Monthly Archives: August 2012

stuck in the middle

In a bit of a “middle” place on a couple things in life right now. Trying to get L&L’s preschool situation sorted out for the fall. Still working on this proposal that is close but just not quite there yet. Moments of discouragement and then resolve and then fatigue and then doubt and then desire are all tangled and threaded together. Because it’s never perfectly clean, is it? Never perfectly clear.

And that’s when I thought about that part in Ecclesiastes 3 where it says:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Here’s what I take that to mean . . . It makes sense that these middle moments of life baffle me because I am not God and I can’t see the end from here. I can’t figure it out totally. I can’t force it to fit. I can’t make it happen.

So what can I do, I think. I can trust.

But, sometimes, I’m not totally sure what I’m trusting in. Am I trusting that God will work it all out? Am I trusting that everything will be fine? Well, you and I both know it doesn’t always work out and things aren’t always fine.

Am I trusting that something beautiful will arrive even if I don’t recognize it as beauty on first glance? Yes, I think that’s one thing I’m trusting. Am I trusting that God will be near me even if it all goes to hell? Yes, I think that’s one thing I’m trusting. Am I trusting that God loves me deeply NO MATTER WHAT? Yes, I’m trying to trust that. Am I trusting that he sees me, that I am never invisible to him? Yes, I’m trusting that, too.

So, then, here in this middle place, I acknowledge that I do not see the end from the beginning. The resolution is not currently apparent to me. And I can’t manipulate, manufacture, or contrive a resolution. And I do not know how beauty is going to arrive.

Perhaps you feel this very same way today. You are stuck in a middle . . . not totally at the beginning of something, but definitely not sure how it’s all going to resolve either. And there’s a long stretch of open road ahead of you. And it can feel baffling. Tiring.

Let’s hold this hope for each other: that the beauty will arrive. And that we will treat ourselves with grace while we wait for the beauty. And that we will let God sit with us – right here in this place — in the meantime.

Loving you, Leeana

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full tilt living

And we’re back . . . just like that . . . well not exactly just like that . . . if I have the count right, it was 11 flights total:

Bahrain to London
London to Miami
Ft Lauderdale to Denver
Denver to San Diego
San Diego to Reno
Reno to Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City to Minneapolis
Minneapolis to Saginaw/Midland/Bay City
Saginaw/Midland/Bay City to Chicago
Chicago to Frankfurt
Frankfurt to Bahrain via Doha

As my Luke said, “Wow, Mom, traveling sure is a lot of hard work.” Exactly. But I wouldn’t change it. We lived so much life on this vacay.

I have a particular memory of a storm coming in on the lake during our week in Michigan. Once the lightening and thunder had passed, Steve felt like it would be a great idea to head out onto the lake in the whaler. In. the. driving. rain. Sure! Why not.

Of course, Luke and Lane weren’t going to be left behind. Neither was cousin Fynn. So Steve and I hoisted the kids up and waded out to the boat, threw the kids in, and jumped aboard.

We raced around that lake with the rain hitting our faces like little bits of gravel. You know that feeling? And we were all just completely soaked . . . despite a few pieces of tried and true REI gear. I clutched both my kids on my lap – one on each knee – proud of their adventurous spirit. Steve skimmed us over the water and we screamed and pulled our hoods down as best we could.

Full-tilt life. A little bit scary. Mostly crazy. A wild ride. Not totally comfortable. Very little control. Exhilirating. Holding my getting-big kids tightly to me. Racing. My husband pushing us to get out and live. So very grateful to feel my heart beating in my chest.

What was one such moment for you this summer?

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another secret

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One more secret from Deer Lake (apparently, d-e-e-r is the correct spelling of this Lake . . . ugghh . . . details). In my last post, I whispered a secret to you about the power of beauty. How it sneaks up on us and heals us. Like an elixir. And how sometimes we can go long stretches without really seeing, and then all of a sudden we are awed — just entirely awed — by the color green, or the sunset, or the storm coming in over the Lake.

