Yearly Archives: 2010

“My Take: Hating the War, Loving My Husband”

It’s never easy to share your “gray” feelings about something with the rest of the world. You know, those feelings that are neither black nor white, the kind that loom in the shadows remaining unresolved. When I have the courage, I try to expose my places of wrestling with others because I often find others are wrestling, silently, right along with me.

To that end, I’ve been working on a piece for the CNN Belief Blog, a very honest and personal reflection on my conflictions surrounding the war. The piece posted this morning! I’m interested to see what kind of discussion it creates. Please check it out and join the dialogue.

Here’s a teaser . . .

Unknowingly, I took a bullet to the gut when I married Steve, a shot right through me that has left me tender and at times doubled over.

No one ever told me that marrying a Navy SEAL would leave me so vulnerable. At first, the job seemed sexy and noble, being the wife of a clean-cut pirate with health insurance and a retirement. Who could resist his green eyes in that camouflage uniform?

And then we went to war.

READ FULL POST

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It’s Never Convenient . . .

Monday night was my Found Art Workshop—“A Year in Review”—and I believe, more than ever, in the power of providing a moment of sanctuary for the soul. It is amazing how much can pour out of a person in just 2 ½ hours.

We need time and space. This is never truer than during Christmas when the dark horse of death-by-details is at our heels, and we can just drift off the planet into this soul oblivion if we’re not careful. Not that I have any experience whatsoever in this kind of thing.

I was really moved by the depth of the women in attendance. It’s never convenient to grow. It’s never convenient to confront the voices (especially those that “haunt” us as one of my attendees so perfectly put it). It’s never convenient to be a mess. It’s never convenient to be in need. It’s never convenient to reassess.

That’s why it’s so brave to allow yourself the time and space to really listen to the deeper waters and to engage in the sacred act of sharing with another. Through the practice of opening ourselves up and letting others in, we see that we are not alone, that God is near, that others care. These are no small things.

And when we turn these findings into art, well that is just ridiculously magical.

What I love about these workshops is that everyone leaves with this tangible expression of something going on inside them. Some are gritty and dark and raw. Some are celebratory and energetic. Some are dimensional and full of paradox. I never get tired of walking around the room, seeing each person’s project take shape.

We need people who will lead us into deeper parts of ourselves. I hope I can be that kind of person. Beautiful writers and thinkers have been that guide for me. Kathleen Norris is my recent guru, reminding me to rediscover the poetry of Scripture, the metaphor, the story. I want to follow in the footsteps of women like that.

Nights like Monday night remind me of two things: that we are all deeply human and that God is deeply beautiful and mysterious. When these two truths connect with each other in my heart, a subtle awakening takes place. All of sudden, I’m back. Present. Alive. Inspired.

From the knowing hugs, the tearful sharing, and the not-so-simple generosity of staying late to stack chairs and organize supplies . . . I see you. I hear you. I love you.

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Revolution

I have these CDs of Anne Lamott talking about writing. I’ve probably listened to them no less than a dozen times. Between all the stuff about writing are these deep challenges about how we approach life emotionally and spiritually.

I always remember this line: “I know writers who have sold books to the movies, writers who are making six figure advances, writers who are being interviewed in all the right places, writers who are winning awards and who appear to be doing well by every standard. And they are miserable. Why? Because there’s not enough out there.”

Many of us have spent so much time, too much time, chasing after something we feel will—once and for all—make us worthy. Make us happy. Give us peace. Bring us contentment. Deliver our self-esteem. Ease our illnesses.

Relationships. Vocations. Callings. Visions. Successes. Incomes. Things.

Is it possible that we are running after something we will never catch? Chasing the wind? Perhaps this explains the epic levels of exhaustion?

I’ve done a lot of chasing in my life. The chasing is circular and cruel. It invites you to keep going, keep going, keep going . . . life is just around the next corner. Recently, I’ve started attending a 12-step recovery group called Emotions Anonymous, a program for people who are struggling with any and every kind of emotional issue. In other words, people who are chasing. People like me.

This group is helping me take apart my internal world with a pickaxe. Ugghhhh. Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better. :) I’m starting to see that the chasing leads nowhere and only ends up creating this big mess of sideways energy that keeps us swirling and overwhelmed, a one-way ticket on the burn-out bus.

I’m telling you about it because I suspect I’m not alone.

What if we gave ourselves the permission to be simply human—no more than human and no less than human? What if we gave ourselves the permission to build health instead of empires? What if we cared more about our emotional sobriety than our success?

What then?

