Monthly Archives: December 2012

you’ve been promised, we’ve been waiting

Baby Elle_0029bwpeachyO come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
***
Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You’ve been promised, we’ve been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child
***
Hope that you don’t mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long awaited Holy Stranger
Make yourself at home
Please make yourself at home
***
Bring your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
World now breaking Heaven’s silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world
***
Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born
***
So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world
***
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
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my birthday wish

IMG_1651_2Today is my 37th birthday, and here is my birthday wish: THAT I WOULD CONTINUE TO UNDERSTAND AND PRACTICE BEING A FRIEND TO MYSELF INSTEAD OF AN ENEMY.

This has been the single greatest revelation of the last year. Basically, there are so few things in life that I can fully control. One thing I can control is how I treat myself. Am I “for” myself, or am I against myself? Companion or critic? How I put radical self-acceptance into practice changes everything. It changes my parenting, my marriage, my relationships, my capacity for enjoyment, my writing, and my ability to participate in my own life.

I cannot walk out into the world courageously, I cannot parent authentically and wholly, I cannot write vulnerably, I cannot relate honestly . . . without first being there for myself as I would a friend. This is my birthday wish. That in this next year I would even more fully be on my own team.

What a poorly timed post, you may be thinking. With our most precious and gorgeous children killed in horrific violence. With the young life of a SEAL ended in Afghanistan. None of these losses recoverable. How can we take the time to be thinking about ourselves? How incredibly misguided.

I once heard Parker Palmer share about how deeply he wrestled with the violence and senseless loss of September 11. How he tried to understand some aspect of the tragedy. So he asked himself a very vulnerable question: What do I have in common with the terrorists of 9-11?

His answer? We are all heartbroken.

There isn’t a human on this planet who isn’t heartbroken in some way. Heartbrokenness accompanies our humanity. Part of the gig.

And if we rage against ourselves in that heartbrokenness, we will remain egregiously in our own way. Stuck. Impotent. Even worse, destructive. But if we can learn what it means to be there for ourselves as we would a friend, we might be able to get out of our own way long enough to change the world, or play on the floor with our kids, or get some words written, or just get up and move, or love someone.

So, in the face of such tragedy, this is precisely the kind of thing we need to be thinking about. Humanity’s heartbrokenness. Our own version of that heartbrokenness. And what we can do about it all. One of the most essential things we can do is take better care of ourselves. Stop punishing ourselves for being imperfect. Stop pushing ourselves to physical and emotional breaking points. Stop assuming the worst about ourselves. Stop believing we are flawed in some way. Stop buying into the lie that everyone else has the secret figured out and we didn’t get the memo. Stop trying to be God.

If we could begin to companion ourselves instead of being A#1 critics, we just might be able to get out there and make some kind of difference. We just might be able to be there for someone else. We just might be able to write something that matters. We just might be able to help someone feel heard, a little less alone. We just might be able to create a masterpiece.

My birthday wish is that I, and all of us, would better understand our own version of heartbrokenness and choose to be a companion to ourselves in that broken place. By God’s mercies-are-new-every-morning grace. And then — miraculously — see what kind of crazy magic might be made from such courageous living.

Believing in you. Believing in me.

All my love, Leeana

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christmas is God’s greatest poetry

Inching toward Christmas . . . beginning to hold space for what it all means.

I am awed by this today: God could have saved us in a single word. He could have saved us by a wave of his hand. He could have just simply “fixed” everything. And yet, he didn’t. Instead, he came to us. To sit with us when we are overwhelmed. To walk among us. To be near us. To step into our displacement and homelessness. To understand. To empathize. To listen.

Isn’t this what we long for most essentially in all our relationships? Not someone who will shove a solution at us, a quick fix. But, instead, someone who will sit with us. Someone who will say, “Yes, this is hard, and I’m with you.” Someone who will enter the messy fray, right by our side.

To me, Christmas is God’s greatest poetry. The single greatest act of radical rebellion: God putting on flesh. All for you. All for me.

