Monthly Archives: June 2012

june in pictures

A few images for you to enjoy . . . a bit of June in Bahrain through my eyes . . .

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looking at rugs is a favorite pastime . . . a rug shop is like a museum in many ways . . . loved this beauty with its pink, raspberry, plum, salmon . . . rich and yet girly, too.

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i loved this one as well . . . a sea blue with a unique floral border.

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and this one reminds me of a vintage carpet bag . . . love that orangey red with the flashes of aqua.

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gotta love the local toy selection . . . are you taking all this in?

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the first Tankersley family pet . . . good luck, buddy.

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since we don’t really have flowers here, i’ve been loving these tissue paper flowers . . . adding some here and there around the house for color, texture, and a little splash of beauty.

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these came in a care package from my mom . . . so cute . . . metal stencils . . . makes me really miss michaels!

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for the first time in over twenty years, i am once again the proud owner of a swatch. my original swatch was raspberry scented and much smaller . . . love this updated, oversized version in olive green . . . a fun neutral that goes with everything.

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did i mention we now have a four month old in our house! she melts me.

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this is what our house looks like just about all the time. “well-loved,” i like to call it. even a cute filter can’t clean this mess up!

Living and loving the beautiful mess the very best I can each and every day.

What’s your favorite memory or slice of beauty from June?

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Nouwen, Paul, Pressfield

The following gorgeousness arrived in my life this week. Thought I’d share these three pieces of found art that, each in their own way, threw me a lifeline . . .

FIRST . . . sent to me from my mother-in-law . . . a beauty from Nouwen:

“There is a hole in your being, like an abyss. You will never succeed in filling that hole because your needs are inexhaustible. You have to work around it so that gradually the abyss closes. Since the hole is so enormous and your anguish so deep, you will always be tempted to flee from it. There are two extremes to avoid: being completely absorbed in your pain and being distracted by so many things that you stay far away from the wound you want to heal” (The Inner Voice of Love).

SECOND . . . sent to me, and the rest of my Growth Group back in San Diego, from the beloved Joanna . . . a bit of God’s glory-strength as we work hard in his orchard:

Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. Colossians 1:9-12, The Message

AND, THIRD . . . an absolutely timely blog post from the most-amazing Steven Pressfield . . . “Self-Doubt and Self-Reinforcement” . . . do I have the ability to be my own best friend? This is a MUST READ.

Which one of these beauties spoke to you today? Share a line that was meaningful to you.

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three practices for soulmaking

On Sunday, I posted (“portion control”) about our tendency—as humans—to do whatever it takes to secure our own comfort instead of allowing God the time and space necessary to form us.

Exhibit A was the Israelites wandering in the desert hoarding manna in their tents because they just couldn’t quite trust that God was going to show up again the next day. Exhibit B is all the rest of us doing essentially the same thing: stunting times of soulmaking by wanting comfort instead of formation.

Continuing on in the discussion with a question: Why do we do this?

Here are a few thoughts . . .

We hate being in pain. Our knee-jerk reaction is to wriggle out of that place of pain because pain . . . hurts.

We don’t want to appear imperfect, affected, or struggling. These times of soulmaking cause us to be in need. I don’t like feeling weak or like I’m not coping well with my life. Most of us spend a lot of time wanting people to think we’re doing well.

We don’t want to look at the parts of us that need work. In the process of soulmaking, we are exposed. Our brokenness, our woundedness, our doubt, and our lack of emotional health. Always. Not very glamorous.

We’re afraid to relinquish control and trust God. It’s hard to think about what we might have to give up—our comforts, our escapes, our grudges, our contempt, our rights, our self-reliance.

Instead of numbing, escaping, hoarding, stockpiling, etc., I believe God invites us into three practices that are about participating in our soulmaking instead of shutting it down:

#1 Grieving. Grieving comes and goes in waves. One minute we feel fine. The next minute we feel like all we want to do is go crawl in bed. Grieving is a process, not a day’s activity. And grief isn’t just reserved for the death of a person. We experience some level of grief no matter what kind of loss we’ve experienced: a person, a job, a dream, a relationship, a home. Grief arrives when we realize we have lost something that might have been (John Greenleaf Whittier). Naming losses and grieving them plugs us back into our own lives.

