Learn to discern

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Learn to discernImage designed by Rachel Greenhouse Consulting Services. Find me on Facebook!

“To make your dreams come true, you don’t so much need to take massive action as you need to take inspired action. Learn to discern.”
– Copyright 2013, Helen Hunter McKenzie/ The Honeygirl Customer Attraction Method

This is livin’!

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this is livin'!It was a fall day just like today about 8 years ago when I had a very memorable encounter with an irrepressible chimney sweep named Victor.

We needed to have the chimney cleaned in our new home and were lucky to have Victor’s business, Copperfield Chimney Sweeps, recommended to us. Victor is a local guy, with kids in the same schools as ours and a big heart for his work.

I’m not sure how tall Victor actually is, but I remember him as suuuuper tall (6″5″ or thereabouts) with a skull cap on and covered head to toe in soot. He was the picture of a David Copperfield-era Dickensian character. This guy had a quality of magic and theatre about him.

Victor started assessing things right away and as a natural teacher he excitedly shared with me the inner workings of our fireplace, chimney, and flue. He simultaneously waxed poetic about the physics of oxygen, fire, smoke and ash. He was genuinely disappointed and perplexed that certain parts of the fireplace were missing and unattended to–Jeremy and I had had no idea about what to do with a couple of things that had just fallen off one day, so had placed them casually downstairs–and wondered aloud about the lax attitude of homeowners these days. Guilty as charged. ( :

I had awoken that morning under the shadow of my fall lethargy. I was annoyed by the many aspects of our home that I wanted to change and upgrade. I was fighting a mood of restless dissatisfaction, facing the months of indoor living ahead of us with great discontentment. And this is where Victor stepped into an unexpected role…

When we moved into our home, it came with a bronze-y fireplace front that did not suit our design aesthetic. But, uninformed as we were, we had assumed that it was necessary to the fireplace’s functioning. Since we couldn’t afford to change it out, it had remained in place for a couple of years. I did not like it, but I figured we were stuck with it for a while.

bronze fireplace doors

Style of fireplace doors when we moved in

Partway through his appointment, Victor surprised me by turning his attention from the technical aspects of the fireplace to the aesthetics of our space. Victor vented for a few moments about the aforementioned bronze-y fireplace fronts–apparently added to houses all over Minneapolis neighborhoods by some scientifically-uninformed architect, who clearly didn’t understand that fire needs oxygen–and he was genuinely indignant. He ended his speech with these definitive instructions: “If I were you, I’d take this thing right out and throw it onto your lawn.” And then he shocked me even further: “Talk about your bad feng shui. Get rid of this front…and look at the way that the energy immediately flows so much better.”

fireplace after

Our fireplace after its update.

So I gave him the go ahead to rid our living room of the horrid fireplace front. The deed was completed in less than 2 minutes and he was of course, completely right. He also suggested that what we needed to add was a simple fireplace screen. He quickly pointed out that I shouldn’t even bother with something functional from a hardware store, but to “go straight to Pottery Barn” for my purchase so that I would find something appropriately attractive. Honestly: Who would expect a Pottery Barn fan in a soot-covered chimney sweep? 

But there was to be even more. By this point I had already received much more value than I had anticipated. Not only was I getting my fireplace and chimney thoroughly cared for, I was benefiting from undeniably solid interior design expertise. And I was having fun, absorbing Victor’s infectious + upbeat approach to his work.

Victor then paused and openly admired the vista through our home’s front windows, looking out at the wide passageway and majestic old trees offered by the view of Park Avenue from our perch on the hill. He listed out the many lovely qualities of our home, and–though I had not uttered one word reflecting my discontentment–pointed out how many people would absolutely love to inhabit our space.

And then with arms spread wide he said the words that have echoed in my mind so many times since that day:

“This is livin’!”

Indeed, it was. And continues to be.

Victor has returned at least once since for a chimney checkup and I enjoyed reminding him of his unique first visit to our home. I am quite sure that he doesn’t remember the experience in the same way–perhaps he never repeated those words to anyone else ever again–but for me, it was exactly what I needed to hear. What a beautiful lesson I received from one of God’s unexpected messengers that day.

My discontentment vanished. Not permanently, certainly. But to this day I cannot think a dissatisfied thought without remembering the message delivered to me by Victor that day.

with love, Rachel

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Dearness

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Dearness

“…You didn’t come onto this earth as a perfectionist or control freak. You weren’t born a person of cringe and contraction. You were born as energy, as life, made of the same stuff as stars, blossoms, breezes. You learned contraction to survive, but that was then. You have paid through the nose—paid but good. It is now your turn to reap.” – Anne Lamott, Read more in Salon Magazine, October 2013

Shop small this holiday season

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Rachel's holiday boutique 2013

Rachel’s Holiday Shopping Boutique on Facebook

As many of you are already aware, over the last few years there has been a movement to encourage holiday shoppers to remember to “Shop Local” and “Shop Small.” American Express has made a big effort to establish the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend as “Small Business Saturday,” partially in response to all of the Black Friday shopping that happens at big box stores and malls.

