Monthly Archives: April 2013
Yesterday I facilitated a found art workshop at a conference my church was hosting. Our theme was God’s broad grace—how God offers us spaciousness, a broad place to stand, room to breathe. I talked about how it can be hard to remember that we’ve been offered this kind of space, especially when we’re in tight quarters emotionally or physically.
I forget daily. Sometimes hourly. I go to the cramped, suffocating place instead of running into the hope and the light and the grace.
Some of us have been through a setback. We were cruising along, and all of a sudden something happened to us that we couldn’t just – snap – recover from.
In the murky midst of this setback we forgot—because we can’t feel it at all—that God is beckoning us into the wide-open place. We forgot that breathing room exists.
As I write to you, I’m sitting on our back patio, looking out over to the horizon. This view resonates. This sense of spaciousness. This is what we long for. The broad place. Not just physically, but spiritually, mentally, emotionally, relationally. We long to trade in our restlessness for room.
One of the very most vital ways we find this room is through turning back toward ourselves when so many of us have so deeply abandoned ourselves.
We don’t believe we’re a reliable observer of the world around us.
We don’t trust our instincts or intuitions anymore.
We don’t know for sure if our needs, stresses, or feelings are legitimate.
We don’t feel valuable.
We don’t want to get up off the couch.
We don’t want to look up from our phones.
We don’t want to step up and fight back.
This inner battle is like soul asphyxiation. And a big part of our journey is (re)learning to be a companion to ourselves . . . as we would a friend.
This is, in my estimation, one of the most essential ways we can find our way back into the spacious place. We turn our face toward God and ask him to help us find grace and gentleness for ourselves. In that simple act, we are catapulting ourselves toward the room we’re longing for. I promise.
God, help us reach toward you so that we can, in turn, reach toward ourselves. We’re in a stupor or a struggle and we can’t work our way out of it. We need you. We need you in the thousand ways that you visit us with your grace. Lead us, by the hand, into the wide-open field. Or, just come sit with us here on the floor and we’ll take it from there. Amen.
Second-guessing is sideways energy, and I’m so guilty of letting too many sweet moments in my life get overshadowed by my fitful rethinking.
Second-guessing the new baseboards.
Second-guessing my parenting.
Second-guessing the way I’m spending my time.
Second-guessing the paint choice.
Second-guessing the workshop I’m leading.
Second-guessing what I said in that conversation yesterday.
Second-guessing my ideas.
Second-guessing my instincts.
Second-guessing my worthiness as a creative person.
Second-guessing my place.
Second-guessing God’s love for me.
How much time do we spend second-guessing? I’m not talking about thinking through a decision or re-evaluating a plan. Often life requires new considerations, changes in direction, even complete overhauls sometimes.
What I’m talking about is a cycle of restless thinking that never seems to resolve. The endlessness of it just holds on to us and keeps us stuck.
Intertwined in this second-guessing is anxiousness, a force that can be so so so difficult to harness.
“Hey Leeana, maybe we should wait to catastrophize until there’s actually a problem” a friend says to me recently. Hmmmmmmm. Super good point.
Are you spinning, spinning, spinning your wheels, second-guessing with a nervous persistence? Are you letting the best moments of your day become overshadowed by endless rehashing. Are you letting your creative mind get locked up because of nonstop rehearsing? Are you missing tender moments with those you love because your mind is perpetually rethinking? If so, here are some words for you to meditate on:
What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6:31-34, The Message
Here is the line for me in that passage: DON’T WORRY ABOUT MISSING OUT.
Much of my restless second-guessing can be boiled down to my fear of missing the train. You know, the “my life train” that I feel might just be pulling out of the station without me on it because I’m back here, moving very slowly, carrying my three kids. I can’t catch the train with all of them in tow. And so, there are days, where I have to let the train leave the station and just believe that my choosing to stay back with them will matter. This little engine that could, way back here, is what matters.
I can’t move very fast these days, and that’s a liability in my line of work. But I’m COMMITTED to living in the tensions of my life. I’m so grateful today that God is whispering to me, “Don’t worry about missing out.”
Yes. And thank you, God.
So if you are rife with second-guessing—if you are swirling, swirling, swirling—and all the rehashing and rehearsing and rethinking have you in their grip, spend some time with Matthew 6 this weekend and let the peace of Christ RULE. As Matthew says (with a little paraphrasing from the one-and-only Eugene Peterson), “God will help you deal.”
A long time ago, when Luke and Lane were babies, I went out for a drive by myself. I drove this loop that took me right in front of the beach in Coronado. I was raw meat during those days. Raw. Meat. A little like how I feel today. Like we’re still pushing to get settled. Like things aren’t muscle-memory yet. Like we’re still in between. Ready to feel like we have energy again.
When I feel like raw meat, I have a tendency to believe that if I were doing things differently or better, I might be able to save myself from the struggle. My mind starts racing around, trying to jump through all the hoops that the toxic tapes are mandating. This is exhausting business.
As I drove—creeping as slowly as traffic would allow—down the stretch of road that parallels the beach, I saw a miracle.
A big daddy was carrying his little girl. She was sandy and sun-smooched and her head bobbed up and down on his shoulder as he walked. Her limp arms were dangled over his shoulders as she slept.
“I get it,” I said out loud in the car. “OK, I get it.”
