Yearly Archives: 2013

riches stored in secret places

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I just opened my mom ‘s Christmas card and letter. In it she includes one of my all-time favorite lines from Tolkein, taken from The Fellowship of the Ring. In fact, it appears in one of the chapters of my new book. Funny how she and I are both drawn to these words . . . Tolkein writes:

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

The great mystery of Christ and Christmas is that the entire story, the entire Kingdom of God, shatters our conventions and our assumptions and invites us to consider how truth and beauty and hope and meaning might be found in the least expected places, ushered in by the least expected people.

On the surface, this is difficult for those of us who would prefer a bit more control over, for example, everything.

But I do want to create space for Christ to come to me this Christmas. To surprise me. To transcend my conventions and assumptions and control. To help me see past the glitter to the gold. Even if that requires me to rethink how I’m going about things.

I want to race around, trying to secure my own meaning and contentment. Christ invites me to LET GO. I don’t need to fix. I don’t need to fixate. I don’t need to add one more thing to my day or week that I believe will help me secure some kind of deeper Christmas experience. Instead, LET GO. So that I have room in my hands and my heart for his “other” way — the way to peace that I could never carve out for myself.

No matter where today finds you — physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, mentally, relationally — I can assure you that Christ wants to come to you this Christmas. I can assure you that he wants to surprise you with his love and grace. I can assure you that he wants to settle your heart and soul in unexpected ways.

God, in this next week, please help us breathe. Help us LET GO of managing other people, trying to control, trying to make things perfect, trying, trying, trying. We want to exhale the glitter and inhale the gold. Amen.

“I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Isaiah 45:3

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I heard the bells

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Yesterday, I attended a “Christmas Collective” hosted by my church at the San Diego Convention Center. The event included a marketplace for the common good and an extraordinary concert that has left me so moved, I’m still thinking about it this morning. 24 hours later.

For me, a very personal part of this experience was seeing two women who I am very close to up on the stage. One singing. One dancing. These two women are in My Group, and we have been a part of each other’s stories, leaning into our creative callings, leaning into the artist within, for years.

Last week I watched the most recent Project Runway Allstars episode and when Jeffrey was eliminated, he said something simple and profound. “Here’s my advice to all artists: work on finding who you are.”

These two beautiful women have been in the trenches of finding who they are and have inspired me on that same path. I know what it took for each of them to be up on that stage yesterday—five very small children between them, two of whom are still nursing, just months old. I know the insane amount of logistics they had to juggle in order to get out the door and get to rehearsals and be there yesterday in great glory.

And here’s the thing: they were spectacular. In a transcendent, holy way. They brought Christmas—which can remain a date, an occasion, an event—to our souls. The message became inescapable.

Wanida played the piano and sang “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” which was originally a poem by Longfellow. He wrote it after losing his beloved wife in a fire and hearing the news of his son’s injury in the Civil War. He wrote because he could finally hear hope ringing through the air, even after all that he had lost. Even after.

Wanida sang,

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play

and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Erica danced these words into our eyes and onto our hearts. She brought them alive with longing—the intersection of hope and heartache. She made us feel our own “even afters.” Wanida, continued, building:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.

In the 1800s, when Longfellow and the other “Fireside Poets” were writing, the world was on its ear with disease and war. My mom sent me the beautiful poem by Longfellow’s contemporary, Lowell, “The First Snowfall” telling the story of the first snow after a father had buried his daughter, the “noiseless work of the sky” covering her grave so they could no longer see it. Loss shrouded in beauty.

These were the times.

Not unlike the world 2000 years ago. Not unlike the world today.

Needing something to come to us and change the story, to show us how beauty could possibly come from ashes, to show us who we really are.

I was reminded—through gorgeous movements of artistry—that we still sing today, as all hearts and souls have sung since time began: “O come, O come, Emanuel.” We need you in this very moment today as every heart has always needed you. We need your exquisite beauty.

I am struck, even in this moment, by the power of art and beauty to heal us. How words and melodies and movements can awaken a deeper part of us. Longfellow and Lowell, Wanida and Erica. You and me, too. Allowing ourselves to step out of our heads and into our hearts.  Allowing whatever we’re carrying to be met with the transcendent, “deep calling to deep,” and believing that God’s story is THE story of unending redemption.