I forgot how healing a beautiful red barn in a green field can be. Or how a summer rain can help you breathe again. Or how driving under a canopy of green trees — literally making your way through a tunnel of the most luscious leaves — can give you back a bit of hope.

Today, I want to whisper one more little secret in your ear . . . something that also struck me like the beauty thing did . . . right there on Deer Lake. Here it is: PLAY.

We took Uncle Paul’s whaler out for a turn on the lake and Steve hooked up a huge inner tube to the back. I jumped in, gave him the thumbs up, and I promptly whipped around the choppy water, laughing my head off.

Back on shore, the baby was napping, Luke was mesmerized by Grammie, and Lane was in the whaler cheering me on. Somehow in this magic moment, all the kids were accounted for and I was skimming off the water in a huge inner tube — body jiggling — giggling and giggling and giggling. And it was like a match was struck and a candle was lit in my heart. Warm, white light. A vigil for all things whimsical.

Sometimes life becomes like a too-tight belt, a stuffy suit, a girdle. We’re holding it all together, but we’re not enjoying it. Do me a favor: take a ride on an inner tube. Turn on the sprinklers in the front yard and run. Let your body jiggle a bit. Laugh your head off. It’s like life will begin again.

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a secret

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Since the stars have aligned and all three of my kids are sleeping simultaneously, I thought I’d tell you a secret. Here it is: beauty can heal you. That’s it.

We are still on the “Tankersley Summer Tour 2012” and our last stop finds us in Michigan with a view out to Dear Lake. Fresh off the splendor of Lake Tahoe and its surroundings, I’m undone by the green green green of both our last stop and our current setting. Un. Done.

If you are hurting today. Or just plain tired. Or stressed. Or sad. Or flat out over it. Go chase some beauty. After the beige of desert living, I’ve found myself in tears more than once on this trip . . . just in awe of the color green. Just in awe of the sunset over the water. Just in awe of time with those I love. Just in awe of the smallest moment that has brought beauty in.

Something I want to remind you of because I have to remind myself just about every other second: Beauty is not glamour. Those are two different things. I’m not talking about glamour here. The secret is not glamour. The secret is beauty. Surprising, un-manufactured, never-glitzy, plain old, majestic beauty.

I needed dose after dose of it . . . more than I realized. Made me wonder if maybe you do too. So, the secret I’m whispering in your ear right now is this: go. find. something. beautiful. and. open. your. eyes. and. breathe. You’re ingesting soul medicine.

With love upon love, Leeana

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my reflections on erin

Loved the time we spent with Erin Grayson this week. I wish you could meet her in person. So gentle and yet so fierce. Love.

As I reflect back on everything she shared with us, I think one of the things that stands out to me is her discussion around career, marriage, kids, and her husband’s career. Investing in a vocation and supporting your spouse while he or she does the same can be a complicated endeavor. Especially when kids enter the picture.

I loved how she said, “I never expected that our ambitions would conflict rather than complement.” Isn’t that true. You set out with nothing but support and love for the other person, but the practical realities of time-constraints, money-constraints, relocations (in Erin’s case), and the nurturing of the kids all set in, and it can be a real puzzle.

I really appreciate how Erin and Tony have approached this with a sense of mutuality, and I can see how that’s not just an ideal in their marriage but it’s playing out in reality.

When Erin talked about her brother’s death, I was struck by how much she found and saw God during that time. It’s so counterintuitive, but I’m learning that when we are at our least—when we are reduced to our sheer human need—that is when we have the opportunity to experience God most. I love how that came through in Erin’s experience . . . God showing up with her knitting needles.

Oh, and absolutely loved this too: “Faith allows me to keep moving forward in hope of ‘what can be.’”

Thank you, Erin, for giving us the gift of your journey . . . all in the midst of an international move, seminary, and settling three kids into a new place. God’s grace go before you, friend. Keep the faith!

Are you in need of faith today? Needing to believe in “what can be?” What is helping you keep the faith?

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and the winner is . . .