Some days we will feel pulverized. Absolutely meat-cleavered. Our fretting about how we might do better or be more or how we could have avoided the struggle if we would have been a prettier or more talented person will ONLY, EVER make things feel so much worse. We will zing and ping and ding around in a stratosphere that has nothing to do with what actually matters. We will exhaust ourselves to the point of paralysis.
The father-daughter moment broke into my zinging. Those two were about the deeper anchors of life: love, care, nurture, trust, grace.
If today is a raw meat day for you, and you are fretting and turning on yourself and believing that if you were just better you might not feel so totally pounded, I invite you to breathe a few deep breaths and turn your mind toward the father and daughter with the waves behind them, just walking down the street toward their car after a full day by the sea. Simple. Very simply. And, yet, profound.
Think about what is true. What remains. What matters. Think about holding and being held. Resting. Connecting. Think about loving and being loved. Think about beauty. Think about the broad grace, the spacious place.
These deeper anchors will help you turn away from what’s toxic and help you turn toward what’s true.
I just finished Shauna Niequist’s newest memoir, Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes.
I am a reluctant kitchen-person. I “assemble” more than cook, let’s say. I so so so appreciate all good food (believe me), but I’m not really someone who gets around the kitchen with total ease. If you’re a reluctant kitchen-person, the subject of Shauna’s latest writing might not grab you immediately. But here’s what’s true about her writing. Always. It doesn’t matter what she’s writing about; she’s always writing about the essence of life. She’s always writing about you. She’s always writing about me.
Bread & Wine is a beautiful—and I mean beautiful—tribute to the essential nourishment we all need. Through food, of course. But also through the people in our lives and our willingness to let them in fully. Ultimately, our willingness to let the body and blood of Christ into our lives, too.
As Shauna writes about softening an onion in a pan filled with melting butter, the sizzles and smells come off the page. Somewhere in the midst of this sensory experience, you realize you are really reading about—you were reading about all along—a deeper story. Loss. Fear. Shame. Hope. Love. Letting go. Letting in. Shauna writes about food but she writes mostly about what “the table” offers us: a place to be our true selves, to receive nourishment and comfort from others, to be loved, to give.
Here are a few of my favorite moments from the book:
“Love isn’t something you prove or earn, but something you receive or allow, like a balm, like a benediction, even when you’re at your very worst” (120).
“We don’t learn to love each other well in the easy moments. Anyone is good company at a cocktail party. But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right, when we cry in the kitchen, when we show up uninvited with magazines and granola bars, in an effort to say, I love you”(132).
“The very things you think you need most desperately are the things that can transform you the most profoundly when you do finally decide to release them” (136).
“You never know while it’s happening what will burn in your memory, sacred and profound. It seems like most of the things we try to make profound never are, lost in our insistence and fretting and posing. When we want something to be momentous, it rarely is. Life is disobedient in that way, insisting on surprising us with its magic, stubbornly unwilling to be glittery on command” (221-222).
Yes. Yes. And yes.
The book is incredibly readable, as is all of Shauna’s writing. You will find yourself in its pages, I can promise you. And it’s really a perfect book to give as a gift. Include a pretty tea towel from Anthropologie or one of those darling little basil plants from Trader Joe’s. It would be perfect with one of your family’s favorite recipes slipped in as a bookmark. I just saw over on Shauna’s blog that she’s even personalizing and signing nameplates that you can put inside the book if you’re buying it for a special someone.
With recipes included at the end of almost every chapter and an appendix that serves as a guide to getting around the kitchen, the book is both practical and inspiring—what’s better!?!
If you’ve already read Bread & Wine–or any of Shauna’s other books–let me know what you love about her writing, how her writing has met you.
Thank you, Shauna, for being a bold, brave, and bread-and-wine woman. Thank you for doing the hard work of mothering and getting words down on the page. We’re so grateful for your voice!
Additionally, here are a few more new releases I hope to be discussing with you in the near future:
Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou (her latest memoir about her relationship with her mother)
Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Melton
Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning by Rebekah Lyons
I wrote a post a few months ago focusing on the idea of making amends. “Making amends” is about reconciling, addressing the rift or, sometimes, the chasm that has been dug out through mistrust, mistreatment, and misunderstanding.
It occurred to me, at some point, that amends isn’t something we just need to make with other people. In fact, for many of us (for most of us) we need to start with ourselves. We can smooth over the rough places in all kinds of relationships, but the hardest—perhaps—is changing how we think about and treat ourselves. And the way we think about and treat ourselves is the foundation from which we connect with others. So, I believe, we cannot experience vulnerability and intimacy with others if we are unwilling to take a hard look at our relationship with ourselves.
Essentially, can we begin to accept what it means to be human: strong AND weak, afraid AND brave, lost AND found, whole AND broken?
Can we agree that we are courageous enough to change AND that we cannot change ourselves?
Can we call on Christ when we are stuck, swirling in our own mania, zinging in the darkness?
Can we see—for the first or the hundredth or the thousandth time—that we are not capable of willing ourselves or wooing ourselves out of our own lostness?
In very small, unimpressive ways, can we whisper heart-words to Christ? Can we squeeze out the smallest prayers? Can we turn in his direction?
Can we believe that we are worthy of his love, his touch? Can we face the fact that we cannot fix ourselves—no matter what new strategy, new discipline, or new best-seller we are following?
Can we let him in?
We care for ourselves, make amends with ourselves, repair our relationship with ourselves when we see that we are worth healing AND that we need Christ in order to be free.