Let’s let the beauty in. Even just a tiny bit. And then a bit more. Letting Christ come to us. Allowing our ears and eyes to be awakened, so that we might hear the bells.

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

Amen.

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God is bigger than . . .

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Last Sunday, we arrived at church and Luke had no shoes. I am the mother who sends their kids to Sunday school with no shoes. And then, at one point in yesterday’s church service, I panicked because I thought I had forgotten to put on a bra. Reaching for my shoulder, I realized I had remembered after all. I am the lady in the fourth row who has gone mad. Holiday helter skelter. Too much on the brain.

I see a woman for spiritual direction every so often and the last time we met, I talked with her about my own internal posture as we head into the holidays. As we all do, I want to experience meaning, celebration, fun, joy. And, as we all do, I want to experience those things from a place of peace, not breathless frenzy, with a bra on preferably. I want to—as very much as possible—stay out of Christmas Crazytown.

She asks, “What helps you feel like you are at home within yourself?”

Yowz.

I’ve been turning that one over and over. Do I know how to find, nurture, and return to that home within? That space where I feel centered and full of breath? Do I know what I need in order to feel at home within myself?

Her point was, if I can inhabit that true place within myself, the activity will flow from a place of wholeness and belonging instead of a place of trying-to-fix-and-feel-better-through-frantic-activity.

I thought I’d share her question here, with you, because it seems so very essential to knowing what we need to let go of over these next few weeks and what we need to focus on, insist on, even.

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know I am a lover of Maya Angelou. She is a true poet, an artist with words. I am, in a word, totally obsessed with her. My mother-in-law just sent me Angelou’s Christmas poem, which I had never read. I wanted to share it with you here as it so beautifully sets up the disorientation we can feel against the Peace that has come to walk among us and bring us home.

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem

By Dr. Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes

And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.

Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche

Over unprotected villages.

The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.

What have we done to so affront nature?

We worry God.

Are you there? Are you there really?

Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,

Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope

And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.

The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,

Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.

Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.

Flood waters recede into memory.

Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us

As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children

It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.

Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,

Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.

At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.

We listen carefully as it gathers strength.

We hear a sweetness.

The word is Peace.

It is loud now. It is louder.

Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.

It is what we have hungered for.

Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.

A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.

Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.

We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.

We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.

Peace.

Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.

We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,

Implore you, to stay a while with us.

So we may learn by you.

Yesterday, my church started a new advent series called, “It Would Take a Miracle.” Matt invited us to think about areas of our lives and our relationships that would require a miracle to reconcile, heal, reestablish. He asked us to put our finger on the place in our lives that feels broken, to acknowledge where we need a miracle.

This year, it’s my brain. With all the small children and convalescing husband and big plans, my brain is MIA, which allows just enough space for anxiety to take over. It will take a miracle for me to keep us all clothed and in our right minds.

Advent reminds us that we need a miracle. We are, in fact, waiting for the miracle. And, we will celebrate that the miracle did, indeed, come to us.

Last Sunday, my dear friend Wanida sang “God is bigger than . . .” from the stage at our church. I keep thinking about that phrase. God is bigger than . . . family drama, my own anxiety, Luke with no socks, my failing brain, Steve’s hip surgery, all my big plans, all your big plans. He’s bigger than all of it. He’s inviting us out to that bigger moment, that bigger story. He’s inviting us into that place of peace and home.

The Miracle, the Peace, the Baby-sent-to-save is bigger than absolutely anything you and I are up against. Avalanches. Bombs. Bralessness. Brainfreeze. Thunder. Disaster. Hate. Rancor. Division.

Let us make our way to higher ground.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

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new normal

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We’ve got a new normal in our household.

On Friday, Steve had hip surgery to repair a wear-and-tear, work related injury. While we knew his hip was in bad shape, it was sobering news when the surgeon came out to the waiting room after surgery and told me that Steve would need to be non-weight bearing (i.e. on crutches) for six weeks. I’m not sure if you’ve got a calendar in front of you, but the next six weeks are pretty much the fullest, busiest weeks of the year.

We have Thanksgiving, Steve’s 40th birthday, my birthday, the twins’ birthday, Christmas, and New Years. Sprinkled in there are five more family birthdays and all the amazing holiday offerings that a city like San Diego provides.

This is all particularly poignant as we are, for the first time in years, in our own home for the holidays.