Wow. I wonder. Perhaps, a bunch of people being still and knowing he is God. Revolutionary.

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Karma

Wednesday was a first. I helped out with the filming of an episode of TLC’s “Home Made Simple,” a life improvement show that descends on a family and helps them with meals, décor, and household projects.

My friend, mother of three, and fellow author, Arlene Pellicane, bravely submitted her household to the “Home Made Simple” mavens, and she invited me to help out with a craft project for the redesign of her son’s room.

I assisted Wanda, the design expert, with a steering wheel clock and a glow-in-the-dark street sign with Ethan’s name on it. All of this to compliment his new race car bed! The big reveal was yesterday, and I bet he hasn’t yet left his room. A little boy’s mecca.

Arlene and I met ten years ago when we both worked in the Creative Services department at a local non-profit. She was sunshine then, and she’s every bit as warm and lovely today.

Her first book, 31 Days to a Younger You, releases in January (you can pre-order it on Amazon already!), and Arlene and I have enjoyed sharing the unique journey of first-time authorship together.

She doesn’t know it, but Arlene has been a beacon of generosity in my life lately, a quality that is difficult to come by in our industry and in our culture in general. It’s too easy to have a deficit mentality when it comes to success, as though one person’s recognition and exposure eats into the limited quantity available in the world.

Arlene’s table is abundant. She shares her opportunities (“Home Made Simple”). She shares her blog (she featured a piece about me on her blog for Veteran’s Day). She invites me into circles she has worked to build. She relentlessly and selflessly talks up my book to others. And, most of all, she encourages me to keep going.

She’s quick to give.

I want to be more like that. Not just for the karma—though I’m sure Arlene’s is very, very good—but because it’s beautiful and counter-culture and of God.

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The Price of Art

IMG_3699During the times in my life when I’ve felt exhausted, confused, backward, numb, or just generally depressed, I have found solace in creative space. That’s why writing has been such a shelter for me, a place to sort myself out.

I’m learning, as I approach the very grown-up age of 35, that making time to create is actually a necessary part of my life rhythm and not just a luxury when the time permits (because, if we’re honest, it never does). Actually, I think this is something I’ve known all along as writing and painting and “making” were intuitive parts of my childhood. But maybe I’m just now learning to give myself permission to do these things that promote joy and freedom.

I often wonder if other women feel this same way. Like life just works better if they do something with their hands that is an extension of their souls. But maybe they don’t know where to start and the enterprise feels too overwhelming.

So every once in awhile I offer a found art workshop, where I create some space for a group of women to self-reflect and self-express around a theme I’ve provided.

We do some writing and some talking and then some collaging and then some more talking. Maybe I read to them a bit. We usually pray. And the alchemy of these acts produces something mysterious and golden. I remind the women that our time together isn’t about making a “product” so much as engaging in a “process.” I always have to remind myself of this because I’m like a junkie when it comes to perfectionism. So I try to help us all remember that what we’re doing is a prayer.

In the end, you would not believe what comes out of these women. I cover tables with scraps and remnants and ends and leftovers, and give them just a general direction to head, and the stuff that pours out of them is absolutely amazing. Inspiring.

I’m preparing for a workshop on December 6, and I’ve been looking for a good deal on some picture frames for our project. But I want them to be cool and architectural-salvage looking. Not just something you’d get at Target on clearance. I went to Pat’s, my local junk store, but I couldn’t get excited about anything there.

I found a listing on Craigslist that seemed too good to be true, and I followed up with the guy. Immediately I was scared of him as he was gruff and crusty and bothered on the phone and I kept apologizing because that’s what I do when I get uncomfortable.

When the babies went down for a nap on Saturday, I drove to this guy’s house—a 40-acre ranch here in San Diego—and I left the address for Steve in case he had to send a search and rescue team after me.

BTW, Steve seemed completely unfazed by the fact that I was going alone to this compound. I kept telling myself that this exact scenario was the stuff of thrillers: Stupid girl is wooed to a ranch by Craigslist Killer and thrown into a pit with a dozen other girls who fell for the same trick.

The man who posted the ad was every bit as crusty as he sounded on the phone and his two huge dogs were terrifying and his compound was something from Steven King meets Hoarders. I could honestly spin an entire novel out of this guy’s habitat.

He led me into his storage area and closed the gate behind me – “so the dogs wouldn’t get out.” Creepy. I tried to be aware of any muffled cries for help. Surrounded by the strangest assortment of junk, we began loading frames into my car . . . until the entire car was completely filled. I was euphoric, yet vigilant.

