more?

Flip the pancake.


My nine-year-old niece told me I’d lost my mojo for making pancakes. 

The last few times I've made them, she hasn't liked them and we've gone out for donuts instead. 

Truthfully, my pancakes are nothing special. They're just from a mix in a plastic yellow jug that I add some chocolate chips to, but my niece has always said that I make the best pancakes.

It always made me laugh.

But last Saturday morning, she told me to give it one more try. I made the pancakes the way I always have and flipped one onto the Paris plate she always eats her pancakes on when she visits my house.

She raised her eyebrows and took a bite.

"Yep," she said. "These are as good as they used to be."




Now that I've gotten my pancake groove back, this very small, most insignificant thing has renewed my faith for the days ahead. 

If you're going through something hard or sad or difficult, do the tiniest, most minuscule thing you can think of to give your hope a fighting chance. 

It might be enough to lift your head so your eyes can glimpse that stunning vista off in the distance. 


So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.  
2 Cor. 4:16a (MSG)




I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Join me there for more encouraging posts from my blogger friends!






35 comments:

  1. mmm ... I adore abandoned buildings, too. I love to wander by / in / through and imagine who those people were, what their lives were like, and what caused them to leave their four walls behind.

    What a thoughtful post, Valerie. As ever ...

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    1. Linda,
      They are captivating, aren't they? Maybe it's the old Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden mystery-solver personna from my childhood that dreams of poking around in there and discovering something left behind! :)

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  2. This is beautiful and timely advice for sure...in the dog days of summer it's easy to lose our mojo. I was feeling a lot like a boarded up house last week! It's so easy to get lost in ourselves and fail to make the connections and fight for the community in the world outside of us. It's so much better to walk in step with our friends and neighbors- sometimes they have just the right tools and tricks to renew our spirits and remodel our minds. ♥ Love to you today Valerie! Even though I've been lacking in communication you've been on my mind lately and I've been praying for you a lot this week! Flipping the pancake with you girl! xo

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    1. Heather,
      Oh - great word choice - -feeling like a boarded-up house -- I love that turn of phrase! Feeling the same about you -- haven't been in touch but an email is coming your way. Anxious to hear what's been going on in your world, friend! xo

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  3. I'm glad you got your pancake mojo back. :) I never had one; my husband makes pancakes for me every Sunday morning. ha. I always wonder about abandoned places too. I'm glad God doesn't let us live that way but dwells within us! Thanks for sharing this, Valerie.

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    1. Lisa,
      What a delight to enjoy pancakes by your husband every Sunday! You must feel like a princess eating a breakfast prepared with such love! :)

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  4. Amazing pictures! So interesting too, that the lawn was perfectly manicured, yet the building was falling apart. Someone was still around working where they could. Maybe God is that way too? Working in us, but we have to let Him in too, into our broken places to work as well as the outside places where people can see. I know I have resisted Him in the protection of hopes being flipped out of sight when not getting things My way. Maybe this happens too, so that He nudges us back on the path of where He wants us, what He has designed us to do, so we once again go back to making those pancakes we were always to make in the first place! Thanks for these thoughts today Valerie!

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    1. Hi Lynn,
      Missed your posts lately but hope you are enjoying your summer! Your words here are beautiful, giving me pause to think about how God works in us, even when we can't see him and feel discouraged, he is always there, waiting for us to look up and catch sight of what's he doing in our lives!

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  5. Such beautiful thoughts and pictures again Valerie! Why is it that even the ramshackle ruins look beautiful in Italy? You've given me pause for thought now, as I wonder if God views the "ruins" in my life differently than I do also? I want to be able to look back and see how HE was making the inside of my hopes new and transformed! Thank you for your encouragement! --Blessings and Hugs!

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    1. Hi Bettie!
      I agree -- I don't think much could look bad in Italy -- even the ruins look beautiful! I think God sees us as we were meant to be (kind of like my niece thinking I make delicious pancakes!) and that should encourage us to move forward -- always becoming! xo

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  6. I love these photos and thoughts, Valerie. I sometimes wonder what those old walls would say if they could talk. What have they seen and heard over the years? Thank you for your encouragement to do one tiny thing to give that hope a chance. That maybe it will be enough to lift our heads to see the stunning vista ahead. And I LOVE the Message version text you selected. There is so much HOPE in it. Praying God will revive and recover hope in your heart and life! Blessings and hugs to you!

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    1. Hi Trudy,
      I miss reading your words every week and seeing those creatures you photograph (maybe not the frogs though)! Like you, I imagine what the walls would say too and wonder what they've seen! Isn't that verse from the Message incredible! I just love it too! Thank you for your prayers, my sweet friend! xoxo

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  7. I'm SO glad you stopped by to my little pancake story today, Valerie, because it brought me here to your wonderful and beautifully written story! I love the way you think, with all those romantic story meanderings there in Italy! And I identify with a lot of the rest you wrote. Hope you'll try that buttermilk pancake recipe out on your niece sometime... it's really easy... :) Love her words to you too! , Pam, apples of gold

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    1. Hi Pam,
      I do want to try your buttermilk recipe -- it sounds like she might like it (although she is quite the finicky one)! I'm so glad we were on the same wavelength and got to read each other's words today!