I was at Home Goods last week, walking the aisles with my mouth wide open, taking in the feast of dazzling Christmas décor. We spent our last two Christmases in the Middle East, which meant that we had a beautiful but artificial tree, a fireplace DVD going on the TV, and we lived among a culture that did not celebrate Christmas. We enjoyed intimate gatherings with other mil families, and we accepted and even enjoyed the smallness of an overseas Christmas.

I know everyone talks about the commercialism and over-zealous hype around the holidays, but this year I was looking forward to all the beautiful ribbon, wrapping paper, wreaths, candles, soaps, coffees . . . I could go on and on. I was looking forward to doing the holidays on a larger scale, I guess you could say. Fires in our new fireplace. Two live Christmas trees. Christmas shopping in a real store, not a virtual one. Driving along Candy Cane Lane and looking at all the lights. Lots and lots of lights on the front of our new house . . .

Feeling particularly excited about this holiday season and all the special touches I wanted to add to our home this year, I am taking in the reality that we will go into these holidays with yet another new normal – Steve on the couch or on crutches, unable to hang Christmas lights, unable to go down to the wood pile and bring up wood for a fire, unable to drive for at least a bit, unable to smoke a turkey for Thanksgiving, unable to do many of things I had assumed he’d be able to do by the time the holidays arrived.

All this got me thinking: I bet there are a lot of people out there who are facing a new normal this holiday season.

The first holidays without a spouse. The first holidays with a new baby. The first holidays in a new home. The first holidays away from home. The first holidays without a special friend. The first holidays with unexpected financial strain, illness, or just general blahs. The first holidays on a ship, or in the desert, or on an island far far away. The first holidays without something or someone you had learned to lean on year after year, someone or something that make the holidays feel like home to you. A holiday season that will, for whatever reason, be different than the expectations you had envisioned in your head.

If that’s you, and you are navigating some kind of new normal, I just want you to know I see you.

Yes, Steve will recover, and he will be back on his own two feet soon enough. But some of you are facing irrecoverable loss, and you will not be back on your own two feet anytime soon. So the holidays will be particularly hard because they won’t just be a new normal for this year. They will be a new normal from now on.

I’m sending a prayer out to you on this crisp San Diego morning that Emmanuel would be God-with-you, God-with-me, God-with-us this holiday season. I’m praying we would know what we need to let go of and what we need to hold on to (as this is one of the biggest secrets to life) and we would allow Christ himself to be a home to us this year.

I’ve told people lately that I still feel like I’m living “in relation to” our time in Bahrain. Though it will soon enough be a year that we have been back in San Diego, I still feel like I’m living in relation to that experience. I guess that means there’s a part of me that still feels the profound-ness of that tour and perhaps a part of me that still feels like we’re transitioning. And, of course, now we are living “in relation to” Steve’s surgery and recovery, too.

So many people in this world are living “in relation to” something this holiday season. Let’s be compassionate with each other. Let’s be particularly compassionate with ourselves. And let’s invite Christ to come sit with us in this new normal as we so need his grace.

God before us and God behind us as we enter into the new normal this holiday season. Amen.

Please share a “new normal” that you are living in relation to this holiday season. I will read and pray for all of you!

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Breathing Room update

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I’ve officially submitted the manuscript for Breathing Room, my upcoming book, to the publisher for review. It required entirely too much caffeine, but I’ve completed my 50,000 words, and they’re on their way!

This book contains my inner journey over the last four years, and I believe many of you have walked a similar road. Here’s a sneak peek from the working Introduction:

The human body’s urge to breathe is irrepressible and essential. When we hold our breath, we begin to feel a pain inside our chest. This is called our critical line, a signal it’s time for another breath. Everyone’s critical line is different, but everyone—at some point—must breathe.

Research shows that we hit our critical line, not necessarily because our body needs oxygen, but because our body needs to exhale and release CO2. When we hold our breath, our body sends a signal that it’s time to let down. Only then can we take in the air we need.

“As it turns out,” a breathing researcher writes, “the opposite of holding your breath isn’t inhaling, it’s letting go.”

Over the past four years of my life—which have included the birth of my first children (boy/girl twins), the challenges of learning to be a working writer, two moves within my hometown of San Diego, a miscarriage, another pregnancy, a move to the Middle East for my husband’s job in the Navy, the birth of our third child in the Middle East, and a move back to San Diego with three small children in tow—I have been through a bit of a come apart. Or, to say it in breathing terms, I hit my critical line.