Thanks to all those who left a comment for our darling “Hello Dear” giveaway from fabulous San Diego based artist, Kelli Murray Larson!

Our winner is . . . “Laurie” . . . Laurie, please email me at leeana (at) gypsyink (dot) com, and I will get you your masterpiece!

Also, I haven’t heard from our previous giveaway (the Travel Print) winner, Kathy. Kathy, if you’re out there, please email me! If I don’t hear from you by Friday, I’ll announce a new winner.

Love to you all!

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“the presence of God,” erin part 2

On Sunday, I introduced you to Erin Grayson, a friend I met here in Bahrain and the third interviewee in our “Women in the Trenches” series. She is currently back in the States beginning preparations to finish her MDiv at Yale, but I snagged her before she left Bahrain to get her perspective on all different aspects of life.

This is the continuation of my conversation with Erin—beautiful thoughts on the Church, writing, and her own experience with grief. You will see here why I believe Erin to be such a rich soul.

Enjoy . . .

Give us your thoughts on the current state of the Church and where you believe things need to go in order for the Church to be effective? It makes me sad to see such division within the Church. It’s one thing to disagree, but when it halts meaningful discussion and civil discourse and instead breeds disdain for each other, we’ve got a real problem.

Evidence of internal rifts damage the perception from the outside.  When the Church looks more like a flawed institution wrought with in-fighting than a refuge from the storm, then it’s really no wonder why young people turn away from it.

To be effective, the Church needs to practice, not just preach, the love of Jesus.  A love that transcends reason, that results in humble servitude to others, and that is available to us all regardless of any human distinction.  It’s a love that unifies us in hope and peace, not division and spite.

I have quite a few writers who follow this blog, so let’s talk writing. What is your relationship with writing? What do you hope to do with your writing? I love this question because I love to write, but never guessed anyone might be interested in what I have to say.  Writing has been a hobby, an emotional outlet and a creative expression for as long as I can remember.  I’ve kept journals, dabbled in poetry (not successfully), reported for school newspapers, and written more academic papers than I can remember.

I’ve always been personally fulfilled by it, but it’s just been recently that I realized that maybe my writing shouldn’t just be for me.  I started a blog when I moved to Bahrain, mostly just to keep in touch with family and friends, but it has morphed into something more than that.  People are reading it and responding to it and it has opened doors for me that I never knew were even there to be opened.

I feel like I’m standing at the threshold of place full of possibilities–for me personally, but also for my ministry.  I will continue writing whether I ever become a published author or not.  I’m hopeful that I can use my passion for it in a way that serves others.

You’ve told me a bit about the loss of your brother. Would you be willing to talk about that and how you have walked through such unthinkable tragedy and grief? How have you reconciled your loss with your faith? I didn’t really know much about the shadowy, hollow places of grief until my brother died five years ago.  The phone call came in the early morning on Saturday, the third of February and as I heard the news, my first thought was, “there must be some mistake.”  But just as that thought crossed my mind, I realized that it couldn’t be a mistake—my youngest brother Jonathan was dead at 25.

The days that followed were a blur, filled with the task of making necessary arrangements, managing inconsolable grief, and bearing the sheer burden of questions that may never be answered–the “how” and even more persistent, the “why.”

In the midst of the turmoil, my faith sustained me.  It was all I had as witness to and a victim of grief’s primal and hostile grip.  The only way I could free myself was to reach out toward the hope of what I could not see, but what I knew was there.  It was like feeling my way around in a very dark, but familiar room.

It was hard to work with the impediment of grief, but just accepting it felt strangely comforting.  It drew me closer to God, deepening my relationship with Him.  In my raw state, I wasn’t afraid to ask questions and I wasn’t afraid to express the range of emotions I experienced.  I wasn’t afraid to lean totally on Him when my understanding failed.

Maybe my grief was so focused that I was less distracted by anything else and it allowed me to really feel the presence of God.  I saw Him in the loving kindness of others–in the elderly woman from church who turned up unexpectedly to sit beside me, quietly teaching me how to knit.  I heard Him in the stories that unfamiliar faces told of my brother and his unfailing goodwill.