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  8. Hope deferred makes the heart sick...how true this is. Not sure if I've read the MSG version of 2 Cor 4:16, but I'm making a note of it :)

    I love to look at old homes and imagine the family that used to live in them and what the home must have looked like back in it's glory day. Hope God shows you bit by bit in the coming days His new plan for you and your hope in the future will be fully restored.

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    1. Hi Alecia,
      That Message version of that verse is pure gold, isn't it?! Old houses can tell such wonderful stories or lead us to imagine some interesting ones for ourselves! Thank you for your lovely thoughts, my dear friend! xo

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  9. I love your photos! And it's so true that even the smallest thing can lift our eyes and give us hope. Thankful that no matter how derelict and abandoned we feel there is always hope of restoration with God.

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    1. Hi Carly,
      Your words are a lovely confirmation tonight -- thank you for reading and sharing them!

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  10. "Flip the pancake." Valerie, I love this. This fall, I'm going to start back working on a project I set aside a couple of years ago, and when (notice I did not say "if") I get discouraged, I'm going to try to remember this. Thank you for this encouragement, my friend!

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    1. Hi Lois,
      Sometimes it's the least we can do that means the most, isn't it?! I kind of love that and can't wait to hear about the revived project and how it progresses! Thanks for being here!

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  11. Hi Valerie-
    Love this and all the stories and thoughts- so so beautiful--thank you for the encouragement! Definitely some issues in my life that feel like rubble and I don’t even know what to hope for other that Gods good character and promises to come through ( that should be enough ?!) I just find myself clinging to the story I think is best ! Praying we both get a glimpse of that vista and can put our full weight in Him to be our everything knowing the best is yet to come! sending hugs tonight xoxo- --- ( also I would love to hear more of that story about the heroine you told! It sounds romantic and wonderful-!)

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    1. Susie,
      I feel like I've lost a good friend when I don't have your words to read each week and I am praying you'll take heart! I just love what you said about rubble and putting our weight in God to be our everything -- how true that is! And I agree that that little story in my head about the heroine in Italy does sound awfully promising, doesn't it?! xoxo Praying for you! Miss you!

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  12. Valerie. This so is me right now. To a tee. Lost hope. That whole idea of wanting to discard all of what I ever wanted and throw on my towel. Be done
    This is so true : If you're going through something hard or sad or difficult, do the tiniest, most minuscule thing you can think of to give your hope a fighting chance.
    you are sooo right in these words.
    I keep trying to live them out or grasp this concept and hang onto it like a rope dangling hope over my pit. Xoxo love U Val. spot on today !!!!

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    1. Hi Somer,
      Oh I'm with you in throwing in the towel and being done! But God doesn't let us, does he? He pulls us up out of that pit we're in if we do hang on to that dangling rope that you're gripping too! Praying for you, Somer! I'm so glad that you are back writing again on your blog (although I can't imagine how you find the time with your household of little ones) but I'm so glad you are still sharing your beautiful thoughts with us! xoxoxo

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  13. Your life isn't like a movie either? Glad I'm not the only one. Think of all we would have missed out on if they were...

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    1. Sarah,
      I don't know . . .a little bit of movie magic would be nice! :)

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  14. Valerie, I'm just now getting a chance to read blogs for the week and couldn't wait to read what you wrote! So many thoughts: 1. Please tell me you have seen Under the Tuscan Sun? It was all I could think about as I read your post! 2. I have that same Anthro Paris mug and just adore it! 3. I LOVE it! Flip the pancake. I'm going to remember that one and apply it to my life for sure!! 4. I'm already excited to read your next blog post. I think I'm officially a groupie! :)

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    1. Kylie,
      Oh my goodness I love my Paris Anthro mug too! And no I actually haven't read or seen Under the Tuscan Sun but I have read other Frances Mayes books. Your words are so kind -- I appreciate them, friend!

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  15. It can be so hard to see the view through the rubble of our lives can't it? Sometimes the weight of sagging ceilings is too much to bear and the tilting floors that cause us to lose our balance make us want to sink to our knees in surrender. Maybe that is where we need to be though, in a posture of surrender so that God can lift us up & restore us and give us new dreams. Speaking from personal experience here.
    I love that little things like pancakes can change our outlook on life. As usual, thank you for your wonderful words. God is good.❤️

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    1. Hi Patti,
      I love your words about sagging ceilings and tilting floors! And yes, a posture of surrender is the only place we can be lifted up from and I'm so glad about that! xo

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  16. I have been meaning to stop by for a visit here, your words and pictures are like drinking a big glass of sparkling, Italian soda for me. Bubbly and refreshing! Couldn't agree more and now I want to eat pancakes with powered sugar too! I can't get over that photo with the giant green mountain in the background. GORGEOUS. I also think the line about flipping the pancake would make a great stencil - the kind people paint on their kitchen walls.... You are a blessing, Valerie. Thanks for uplifting me tonight, praying for you, friend!

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    1. Hi Meg,
      Thank you for popping in here and oh - -I just love what you said about a bubbly Italian soda! :) Always love hearing from you, friend!

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  17. I love reading about your family and the love you guys have. And the way you can take anything and learn something from it. I think it is hard to see myself as a fancy villa because I do have those weeds and overgrown plants. But He is faithful. Hope you are having a good week

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    1. Hi Kristina,
      Thank you for cheering on my posts about my family! :) Believe me, I don't see myself as a fancy villa either, more like something with a really aged patina! :) But I do love old houses -- they are so intriguing and charming!

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