I had been holding my breath for years—probably more years than I realized—trying to manage the pain in my chest. Trying to stave off the letting down. Trying to keep it all together.

Until I couldn’t anymore.

This is not to say that the last four years have been horrible. They haven’t. In most every way, they have been the richest, most textured years we’ve lived.

Which is why things got so very confusing. If life was so beautiful (and it was) and I had so much to be grateful for (and I did), why was I struggling? Why did I feel like I was being squeezed relentlessly? Why did everything feel so urgent? So suffocating? All the time?

Sure, we had stress. No one would deny that. But our life wasn’t coming apart, not in the ways you think of someone’s life crumbling. If anything, our life was arriving, precious dose after precious dose.

Still, I could not breathe.

My inability to suck it up and manage exposed and highlighted my growing suspicion that I was grossly inadequate for my own life. I begrudged my critical line and believed something was wrong with me because I couldn’t just push past it like it seemed so many others were able to do, like I had always been able to do.

My refusal to exhale, to let go, just about drowned me.

I needed someone or something to turn the valve on the blood pressure cuff that was squeezing my soul. I needed the anxious intensity to dissipate. I needed a place I could go where no one would try to convince me of how blessed I am or how I should simply pray harder. I needed people and words and spaces that were filled with grace, that honored my struggle. I needed someone to give me permission to exhale because I could not offer it to myself. . . .

***

I woke up many mornings over these last years without the ease and freedom I so longed for. If you’re feeling that way too, I understand. You’re not alone. And I hope that Breathing Room will give you courage and rest and support. I hope this book will help you turn toward yourself with radical compassion, like you’ve never done before. And, I hope it will give you permission to let go and seek the care you need.

I laughed and I cried as I wrote, and I’m praying you will, too, as you read. There are so many people drowning in their own secret struggle. Join me in praying that this book would be a company keeper to those in need of a bit of breathing room.

Thank you to all of you who have read here faithfully, offering your comments, stories, souls, tears, and hopes. Thank you for being a safe place for me and for so many others to talk about what’s really going on.

I will keep you posted on book updates over the coming months. For now, I’d love to hear how you have found breathing room in your own life, especially when you’re in the midst of a difficult season. What has provided space and broad grace for you?

Always believing in you,

Leeana

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books on my list

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Build a fire and grab a good book! Fall makes me want to hunker down with a new read. So many interesting titles out there this fall. I’m making a reading list, and I thought I’d share it with you. My list includes some first time authors, some vets, and some in betweeners. Enjoy! And please share your reading list in the comments. What’s on your nightstand these days?

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber (September 10, 2013)

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman (October 1, 2013)

The Signature of All Things: A Novel by Elizabeth Gilbert (October 1, 2013)

When We Were On Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over by Addie Zierman (October 2013)

Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair by Anne Lamott (October 29, 2013)

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women by Sarah Bessey (November 5, 2013)

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider (February 4, 2014)

Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future (March 2014)

On a more personal note, I will be submitting the manuscript of my own book — Breathing Room — to my publisher on November 1, which means I am in the final two weeks of editing, editing, editing. I believe in this book so deeply and the power of its message. If you think of it, please pray for me as I make decisions about content, rewrite, and clarify. This is a difficult stage in the process, requiring stamina and a sharp eye (not to mention a ruthless red pen). Your prayers would be so appreciated! Thank you!!!

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lucky

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Last Monday night my friend Elaine, of the Soul Care House, spoke at a women’s event at my church. Her topic was “5 Things I Wish I Learned Earlier in Life,” which basically translated into 5 of her biggest regrets.

She talked about how she’s given power to the wrong people and needed them to make her feel fixed and worthy. She talked about regrets around her relationship with risk tasking, her relationship with her self, and the ways she has–in the past–valued being right over being kind.

Isn’t it refreshing when someone gets up in front of a large group of people and tells you how they wish they would have done things differently? Isn’t it refreshing when someone isn’t too proud to admit they had to learn the hard way? We all get the benefit of drafting off their momentum. A huge gift.

At the end of her talk, she invited all of us into a time of reconsideration — rethinking how we’re doing aspects of our lives. Here are two of the prompts she offered:

1. I wish I had spent less time . . .

2. I wish I had spent more time . . .

I answered these two questions intuitively and immediately, and I have been thinking about my responses ever since last Monday night. They are telling to me, these words that just popped out of my head and down onto that paper.