——————————— Consider this: When you shop at a big chain store, only $43 of each $100 spent is redistributed into the community. Alternatively, when you shop at a small business, $68 of your $100 is reinvested locally. That means that when you shop with local businesses 58% MORE of your purchase impacts your local community. This means support for local schools, jobs, taxes, wages and other communal needs that impact you and your family directly.——————————————-

I am a small business owner and so is my husband. I have many friends and neighbors who support themselves, their families and communities through small business ownership and entrepreneurship. I love an excuse to bring them together under one roof to encourage them to show off and sell their wares. These vendors typically don’t have brick and mortar stores of their own and love to spend the day of the boutique chatting with shoppers and helping them to select just the right gift for a loved one.

I personally enjoy finding a gift that is unique and handmade–and I know that many of you do as well–so giving our community the opportunity to shop without long lines, loud music, bright lights, huge parking lots and departments full of copycat items offers BIG motivation to me for this event. I sincerely hope that it will make holiday shopping more enjoyable and peaceful for many of you. 

So that’s why Rachel’s Holiday Shopping Boutique will be at beautiful, cozy Sewtropolis on Saturday, November 30th, 2013 between 10 am and 6 pm. The event is free and open to the public. For more details on our vendors, product photos, links to their websites and show specials + announcements, please like the event’s Facebook page. Sewtropolis is located in the 48th Street & Chicago Avenue South* community of Minneapolis. Sewtropolis is a generous sponsor of this event, as is my business Rachel Greenhouse Consulting Services. 

* There are several blocks of fantastic small businesses in our neighborhood and we encourage you to check those out as well! Spa Sweet, Rue48 Salon, Sassy Knitwear, Spruce Flowers, Shop in the City, Pumphouse Creamery, Turtle Bread Cafe, Sovereign Grounds Coffee Shop, Pepitos + Parkway Theater, Town Hall Tap, Bagu Sushi, Spark Wellness, New Movement Pilates, Take Time for Yourself Massage + more.

“Small businesses are what make a neighborhood your neighborhood. Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses across the country.” 

shop local infographic

We all inherently know that shopping small is good for our communities, but here’s a powerful infographic that shows why shopping local is definitely worth your money. Link to the full graphic here: http://amex.co/19NJlEn

Remember to shop small on Saturday, November 30th and throughout the holiday season! 

The ease of endings

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I have been grieving. 

This season has found me going inward, craving quiet, and restlessly seeking to pry open my tightly-fisted hands. During the last six weeks or so, I’ve been blindsided by the iron grip of past griefs I thought had long loosened. I’ve also been watching fearfully as the shiny, alluring dreams I had become attached to for my future began to fade in the sky.

I know that there will be more blessings ahead and in some ways, less pain. Nevertheless, it has been overwhelming to feel and face so much in such a short period of time.

I have been fighting and fleeing the inevitability of endings.

I am once again humbled and awe-filled by the way in which God uses every interaction + action in my life to whisper love calls to my heart. Infinite wisdom and gentle leading, always + everywhere.

This morning, my doctor greeting me with a kind smile, reminding me to look for the emotional and spiritual lessons in the physical symptoms I’m experiencing. Encouraging me to burrow in to offer myself the care I crave, but not to completely disappear under the blankets. Acknowledging what I have already done to care for myself and to stretch my wisdom through this season. Assuring me that the next phase of my life, whether one of ease or challenge, will be greeted with even greater acceptance and clarity.

This afternoon, two wise women friend-colleagues challenging me to consider new definitions and new boundaries–responsiveness versus responsibility + expectancy versus expectations. Offering me the opportunity to go scot-free; to simply let go of self-judgement along my path to transformation. To accept the gift of ease that I have never trusted, nor considered myself worthy to receive. The fear at its foundation: What might happen if I am not vigilant? If I don’t hold tight to the ledge, who will be there to catch me when I fall?

And this evening, a posting to Facebook via Parker Palmer, citing a Rilke poem:

Autumn poem by Rainer Marie Rilke

I love Fall. The season always creates a powerful mix of feelings in me—aliveness in the crisp cool air, awe and wonder at nature’s beauty, melancholy as another season of flowering life ends, and so quickly!

I also love this Rilke poem about falling, loneliness, tenderness, and being held. Rilke was alienated from traditional, organized religion. But he clearly had a sense that the cosmos somehow cares for and catches us, even as it makes falling a natural part of life. 

This translation of “Autumn” is by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows, from their book, “A Year with Rilke.” In another book they did together, “Rilke’s Book of Hours,” they say, “Of all the seasons, Rilke most loved autumn. He found it released his creative powers.”  – Parker J. Palmer

Do you see, as I do, the river of connectedness that streams through my life + yours, inviting us to deeper kinship with ourselves, with each other and with the Infinite?

Look at the falling leaves and open your heart and your hands. Falling indeed surrounds us on all sides; yet around the corner comes another unpredictable, beauty-from-ashes beginning. We know that this is true. It is the way it has always been.