My faith was strengthened as I grieved my brother’s passing.  I’ll never understand why he had to go, but the faith that sustained me in grief is the same faith that brings me hope that he is where he needs to be, full of peace and completely loved.

***

Thank you, Erin, for your vulnerability and willingness to talk about something so deeply personal.

What is one thing Erin shared that intersected with your life today?

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“what can be,” erin part 1

We’re BACK to our “Women in the Trenches” series this week with Erin Grayson. Erin is a new friend whom I met here in Bahrain. A fellow Navy wife. A God-seeker. A deep thinker. A kind soul.

I connected with Erin immediately, and I invited her to participate in our interview series because I wanted you to hear from this woman whose life has taken her all over the world and now . . . to seminary. Very interesting.

Erin has a very thoughtful blog called “Notes from the Road” that you’re sure to love. One of her recent posts reflects on time she spent in France, her passion for the French language, and soaking up life overseas. It’s a beauty.

Here’s Erin . . .

Age? How long have you been married? Names of children and ages? Where do you live? What’s great about where you live? I’m in my late thirties and have been married for almost fifteen years, which is sometimes hard for me to believe.  My husband Tony and I currently live in Bahrain with our three lovely children:  Aiden, age12; Corinne, age 9; and Caleb, age 6.  We’ve lived in Bahrain for the past eighteen months, and are in the throes of moving yet again, this time back to the States.  Our experience in Bahrain has been richer than we ever expected it to be and we will leave this place better people than when we arrived.  With that said, we’re all looking forward to a fresh start in Connecticut.

What is your job and why were you drawn to that particular field? Besides being a mother and a wife, I spend my time teaching (mostly French and Sunday School), writing (mostly blogging), and studying (mostly theology).

You’ll be continuing your education at Yale in the fall. What degree are you pursuing? What do you hope to do after school? What are you most excited about? What are you most scared about? Near the end of August, I will continue working on my Master’s of Divinity (MDiv), which is also called “seminary.”  I’ll be working with my church (Presbyterian Church USA) to become an ordained minister near the completion of my academic studies at Yale.

To be honest, I don’t yet have a plan for what I will do after I finish my MDiv.  I’m drawn to teaching and writing, so often I find myself daydreaming about continuing in academia, working toward a Ph.D., but I’m open to other ways to serve. I’m hopeful that the path will become clear as I continue the journey—it’s on the horizon, I’m just not there yet.

I’m both excited AND scared about that whole process.  Just looking at the course catalog sends shivers of excitement down my spine, but sometimes I wonder if it’s just my nervous energy that’s making me shudder.  If I let myself, I can spend a ridiculous amount of time worrying about how the details will fall into place.

Tell us about pursuing your own career in the midst of your husband’s very demanding career. How have you two navigated this, especially with children? It’s funny because when Tony and I got married, we were so young and idealistic, that we didn’t put much thought into how our lives might practically look in the future.  We were in love, and at the time, that’s all that mattered–the details would surely work themselves out.  Right?

Wrong.  While there are certainly advantages to relinquishing control of every detail of life, there are an equal amount of advantages to clarifying expectations.  I fully supported Tony’s career ambitions, but I never realized that by doing so, in some ways I had to sacrifice my own.  His career required him to move every couple of years, but in order to build mine I needed to stay in one place long enough to establish a reputation.  I never expected that our ambitions would conflict rather than complement.

It was difficult because in a sense we had to choose between whether he should continue on his career path or whether I should continue mine, but we probably couldn’t do both without some major adjusting and maybe even living in different places.  We kind of ended up where we started and that was that we loved each other too much to separate for the sake of our careers.

We knew we wanted a family and practically speaking, Tony’s income was enough to provide, so we agreed that I would put my career on hold to stay home and raise our children.  I’ve never regretted that decision for a moment and although it seems like a “traditional” arrangement, it was born out of love and respect (for each other and our children) not in deference to any social norms or religious expectations.