I wish I had spent less time . . . WORRYING.

I wish I had spent more time . . . PLAYING.

When my mind is going South on me, I spend an inordinate amount of internal energy worrying . . . about the future, about my kids, about my husband, about how a particular conversation went, about how I was perceived in a certain situation, about how I’m doing, about the living room paint color, about my house in general, and on and on and on and on. I’m literally tired from worrying.

When my mind is at its best, I am in close touch with that free spirit — that Gypsy — that lives within. I’m funny and free and much much less urgent. I’m able to dabble and I’m much more unapologetic, in a good way. I’m able to wander without handwringing or whiteknuckling. I’m far less obsessive in my rehearsing. Mistakes don’t feel so crucial. Paint colors aren’t so life-or-death. Creating seems possible. Most of all, I’m living out of my true self, which is real living.

For our 10th wedding anniversary, I purchased a card for Steve that says: “I honestly believe that we are two of the luckiest people in the world.” When I saw the card at the store, my eyes filled up with tears and I knew that was the card that said what I am most deeply feeling. Deeper than the worry, deeper than the swirling, deeper than the sometimes-almost-panic, is this knowledge that we are the luckiest. The. Luckiest. We have so incredibly much to be thankful for, and underneath all those layers of worry — in the wide open field of my soul — is a profound gratitude.

I don’t want to let the worry overcome the wide open.

Here’s how I stand toe to toe with the worry. I take deep breaths, I turn toward it (because trying to outrun it never works), and I take on a posture of compassion toward myself. “You’re OK. What you’re doing day in and day out isn’t easy. But you’re showing up. You’re doing great.” Breathe. And then I ask God, for the one millionth time, to help me. “God, I can’t get out of this closed loop. I want to stop worrying and start playing. I want to live out of awe and inspiration and abundance. Please help me find a way to let this go.” Turning toward myself and turning toward God is the revolutionary act of allowing myself to be loved.

I don’t want to stand up in front of a group of people someday and tell them that I spent time worrying when what my soul longed to do was play. I want to get the help I need, do the work I need to do, continually turn toward myself and God until the playing (not the worry) is my first instinct.

You, too? I had a hunch.

I believe we are strong enough to get the help we need to be free!

I believe in you. Today and every day, I believe in you.

All my love,

Leeana


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no accident

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“Show me a day when the world wasn’t new.” -Sister Barbara Hance

Hope arrives in all different kinds of packages. Today, Hope has taken my hand in the form of dear, dear friends.

In the last week, I have felt God whispering in my ear, “It is no accident that I brought you back to San Diego. It is no accident that I have you living within 4 miles of three of your closest friends. It is no accident that you can share so much day-to-day life with these dear three and their precious families. It is no accident, Leeana, that I have surrounded you with this nourishing, companioning, healing love.”

These three warrior sisters infuse my world with hope and fun and grace. With them, each day is new. And the gratitude I feel makes me think of a tree I drive out of my way to see every day.

The route I prefer to take in and out of my neighborhood isn’t the most direct. It’s the most beautiful. I like driving through the rolling hills and seeing all the green. My eyes still don’t know what to do with all the trees after so much beige. I just soak it in. Especially the trees with fruit, like ornaments on a Christmas tree. It’s as if I’ve never seen an orange tree before. Never seen a lemon tree before. I feel like my soul is gawking at the gorgeous.

I pass groves of citrus. And then, the lipstick red of a single pomegranate tree heavy with fruit. That’s my tree. That’s me. Dripping with abundance.

It is no accident, “. . . and my soul wells up with an hallelujah.”

What has God brought to you that is no accident? Something that is helping you to see your world with hope, joy, gratitude?

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eight words

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about my own fears of being both remarkable and unremarkable. How scary it feels to be average, ordinary, unexceptional. And then, how equally scary it feels to be the big me, to allow myself to dream and to pursue those dreams unapologetically.

I’ve been thinking about how I have often needed to run, run, run in order to stay ahead of my fears of being “ordinary,” “average,” and “plain.”

AND, I’ve also slinked away from my own magic.

A few years ago I read eight words that changed my life. So pivotal were these words, they became the phrase that birthed my forthcoming book.

The eight words are these:

“We do not deserve to keep hurting ourselves.”

