Monthly Archives: November 2013

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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