I so badly wanted to nose around the rest of the premises as untold treasures were surely buried in this place. But I decided I had to get out while I was still alive and mostly untraumatized.

On my way out of the chain-link gate at the perimeter of the property, I noticed the handwritten sign, “Trespassers will be shot” and said a little prayer of thanks.

So if you’re in the San Diego area and you want to attend my December 6th found art workshop, I will be providing a frame for you that was practically purchased with my very life.

But I’ve found that, most of the time, the price of art is worth paying.

***

If you’d like to attend the upcoming workshop on December 6th, please email me at Leeana@GypsyInk.com. We’ll be meeting from 7:00pm to 9:30pm and the cost is $15. Our theme is “A Year in Review,” and we’ll be reflecting on our own personal themes from 2010.

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Mourning and Dancing

As I write, I’m at the Naval Academy, accompanying Steve on a “work trip” (also known as putting about a hundred Midshipmen who are interested in a career as a SEAL through a grueling night of God-only-knows-what). He has a bag full of gear and extra socks and whistles. I just don’t ask anymore.

The first time I came to the Naval Academy, I was 18 years old. It was August of 1994, and I had just arrived on the East Coast about a month prior. I was weeks into my freshmen volleyball season at Liberty and the Trident Classic was our first tournament of the year.

For three seasons, we returned to the Academy to play in the tournament, and every time I came, the place spoke to me. Maybe it was giving me clues about my future. If someone would have told me then that I would someday marry a Midshipmen, I would have thought that a very romantic notion. Strange how I was playing volleyball just steps away from my future husband who I wouldn’t even meet for eight more years . . . on an entirely different coast.

After brunch this morning, we spent hours walking around the campus. And though I’ve been here before, I’m seeing it through such different eyes, being here with him for the first time. Of course, I badger him with 56,000 questions about who he was as an 18 year old and how he survived his Plebe year and how he felt the day he opened the envelope containing his billet to BUD/S.

The highlight of our little tour was walking through the truly magnificent Memorial Hall where the names of every fallen Academy graduate are listed. Stunning. Steve later told me he took ballroom dancing in that very hall. Gives such poignancy to Ecclesiastes 3:4, “A time to mourn and a time to dance.” Isn’t that life at its fullest spectrum. My husband gliding across the marble floors, probably a bit awkwardly, under the enormous chandeliers and the watchful care of those we’ve lost.

I’m trying to picture him here and who he was then—probably so different than he is now and probably so much the same.

I feel like I’m getting to know a part of him I haven’t really known—the young man Steve. I keep thinking of the young woman Leeana. Connecting with his story helps me reconnect with my own. We are salvaging pieces of our past here, and I love it. It’s so easy to be entirely possessed by the urgency of life back home, the needs of the moment. What a gift to pan out a bit and see a fuller picture of our lives, remembering who we were as 18, 19, 20, and 21 years old. Both of us, in our own separate ways, focused and driven and a little wild.

What a gift to connect to each other through the portal of our pasts.

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Homes for the Homeless

Saying thanks for all the women who cuddle my children, who make me melancholy mix tapes, who pray when I send out a 911 text for some help, who call me in for a consult on bathroom decor, who remind me that I say ridiculous things like “I love an October baby” and “being engaged at the holidays is magical,” who convince me and re-convince me that my words and my work matter, who entrust their secrets to me, who give me permission to take care of myself, who commission me for some personal shopping, who let me see them cry, who cosign on my crazy dreams, who take giantly inspiring risks, who ask all the hardest questions, who care for the least of these, who think of me when they’re somewhere enchanting, who notice the new drapes, who lead, who breathe, who see me.

Thankful for those who, day after day, take me by the hand and help me walk — one step at a time — into a better me.

“God makes homes for the homeless,” it says in Psalm 68:6 (The Message). Isn’t that the most gorgeous thing you’ve ever heard? Homes for the homeless. I’m convinced that one of the main ways he does it is through the shelter we find in each other. The warm, comforting glow of kindred souls.

May we offer each other a kind of welcoming presence that brings God’s very kingdom here to earth, giving and receiving “home” to each other. And may we do it in Jesus’ name. So many of you have done that and are doing that for me. What would I do without you?

How is God home-building in your life today?

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Prophet and Poet, Part III

I’m still musing on parts one and two of this series — and apparently some of you are too — so I thought I’d go ahead and write a part III.

Let’s talk about calling.