In these eight words, I saw my internal push-pull for what it was—a way that I stayed stuck on self vs. self and lost out on the gifts of both my humanity and my faith in God.

Much of my bullying, silencing, coaxing, pushing, and ignoring can be categorized by control, a way that I avoided having to let go and let God. In the end, though, I saw that my white-knuckling was only, always hurting me.

I’m ready for the spacious place: the place where I can—with great joy and abandon—lean into my own brazen magic AND, simultaneously, hand over the outcomes to God. I’m ready to stop punishing myself for not being God. I’m ready to be a friend to myself instead of a judge.

God, we need your help seeing ourselves for who and what we are. We’re afraid of our powerlessness and we’re afraid of our power. Help us to let go and give you our deepest treasures and trust your Godness. Help us to stop punishing ourselves and forgive ourselves for not being you. We want to be you so badly. We want to Know. And we don’t. Help us to live and breathe and play and heal and become . . . and help us to trust that you will magnify the magic. Help us to show up and let you show off. Amen.

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six months

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We have now officially been back from Bahrain for six months, which feels hardly possible. In some ways, Bahrain feels like another lifetime ago. And in other ways, like we are still very much re-entering here.

I sat down this morning with an idea of what I wanted to write to you. I wanted to write this post about what has emerged for me since we returned, some specific truths or lessons—about myself, about God, about the experience—that have illuminated in these past six months. I wanted to write this post about perspective, what we’ve figured out, solved, better understood. I wanted to offer you some bits of wisdom at this point in the journey, most likely because it makes us all feel better when we can dissect our experiences and figure out all the meaning behind them. I wanted to write a post that made sense of it all.

But, as I sit at my computer this morning, the truth is, I don’t really feel like I have much more figured out than these two things (and yet, I think we can go a long way on these two things):

1. I believe in the theology of found art, the truth of Ecclesiastes 3, that “he is making all things beautiful in its time . . . yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” I’m (sort of) able to trust this more and more in my life. God is unfolding a work of Beauty in us, but the Beauty is made from castoffs, throw aways, reclaimed, even broken pieces. The Beauty is rarely constructed from all the shiny stuff. Life sometimes hands us Intense and Difficult, and we can run. But if we are serious about living the Beauty, we will stay put and participate in the Beauty scouting and the believing. We will try to trust that art is always in the making.

If I were the Maker, I would create art from all the pretty stuff. But the Maker chooses the gritty, the gutsy, the inglorious for his glory. I hate this, and I love it. I hate that we have to go through Hard. AND YET, the Beauty is so much more magnificent when it’s hard won, so much more of a miracle when we see that the Maker was in and through the scraps of our lives after all. I’m grateful for the collage he continues to make in my life. I’m grateful for the pieces of myself I discover and rediscover in the foreign places.

Our most recent tour in Bahrain was not glamorous, rarely Facebook worthy, interrupted by Shi’a and Sunni infighting, and just generally a hard stage of life to be in the Middle East. And, also, we were carried through it in the most tender ways. Additionally, we were able to spend those months together instead of apart, which is the greatest gift. The art of it all was found more than it was manifest on first glance.

2. I must come around the table and sit next to myself as I would a dear friend. The Hard will win every time if we remain combatant with ourselves. Period. I have seen it over and over again. Living self vs self will keep us stuck and keep us focused on the wrong things. It’s a brutal and conniving tactic. We cannot see the landscape around us because we are so entangled with ourselves.

How can I nurture myself as a mother would a child, as a friend would a friend, as an 80 year old Leeana would a 20 year old Leeana? Most of us are really good at sending wary stares at ourselves from across the table. Freedom arrives when we are able to get up and move toward ourselves. You can take that to the bank.

So, I guess I do have that much to tell you. :)

After three babies in three years, a miscarriage, and a move overseas and back, I have learned that the Beautiful is often woven in with the Hard. And I’ve learned that we can let go and tolerate the messiness much more, even experience the Beauty more, if we will honor ourselves with a bit of compassion.

As always, I believe in you and so desire that you walk in FREEDOM!

God before you and behind you as you enter this week.

Love upon love,

Leeana

P.S. Thank you so much to all of you who responded to my last post and entered into the discussion of fantasy vs Beauty for my book chapter. Your input is so incredibly helpful, smart, and certainly elevated the content and concepts in the chapter. Of course, you’re still welcome to leave a comment as the manuscript is not finished yet!

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