#2 Waiting. Who in their right mind wants to wait? No thanks. Waiting is allowing ourselves to be in a state of active surrender. Again, no thanks. But engaging in waiting–when all we want is an immediate fix–can be very formational. (Not that I would know from personal experience, but I’ve read that this is a good idea.)

Love these words on waiting from Sue Monk Kidd (When the Heart Waits):

“I had tended to view waiting as mere passivity. When I looked it up in my dictionary however, I found that the words passive and passion come from the same Latin root, pati, which means “to endure.” Waiting is thus both passive and passionate. It’s a vibrant, contemplative work. It means descending into self, into God, into deeper prayer. It involves listening to disinherited voices within, facing the wounded holes in the soul, the denied and undiscovered, the places one lives falsely. It means struggling with the vision of who we really are in God and molding the courage to live that vision” (14, emphasis added).

Waiting is entering the cocoon (a ceasing of striving and controlling) and allowing a work to be completed. The cocoon is fruitful, but the cocoon is also dark. That’s soulmaking.

#3 Desiring. Many of us have so entirely suppressed certain God-given emotions, convincing ourselves somehow that because they are so strong within us, they must be “bad.” Some of us believe that to follow God, we have to turn off our hearts and our will. And so we have these denied desires inside us, and we keep trying to numb them because they’re inconvenient and they’re messy and because we want to avoid disappointment at all costs.

Love this from John Eldredge’s Journey of Desire:

“Life provides any number of reasons and occasions to abandon desire. Certainly, one of the primary reasons is that it creates for us our deepest dilemmas. To desire something and not to have it—is this not the source of nearly all our pain and sorrow?”

If we make a habit out of stockpiling and hoarding in order to avoid having to face the dilemmas of desire, we miss significant moments in our becoming.

Of the above three – grieving, waiting, desiring – what’s the hardest for you and why?

For me, I think it’s got to be waiting. Delayed or deferred gratification is not something I do well. But I see how indulging my every whim can be one of the key things that keeps me from getting well.

What about you?

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portion control

Times of “soulmaking” are rarely ever convenient. Strike that. Never convenient. Never easy. Never comfortable. Our growth, transformation, becoming all come at a cost. The cost is: our own personal comfort.

I HATE that. Triple hate.

In Exodus 16, there’s a part of the Israelites story that speaks to our choice when we find ourselves in a transformational moment in our story.

God had brought the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, and just about 6 weeks into their exodus, they began to complain.

We don’t have enough food. At least in Egypt, we were well fed.

God said, OK. I’m going to provide food for you. Manna. Food is literally going to fall from the sky. I want you to go pick it up each day and only get enough food for that day. The next day, I will provide more. And on the 6th day, I will allow you to pick up enough food for the 6th and 7th days so that you can observe the Sabbath.

Do you trust me?

Even after God had rescued the Israelites from slavery. Even after he had literally rained food from the sky to meet their needs. They did not trust him.

They hoarded the manna. They took matters into their own hands and secured their own comfort because they did not trust that God’s provision was enough.

They didn’t trust that their time in the desert was more about soulmaking than mere physical sustenance.

If we hoard all this manna in our tents, then we won’t have to deal with the discomfort of relinquishing control. Yeah. We can get what we want without having to go through anything difficult.

And God says that’s not the way it works.

Escaping is short-term relief. It is not true healing. It is not the way we move toward our truest self.

The message is simple, really. Do I trust that God may have a great gift for me in this season in my journey, in this moment in my story? Or do I believe that I am better off numbing myself and escaping this place that he’s brought me to.

It’s easy to look at this story of the Israelites and say, what in the world is wrong with you and totally disassociate ourselves from similar behavior. Because we all do this. We all trust that we are better off escaping the place God has us by taking matters into our own hands.

How do we escape?

Through . . . Eating. Not eating. Indulgence. Deprivation. TV. Relationships. Work. Our children. Noise. Busyness. Sarcasm. Substances. Spending.

Escaping and avoiding and numbing don’t have to look like dirty little secrets. Some of us numb out by simply hiding behind our clean-cut religious answers, by staying up here in our heads and never letting life actually happen in our hearts.