For now, the profound ease of endings is calling to you and to me.

with love, Rachel

See with every turning day

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See with every turning day,
how each season wants to make
a child of you again, wants you to become
a seeker after rainfall and birdsong,
watch how it weathers you to a testing
in the tried and true, tells you
with each falling leaf, to leave and slip away,
even from the branch that held you,
to go when you need to, to be courageous,
to be like a last word you’d want to say
before you leave the world.

Excerpt from ‘Coleman’s Bed’ in ‘River Flow: 
New and Selected Poems’
©David Whyte and Many Rivers Press

The sweetest thing in all my life

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sweetest thing

Many thanks to my sister Amy who shared this beautiful quote with me. How I deeply recognize that longing feeling…don’t you?

It’s the wistfulness that covers me at the turn of the seasons, the sweet ache of seeing my sons grow from toddlers to teens, the frequent thoughts of “what if I hadn’t met that person, so dear as he or she is?”

It’s a little boy laughing in the living room, inspiring a celebratory song, just weeks after a life-saving surgery. It’s a Saturday morning, praying for Persis and her search for the very best blueberry pancakes, while watching carefree children throw a football through the fall air.

Sweetness and sadness, elation and ache, co-mingled. Subtle yet striking shadows that point to the presence of God in the universe and in my life. The place where all the beauty came from.

“It was when I was happiest that I longed most. The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing to find the place where all the beauty came from.” CS Lewis

The tyranny of time

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exactly enough time

Everything changed the day she realized there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life. -Brian Andreas

Nearly 15 years ago, I was at my friend Colleen’s apartment in Linden Hills. We had decided to spend the afternoon creating life maps together. The activity was all the rage in Oprah’s circles at the time, and I had secured a rare “hall pass” from my then 2-year old son and other obligations to make it happen. Reading magazines, cutting and pasting are all favorite things to do, but carving out time to do it was a big challenge at the time.

As the afternoon passed, we easily created piles of appealing magazine cuttings. My pile was deep and wide. We started to arrange our selections on our poster boards without planning, trying to simply follow our instincts as the process suggested.

vision board

Vision board created by Martha Beck, O.com

As I tried to fit my many clippings–representations of things I was curious about, loved to do, wanted to explore or just genuinely wanted to picture as part of my life in some way–onto the poster board, I began to feel anxious. And frustrated. And panicked. I couldn’t make room for everything. Not even close.

And the space was being dominated by the things that formed a part of of my daily routine, obligations and responsibilities. Not that these things were not valuable. Or real. Or good in many ways. But there appeared to be no room for anything else. 

And I began to have thoughts–thoughts tumbling through my mind and out of my mouth. Defeating thoughts that created very bad feelings. Thoughts and feelings I had had many times before:

    • Why can’t I do all of this? I feel like a failure.
    • Why can’t I have all of this? I feel like I’m cursed.
    • Why does my life have so little space in it? I feel helpless.
    • Why do I always bite off more than I can chew? I feel flawed.
    • Why do I have to want so many experiences when my life is obviously going to be limited? I feel humiliated.
    • Why do I crave space to relax and read and garden when it is so laughably impossible in my busy and crowded life? I feel foolish. I feel tricked.
    • There is never going to be enough time (or space or money) for me to have or do any of these things. I feel despondent.
    • Why would I think that any of this was possible? What a futile exercise! I feel hopeless.

As I started to express these feelings to Colleen, she spoke God’s words to me:

“Rachel, look. There’s another side. You just have to turn it over. There’s another whole side.”

Wow.

Stunned.

She was right of course. And I absolutely wasn’t seeing it. I was feeling so trapped and cramped and limited that I couldn’t see the available space awaiting me on the other side of the poster board.

I grew up with a constant awareness of the shortage of time: From the age of 7, I had heard about the imminent end of the world and of the urgent need to live in a way that ensured a final destination of heaven instead of hell. There was no time to waste in these issues of eternal consequence.

A series of childhood illnesses added to my sense of foreboding that I wouldn’t have long to live. My emotional fragility in the face of transition and trauma contributed to my belief that I was fundamentally flawed and that I couldn’t possibly navigate all of this for very long. Certainly not long enough to live out a full, happy life. Near-constant vigilance was my default mode of being. I was a slave to what I perceived to be the tyranny of time.

And on that afternoon in my early 30s, I was being invited to see and experience time differently. Time as spacious and forgiving, expansive and unlimited. I moved forward creating my vision board, using both sides of the page, suspending my tendency to judge the scope and depth of my longings. And after I had put everything into place, there was enough room. One side represented aspects of my life at that time, and the other side was more aspirational, representing the time and space that I could look forward to in the years to come. There was enough.

And so it continues. 15 years later, my life is still packed in many ways, but there exists much more opportunity for me to make choices about my use of time. And I have come to recognize that the universe’s perception of time is much grander than I can even remotely conceive.

So when I begin to view time once again as a tyrant–which I sometimes do, especially when summer roars into fall and I know that winter is not far behind–that afternoon with my friend is a great reminder of how little time and how few of God’s words it actually takes for everything to change.