I won’t claim that we always get it right or that I don’t have to remind him (or him me) that this is teamwork.  Now that our children are school-aged, I will cultivate my career.  Tony has been the biggest supporter of my endeavors and has been fair and flexible, just as I hope I’ve been with him.  It will be hard, but if we start at a place of mutual respect (and are clear about our expectations), I’m confident that it can work.

How do you find time to make it all happen? What do you let slide? What do you focus on? I recently wrote a blog post about the benefits of “multi-tasking,” but I wasn’t advocating the definition we usually associate with that term.  Instead, I was talking about how I can integrate my tasks, rather than compartmentalize them.

So, for example, if I have a paper to write, why interrupt the conversation I’m having with my child when it could be the inspiration?  Letting “tasks” overlap is key, and a good reminder that life is interconnected.  It would be nearly impossible to find the time to tackle everything independently anyway–something or someone would always lose out.

Of course it won’t always work out so neatly, so to me it’s all about striving for balance, being kind to myself when I fail, and not being afraid to say“I’m sorry, I don’t always get it right.” I make an effort to manage my time wisely, but I’ve made a pact with myself that human relationships take priority.  I will always choose my family first over anything else and not feel guilty about it.

That means that sometimes you may find mountains of laundry in my washroom or occasionally see my candle burning during the wee hours of the night as I catch up on my reading.  So far, I haven’t met the elusive “she-who-has-it-all-together” to ask for advice.  I’m beginning to think that maybe she’s an urban myth…

Navy life is one transition after another. How do you survive the transitions? How do you help your kids survive? I’ll be honest, sometimes I complain (loudly) about living such a transient life.  There are times when I just don’t feel like packing up and moving on, but what I’ve learned is that I’ll always be pleasantly surprised by the new place, even if I sorely miss the last one.

Moving frequently offers me fresh perspective and inspiration—not to mention a chance to meet new friends.  I aim to instill that line of thinking in my children, but I try to allow space for the not-so-glamourous aspects of moving too.  Sometimes it stinks to be the new person, to feel like an outsider, to muster the energy to carve out a new life, to miss the security of my old one.

If I can somehow manage to find a comfortable middle place—one that celebrates “what is” and laments “what was”—then I’ve achieved a healthy balance.  Faith allows me to keep moving forward in hope of “what can be.”  To be honest, that’s what sustains me in the midst of transition.

What fills you up or inspires you? I’m a romantic at heart; beauty in all its forms inspires me in one way or another.  A good book, a cup of tea, a stirring piece of music, a simple haiku, a long soak in a warm bath, a funny quote, a quiet walk in the woods, a story of incredible kindness…

Where do you find God? Sounds cliche, but I find God in creation–in the people who inspire me, in the awesome and terrifying beauty of nature.  Sacred spaces aren’t just the ones that we designate as such–they can be grand cathedrals or a little patch of earth on our rooftop garden.  God is anywhere and everywhere that I feel hope.

What is one product or item you use all the time that you love and think everyone should know about? Ok, don’t laugh, but I happen to think that everyone should own Mr Clean Erasers.  They really work like magic when it comes to removing crayon drawings on walls and floors and they even make a good nail buffer in a pinch! ;)

What is your favorite book and why? I’m an avid reader, so this is such a hard question for me to answer because I can’t commit to just one, single favorite.  I have several for different reasons.  Overall though, if I had to pick one book that had an impact me at a young age and whose message has stuck with me all of these years, I would say “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.”  It taught me that it’s ok to be a critical thinker, to question convention, to challenge the status quo, but that swinging the pendulum too far in the opposite direction is just as dangerous as accepting things at face value.  It also taught me never to look for perfection in humanity because it doesn’t exist.

What is your one wardrobe staple? A string of pearls.  They’re very versatile–dressed up, they’re classy; but with a pair of jeans and a tee shirt, they’re sassy.  They’re simple, natural, and make me feel like a million bucks without trying too hard!

***

Thank you, Erin!

What is one thought that stands out to you from Erin’s interview?

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