I long for the soulmaking. But it’s hard stuff. So, today, I confess that I am prone to hoarding. I’m prone to panic. To stockpiling. To making sure I’ve got plenty of reserves in the storm shelter. Welcome to the human race. So, God, I need you to show me only what I need for today. And give me the courage to accept your portion. Amen.

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beginning again

Right after Luke and Lane were born—so this was early 2009—I read Kathleen Norris’ Acedia and Me, and it was one of those books that just sat with me like a dear friend. Right words; right time.

I wanted to share a passage that has been particularly helpful to me. Throughout the book Norris returns to the idea of “beginnings” and the importance, spiritual significance even, of starting over, repetition, every day – whether in marriage or writing or prayer or parenting . . . beginning again, today.

This is also, interestingly, one of the cornerstones of recovery. We don’t conquer our issues. There isn’t a quick fix. We are always recovering. We are never recovered.

Life isn’t accomplished. Life isn’t arrived at some day. We don’t graduate. We don’t get there. We simply return to the rhythm of grace, each and every day, and trust that the “beginning again” matters.

Norris writes:

“Because it impedes my illusory forward movement, having to begin again can feel like failure. As a writer, I must begin, again and again, at that most terrifying of places, the blank page. And as a person of faith I am always beginning again with prayer. I can never learn these things, once and for all, and master them. I can only perform them, set them aside, and then start over. Beginning requires that I remain willing to act, and to summon my hopes in the face of torpor. Above all, beginning again means rejecting that self-censurious spirit that will arise to scorn my efforts as futile” (184-185).

“We want life to have meaning and we want to be fulfilled and it is hard to accept that we find these things by starting where we are not where we would like to be” (190).

Today, we must begin again. In our relationships. In our prayer. In our vocations. In our self-care.

Today, we forgo the too-tight-jeans because we realize it’s unkind to squeeze ourselves into something so small.

Today, we write a blog post.

Today, we fold the clothes.

Today, we rest.

Today, we sit beside someone we love.

Today, we breathe prayers in God’s direction.

Today, we nurse a baby.

Today, we walk, hike, climb, run.

Today, we make a meal.

If life somehow feels more like plodding than anything right now, take heart, as I am, from Norris’ words. We start where we are . . . and we trust that somehow these small plodding moments hold a tiny trace of poetry.

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making amends

Recent, revolutionary epiphany:

I may not be able to control much at all in life.
But one thing I can control is how I treat myself.

This means taking better care of myself.

This means being a companion instead of a critic.

This means compassion instead of self-contempt.

This means treating myself as I would a friend—with grace, understanding, belief.

This means telling myself: “you’re doing great.”

This means developing a sustainable life rhythm instead of expecting something of myself that no human could ever accomplish . . . therefore piling on those feelings of failure.

This means treating myself with the same kind of treatment I’m desiring/expecting from others: respect, appreciation, kindness, mutuality. (Do we expect these things from others but don’t, in turn, offer them to ourselves?)

This means doing the work, every day, to get well. (We make a grave mistake if we believe that caring for ourselves is the equivalent of expecting nothing from ourselves.)

This means being honest with myself.

This means allowing myself the time necessary to do something I love. Even if it’s not “productive.”

This means being an adult (We aren’t a friend to ourselves by indulging our every whim; that is the kind of self-sabotage that keeps us perpetually adolescent.)

This means celebrating all the big things, but—more importantly—all the little things, too. Like . . . Spending quality time with a child. Keeping my cool when I’m tired. Finishing a writing assignment. Choosing and offering kindness. Taking the high road. Praying instead of ranting. Resting when needed. These are all cause for celebration, pat-on-the-back moments.

This means doing the work of making amends with myself. Forgiveness. Letting myself off the hook. (Sometimes the person we have the hardest time accepting/forgiving/loving is ourselves.)

It’s hard sometimes, isn’t it. Remembering to care for ourselves, to be on our own team, to believe in ourselves. But I’m wondering if it’s the one thing that just might change everything.

What is one “this means . . .” from the above list that stands out to you?

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witness

In 2010, I went with a group of women to a retreat in Nor Cal. Every year at this retreat, there’s a silence and solitude time on Saturday morning, and every year I go out to the beach for that time (see ch 27 “Dancing” from Found Art for additional footage).