I love these lines from Chesterton:

“A Child in foul stable,
Where beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home.”

Today — no matter what challenges we face, no matter what loss we mourn, no matter what hope we are struggling to hold on to, no matter what sense we are trying to make of it all, no matter how much time we’ve spent down there on the floor — may we remember that God so loved you and me that he sent his Son. Emmanuel. God with us. And may we take comfort in the fact that He has not loved us from a distance. But, instead, chose to come sit down on the floor right next to us. Amen.

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10 decor ideas for your holiday table and beyond

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Getting ready for Christmas brings out my creative side. I love putting special touches on my tree and table and I LOVE having people at our house, especially this time of year. But with my birthday, Steve’s birthday, and the twins’ birthday all in the month of December — let’s not forget about baby Jesus’ birthday, too — the month can begin to feel like it’s busting open at the seams.

I thought I’d switch blog gears for just today and assemble some ideas that have really worked for me over the years to create a great looking table, meaningful gathering, and not kill the budget or my sanity. Perhaps this could be a resource for you as you create an inviting space for yourself and those you love.

1. Empty wine bottles as water pitchers: Soak your empty wine bottle in hot water to remove the label (might need a dash of goo-gone to completely remove) and now you have a found water pitcher. For Thanksgiving, I put 4 down the center of my long table, and they added that great green recycled glass feel as well as ample water for a large table. Easy. Great look. Inexpensive. I keep six on hand all the time.

2. A set of black and white dishes: Year round, black and white always works. Classic. Goes with everything. I have an eclectic set of black and white dishes that I’ve collected over time. Target, Home Goods, Marshalls. Nothing expensive. I just pick up pieces when I find ones I like. Stuff on clearance, usually. I can add different color accents depending on the season to make them occassion-specific. Love.

3. Manilla tags: I always have these on hand. Always. I buy them in bulk at Staples (available in stores and online in various sizes). I get the pre-strung ones. I can use these as gift tags, place cards, mini menus at each place, food/drink labels (i.e. tie one to each of your wine bottles turned water pitcher with “water” written on it), etc. They are just hugely handy and add a nice texture to your table.

4. Butcher paper: Again, keep on hand. You can buy a HUGE roll of butcher paper at Home Depot near the paint section. I think it’s like $8. It’s got that great brown paper bag, recycled paper look. Use it as a runner down the center of your table and then write each person’s name above their place setting with a Sharpie. Run it down each side of your table for a cocktail party, place food on top, and then write food descriptions by each dish. Adds an unexpected and accessible dimension to the table.

5. A set of milk glass for serving dishes: My mom collected milk glass and passed on a beautiful set to me. Just pieces she picked up from random antique stores, garage sales, etc over the years. Little pitchers. Footed compotes. Trifle dishes. All different sizes and shape. Nothing really matches, and yet, because it’s all white, it all matches. I use these pieces all the time: to serve food, to contain cutlery, to house candles, to serve drinks. You can’t go wrong with a random set of milk glass. Fun to collect something practical and useful over the years, too.

6. Gold paper plates, plastic cutlery, and cups: Always, always, always have a set of gold (or silver) paper plates, plastic cutlery, and cups on hand. Festive, matches anything, and ready to be used whenever needed. I keep dessert size and luncheon size plates in stock. Super cheap at Party City or online at OrientalTrading.com. Works perfectly for a cocktail party, dessert and coffee after a sit down dinner, or appetizers. Having it on hand = no stress.

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7. Multipurpose Glasses: Remember these? Love. They are Bahraini tea glasses, but they reminded me of the European version of a wine glass. Small. Stemless. Almost like a juice glass. I found these at my local Mega Mart for literally less than 25 cents each, so I bought a big bunch of them. I can use them as water glasses, cocktail glasses, wine glasses, juice glasses, champagne flutes. You name it. They work. They can even serve as votives with a tea light inside. Very functional. I keep them stacked in a wire basket that I can pull out anytime.