First, there are those of us who feel as though a calling or callings have been revealed to us and we are fighting against the direction God is asking us to go. We’re either doubting him or doubting ourselves (or both) and we’re dragging our feet because we just can’t reconcile the demands of the process with our own resources. This is the case with the story I shared about Kathleen Norris in Part I. She was confessing a real dissonance with what God was revealing in her life and the implications of this revelation.

I feel like a lot of us can relate to that. The “calling” is typically far less sexy than we’d like it to be, far less pre-packaged than we were hoping or expecting. Often the calling is about God’s larger values for our life: having courage, exploring mysteries, choosing healing, contributing uniquely.

Right now, I’m “called” to be a mother. There are days when I resist this call, days when I don’t submit to it. And I’m left desolate as a result. Instead of asking God to give me the resources I need to walk into each moment of my day, I buck. And it turns out badly for everyone.

As one reader said (this is a paraphrase), sometimes (maybe even most often) the call is about accepting where God has you right now — as he was trying to get the prophets to do — and facing the moments of your current day with courage.

Some of us are chasing after this revered and mystical sunset that keeps us from having to actually live presently in our lives. The calling is so woo-ing but so elusive that we are ever-chasing after something that may or may not truly exist. We can tend to neglect our spiritual and emotional health because we are “wearing out our shoes.”

The call is always, live today to the fullest, loving and healing and becoming. Often, this process happens in a strange and mysterious unfolding. And less in a lightening bolt from the sky.

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Prophet and Poet, Part II

I keep thinking about my post from Monday, so I thought I’d listen to the resonance and provide a second installment of the post, perhaps more personal this time.

Maybe this is me commenting on my own post. Hmmmmm . . . that’s interesting.

I confess to being a shoe wearer-outer (Jeremiah 2:25). I spend a lot of sideways energy emotionally scampering, ducking, dodging, jetting, dragging . . . all of which is exhausting. I wear out my soul’s soles on a regular basis, trying to out maneuver my self-doubt.

I so relate to Norris, and her fear of truly embracing her calling because of what it might require of her. I have spent quite a few months (probably more than I’d like to admit) in fits and starts over becoming and being an author, having to confront one perceived inadequacy after another.

Right now, I’m thinking back to my post about Twitter last week and how this process of writing and authoring really does force me to have to confront my deepest demons. In that way, I know the calling is from God. It’s about more than producing a commercial product. It’s about my own personal transformation.

What was true for the prophets and what was true for Norris and what is true for me today is that God beckons me into something bigger than myself because that is the place where I will experience the beautiful (and scare-the-crap-out-of-you scary) confluence of my need and his great love.

This is the exact spot where we actually have something worthwhile to share with the world. Not our shining competence. But our authentic formation.

May I learn to be still.

Are you scampering or still today? How did you get to where you are?

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Prophet and Poet

Last night, I read a beautiful chapter from Kathleen Norris’ (poet turned memoirist) The Cloister Walk, a memoir of her time in residence at St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota, living thoroughly within the monastic tradition.

In the piece I was reading, Norris had been listening to a reading of the book of Jeremiah (lectio continua), and she was beginning to feel a bit of kinship with Jeremiah: the calling of a prophet much like the calling of a poet.

For years, Norris felt condemned by her “otherness” or strangeness as the calling of poet stirred within her. Jeremiah, too, laments how he is missed and misunderstood by his contemporaries. God even tells Jeremiah, “You shall speak to them and they will not listen; you shall call and they shall not answer (7:27).

Ever feel that way? Norris sure did. She was feeling insecure and out of place in her calling, even a bit condemned for her lack of credentials and audacity to think herself an artist.

But throughout this chapter, she begins to come to terms with her call–with the help of Jeremiah—realizing that others have also labored over their calling and distrusted it and scorned it. Like the prophets did, lamenting as they went. And yet, she could begin to see that perhaps the role of the poet wasn’t that much different than the role of prophet.

She writes, “A prophets task is to reveal the fault lines hidden beneath the comfortable surface of the worlds we invent for ourselves, the national myths as well as the little lies and delusions of control and security that get us through the day. . . . As the carrier of hope through disastrous times, prophets are a necessary other. And we reject them because they make us look at the way things really are; they don’t allow us to deny our pain” (34, 45).

How many of us struggle with what we’ve been called to do? Whether it’s motherhood or writing or pastoring or teaching or ?????, our calling can produce as much angst as anything. Why did God think I could do this?

I truly loved Norris’ quoting of Jeremiah 2:25, “Stop wearing out your shoes.”

Are you running from God’s voice today? Wearing out your shoes trying to get away from his work in your life?

Perhaps we could all benefit from stopping. Breathing. Embracing the given call even with all its incongruence and questions.

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