I remember being in a place of total exhaustion that year. My kids had just turned one, and I was overwhelmed and overcommitted and I remember writing in my journal, there on the beach: “I just wish everyone would leave me alone.” Perhaps I was an eentsy-weentsy bit depressed.

After the hour-of-despair on the beach with my journal, we came back into the main meeting hall and were invited to debrief with our groups. When it was my turn, I decided to tell them what I had written in my journal. When I was done, all the girls were looking at me so compassionately and with such a sense of presence and love. But they were all just looking at me.

Finally, one of my friends spoke up. She said, “what if we all say to Leeana, ‘We see you. We hear you. We love you.’”

And so they did. They looked right at me as if they were shooting love beams into me, and they said, “Leeana, we see you. We hear you. And, we love you.”

You are not invisible. You are seen.

You are not voiceless. You are heard.

You are not alone. You are loved.

Later, that same friend sent me an email with her feelings about that moment. She said: “I was moved by your tears, and I just wanted you to know that you were seen and heard and loved. I didn’t want to fix anything, or have a witty, response, or talk about a time when I felt that same way. I just wanted to be a witness, and I wanted you to know that you weren’t alone in the midst of it.”

This mantra was so powerful that we decided to incorporate it into our weekly Growth Group meetings. Ritually, after each woman shares, she gets the “See, hear, love” treatment. And I’m telling you . . . that kind of being-witnessed is transformational. So simple. And yet, so profound.

We can really get this all wrong by going into advice-giving mode, which is just so so so easy to do. It’s SO hard to restrain ourselves because we are all far too clever and insightful and intuitive. But nothing shuts down authenticity and vulnerability faster than that need to jump in and begin doling out helpful suggestions.

I love this admonition from Elaine Hamilton’s Church on the Couch:

“It’s important to remember that advising without being invited is about taking care of oneself instead of the other person. Shifting to fix-it mode means you don’t have to sit with someone in their struggle. Instead of feeling sad or powerless or upset about what they are going through, you can focus on possible solutions. This keeps you safely in your own head and also gives you the false sense that you are doing something useful for the other person” (63).

Yowza. So good.

Seeing, hearing, loving each other. Being a witness. Game-changing.

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freeing you

Some life-changing words for you from Romans to take with you into your weekend. Is there a line in this passage that is particularly meaningful to you today?

Mine: THAT FATEFUL DILEMMA IS RESOLVED . . . NO LONGER HAVE TO LIVE UNDER A BLACK CLOUD . . . FREEING YOU . . . CALLED BY NAME

Read the passage through a few times. Choose your favorite line or few phrases. Repeat them as you breathe. Amazing what truth and oxygen can do for the soul. Have a great weekend. I believe in you.

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.

Romans 8:1-2, 29-30 (The Message)

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10 MORE things i’ve learned from anne lamott OR annie 202

What an absolute GAS that Anne Lamott herself found my original “10 things I’ve learned from Anne Lamott” post and linked to it a few times over the last month, calling it “Annie 101.” Love.

Man, if I didn’t already know that my self-esteem wasn’t going to arrive by email (or Facebook or Twitter), this would have me feeling really good about myself. Thankfully, I am much more grounded than all that.

I got to thinking about all the things I’ve learned (and the rest of you have clearly learned) from AL, so I thought it would be fun to post one more tribute to the one-and-only AL, and bring you 10 MORE things I’ve learned from Anne Lamott.

Here’s one last crash course in all things Annie. These are words to live by . . .

1. “radical self care” (a.k.a. rub lotion on your thighs) – one  of the ways we get through this tough world is by being there for ourselves in the same way we would a friend. Treating ourselves with dignity. Taking care of ourselves, even (or especially) the parts of ourselves that we’re somewhat down on (i.e. the thighs). Loving even the least of these. . . . just in time for summer.

2. it’s very rare that we’re all depressed at the exact same time” – there is always someone to call. We do not go it alone. Our job is to reach out and trust that someone will be well enough to help us through our moment.

3. “one-inch picture frame” – what I like about all of AL’s writing advice is that it’s actually life advice. Genius. Think of picking up a one-inch picture frame and writing just what you might be able to see, hypothetically, through that small frame. One scene. One conversation. One memory. In other words, don’t self-sabotage by trying to take on something so monumental it will never happen. You can finish an entire book, one tiny frame at a time. Similarly, we may not be able to determine an outcome. But if we can take one tiny step at a time, we can make a long journey little by little.