8. Decorative paper napkins: Again, I always have a collection of these stashed. Not necessarily overtly seasonal. Instead I focus on colors I like. I also focus on napkins I can use beyond a specific holiday. Loved the turquoise, gold, and green peacock napkins in the picture above for Thanksgiving. Harvest-y, fall colors with a twist. I always use paper napkins because they add a pop of color, texture, decoration, and they make clean up EASY! No laundry. No ironing. Black and white paper napkins are always great to have for the same reason that black and white dishes are great to have. Go with anything! B/W stripes, polka dots, or damask are great choices to mix and match. Initialed paper napkins are always fun too!

9. Juxtapose natural and fancy: There’s something very soulful about seeing very humble materials right next to fancy materials. Butcher paper and mercury glass. Old wood and crystal. Branches and gold. This is probably one of the things that makes a table most beautiful to me and why a Christmas tree is so beautiful. You take something humble and natural and you put gorgeous lights and glass ornamentation on it. Such a beautiful contrast. Pine cones. Rocks. Shells. Leaves. Take something very natural and then put something knock-your-socks-off fancy right next to it. And then add a little candle light. Magic.

10. Gather what you love: I’m a big believer in the philosophy that if you gather things you love, inevitably they will somehow all work together. Eclectic. Personal. Unique. Don’t be afraid to mix and match, layer texture, grab things from around your house to make an interesting centerpiece. If you love it, use it! It will all work out. I love it when a table looks like found art right before my eyes!

I know this post is a bit of a departure, but I had fun with it. Hope you did too. Creativity is so important! Perhaps your holiday decorating/entertaining could be a fun expression of your unique point of view!! There’s something so magical about creating a meaningful and personal space in your home!! ENJOY!

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what the adventures are teaching me

You could say Steve and I have been on some adventures. Wars. Writing. Twins. Overseas moves. Three babies in three years (one of whom was born in the Middle East). Living with my mother (that definitely qualifies). And, very recently, we learned that we’ll be headed back to San Diego in the New Year — the next adventure awaits!

Sometimes life feels mundane, and we long for an adventure. Sometimes we’re on an adventure, and we long to get off the ride.

I’ve been reflecting on the confluence of my humanity and life’s adventures, and I thought I’d share with you 5 things the adventures are teaching me:

1. Adventure often comes to us through the side door. In other words, I’m often waiting for life to happen in a certain way, things to unfold according to a certain set of plans, and some of the very best stuff that has ever happened came through the side door when I only had eyes for the big front door that I was just SURE was the only way forward. The side door is unpredictable and uncontrollable. And yet, the kind of stuff that comes through the side door (stuff we can’t manufacture, manipulate, control) is usually the very best stuff.

2. Adventure is rarely ever comfortable. This is what I wish they would’ve taught us in college. We longed for these breathless, breakneck lives— movie-worthy—and then we realized that much of life is not nearly as romantic as we had hoped it would be. In fact, even the adventures have a major facet of discomfort. For example, it’s amazing to be living in the Middle East. A real, certifiable adventure. And, as I write, there is a loud banging behind my head as the construction crew next door completes their 6th month of demolition on a house that—for the life of me—I swear was as completely demolished as a house could be. Power tools at 6:30 this morning. Dumpsters parked directly in front of our garage so we can’t back our car out. Welcome to the adventure.

3. Adventure can drive you apart or bring you together. Steve and I make it a point to try to be on each other’s team. Sometimes, in the midst of an adventure, you have to be reminded of this fact. For example, when you’re on your 24th hour of travel with three children, three and under, you have to remember that your spouse is actually your teammate and not your worst nightmare. For example.

4. Adventure helps us tell a better story. It’s incredible to tell a better story, and it’s also terrifying. My dad went to high school with a guy who’s dad was the town butcher. At their 25 year high school reunion, my dad asked the guy what he’d been doing all these years. “Cuttin’ meat,” my dad’s friend replied. This was told as a cautionary tale when we were growing up. My dad said that if we ever spent our lives “cuttin’ meat,” he was going to personally whoop us. An ironic update to this story is that the “cuttin’ meat” guy is now a millionaire because he got into some kind of mayhaw jelly business, but the point of the story was to go in search of some life treasure. Go on a voyage, a journey. Seek adventure. BUT, cuttin’ meat is a lot more comfortable. Uprooting, risking, stepping out . . . all very vulnerable and often costly. It’s terrifying what we might have to give up to really live an adventure. If we think it’s going to be all power ballads and great hair, we’re crazy.