4. “you don’t have that kind of time” – this one always gets me. Probably because I’m so prone to worrying about things that really have no lasting consequence. When AL’s best friend was close to her death, they went shopping together for AL to find a skimpy dress to impress her bad boyfriend. She tried on a little number and asked her friend if it made her look big in the hips. And her friend, sitting in a wheelchair and wearing a wig, said: “Annie, you don’t have that kind of time.” How much time do we waste on things that DO NOT MATTER? And how much time do we spend on the things that do?

5. “FEAR = the Frantic Effort to Appear Recovered”— to the extent that we need to look like we’re doing well . . . to that extent, nothing will work. This hits me right between the eyes. How much effort goes into image-maintenance, affectation, appearance. Ugghhhhh. At the heart of this frenzy is fear.

6. “everything is grist for the mill” – all the pain, all the joy, all of life is raw material that can become something more. It’s not just the good stuff that has some sort of redeeming value. Everything is grist for the mill.

7. “you own what happened to you” – anything and everything that happened to you is yours. We are not required to protect others. We are allowed to tell our own stories. In their entirety. Period.

8. “the truth is always the answer” – AL reminds us over and over that good writing is about telling the truth. She also reminds us that the truth is rarely ever convenient. The good news. And the bad news. But the truth can change us and can help us find out who we are.

9. “if God hates all the same people you do, you’ve got a problem” – doesn’t this just nail you to the wall? How many times have we all prided ourselves on defining how close to God’s heart we are by the people we despise? AL uses the word self-aggrandizing to define this kind of behavior, and she’s right on. Many of us believe God himself/herself has cosigned on our exact way of seeing things. Perhaps a bit misguided.

10. “there is no shortcut” – you may need to write six pages to get to the one paragraph you were after all along, and there was no shortcut to getting to that one paragraph. You may have to write a whole book that is wrong in order to get the right one written (I’ve been there). Similarly, we cannot navigate our way through life perfectly, arriving at wholeness and healing by way of any kind of direct flight, express train, 5-easy-steps. There are going to have to be detours, missteps, even doubling back and trying all over again. This is life. There is no shortcut. That’s what makes a great story.

As I asked you in the first installment of “10 things:” which one of these do you most love and why?

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a worn path

Today is a tired day. You know those days when the mind is mud. That’s today. I have to fight off trailing into crazy-town on the tired days because the fatigue wants to trick me into believing I’ll always feel the way I do right this second. Muddy.

Additionally, I’m losing hair.

I’m in that amazing post-partum stage where about 70% of your hair decides to detach from your scalp. Super. After Luke and Lane were born, my hair fell out when we were driving from San Diego to Tahoe (were we idiots?) with our three month olds in the back seat and a breast pump plugged into the cigarette lighter. I was obsessively combing my hands through my hair, producing alarming amounts of broken-off blonde. At one point, the car was charged with the smell of breast milk and  flamin’ hot cheetos (Steve’s roadtrip food), and my black yoga pants looked like I had been holding an alpaca on my lap for hours.

I had never felt crazier.

In the face of this tired-day and my hair loss and my craziness, I am thinking of Eudora Welty’s gorgeous short story, “A Worn Path.” It is the story of elderly Phoenix Jackson walking to town to pick up the medicine her young grandson needs for a throat injury he sustained from swallowing lye some years back.

The story is a journeying story . . . trudging, progressing, facing impediments and condescension, danger, poverty, a failing mind, barbed wire.

It is also the story of persistence—of the culmination of a thousand small steps, over and over again—and the victorious rising from nothing to something (“phoenix”) that is possible when we somehow manage to keep believing. . . . even in the face of radical hair loss.

If today is a tired day for you, perhaps you might get your hands on a copy of “A Worn Path.” Consider: Trudging can be a revolutionary miracle if it’s what we can manage. Trudging can get us down the worn path to the altar of prayer, receiving God’s grace for today.

Here I am again, God. Crazy as ever. Walking the worn path of need. Walking the worn path of your love.

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