5. Adventure can expose your deepest thoughts about yourself. Ugghhhh, how utterly inconvenient. You might find out that you’re not as brave as you thought you were. Or, perhaps, just the opposite, that you’re much braver than you ever imagined. Or, most likely, that you’re both brave and not brave. And it’s ok. You’re still standing. You might come to realize that you are incredibly hard on yourself. Far harder than necessary. You might come to realize that you always give yourself an out or an excuse and don’t take responsibility for your life and that’s got to change. You might find out that you have no idea how to really be with yourself. You have no idea how you really feel, what you really want. And, you might also find out what has been the greatest desire of your soul all along. What has always been down there and needed some breathing room to bloom.

Lastly, if you find yourself in the middle of an “adventure” that feels more like a catastrophe or mudslide or gigantic meteor headed for earth, just remember, things won’t always feel the way they do right now. And in the meantime, breathe. Also, take a nap if possible. Or, my personal favorite, get a pedicure.

Believing in you,

Leeana

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november in pictures

Aren’t these months just careening by? Whoa. November was particularly special because we hosted my dad and stepmom here for two weeks. Such a good mix of scouting the island and also sitting in front of the TV watching football together. Always such a gift to get to show people our lives here.

Here’s our month in a few pictures . . .

IMG_1587 One of the things I so enjoyed doing with my dad and stepmom was doing a driving tour around Bahrain. This ancient mosque just WOW-ed me.

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These old doors from the Sheik Isa House were also a WOW moment. If you ever get to Bahrain, the Sheik Isa House is a must see.

IMG_1437The Bahrain Fort is another stunner. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site (2005), archeological digs at the fort have produced extraordinary finds, some dating back to 2300 BC. For example . . .

IMG_1436This piece of pottery was recovered at the fort. We toured the small but beautiful museum that’s next to the fort and were just awed by the history contained in one location.

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As we were leaving the fort, I captured these two young women having a chat. Love.

IMG_1401We also braved the sights and scents of the fish market. If you’ve read Found Art, this is the local market I was afraid to go into right next door to our first house (Capital Centre). What an amazing experience to walk through that market with Elle in a front pack, toothless fisherman flirting with her, and seeing every kind of googley-eyed fish you can imagine. We picked up some amazing shrimp and had ourselves a shrimp boil! Never had so much fun walking around on fish guts.

IMG_1532On Thanksgiving, we welcomed a house full. Around 30 or so, I think. Some families who are stationed here, some guys who are working here unaccompanied (families back in the States), and even a couple guys from the Stennis, which came into port here in Bahrain. A fabulous crowd. Steve smoked a turkey — divine — and we started a new tradition of s’mores around the fire pit after dinner. So thankful for our circle here.

IMG_1549 Here’s my crazy crew on Thanksgiving Day!

IMG_1563The day after Thanksgiving we went to the beach at Amwaj and Elle had her first swim in the Gulf with Daddy. The weather and water were absolutely perfect. My dad and Steve did a little fishing as well. A lazy day of sun and sand. Delish!

IMG_1579November, and my dad and stepmom’s trip, ended with traditional Ethopian coffee service on our living room floor. Our beyond-amazing nanny, Hawi, is from Ethopia and offered to make coffee for all of us. Um, yes please. I watched her burn the beans on the stovetop, grind them up, and then make the coffee in a pot right on the stove top. Very, very strong. Very, very delicious. Even Luke and Lane tried it with lots of sugar and heavy cream. One of the things I will miss most about Bahrain is Hawi. She has been a light in our lives here. And what a tender way to get to know her and her culture better. Loved this moment.

How about you? What was a highlight from your November?

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