Monthly Archives: May 2014

In honor of Maya . . .

Besides my husband and children, I have probably mentioned Maya Angelou on my blog more than any other person. In honor of her life and death, I thought I would repost this writing from 2012. It features one of my very favorite Angelou poems, “Continue.”

May Maya’s life and work and way continue in this world long after her last breath. Still I rise. Amen.

***

some years ago, at my mom’s 60th birthday party, i read the poem, “continue,” by maya angelou. i wanted my mom to know that no matter her age, her life stage, her sense of productivity . . . my wish for her was that she would continue. continue to be as fierce and as feisty and as faithful as she has always been. continue to inspire all those who know her, as she continues to inspire me. i love you, mom. you are a vision. a rare beauty. please, for my sake and for so many others’, continue . . .

for this mother’s day weekend, i re-dedicate “continue” to my mom, and i also send it to you as a dose of written courage . . . that you might continue keeping the faith, fighting the fight, protecting, advocating, believing, creating, forgiving, loving, being.

in this world that aims to numb us and paralyze us with its lies, may we . . . continue. perhaps this might be the most revolutionary thing we could do.

“continue”

On the day of your birth

The Creator filled countless storehouses and

stockings

With rich ointments

Luscious tapestries

And antique coins of incredible value

Jewels worthy of a queen’s dowry

They were set aside for your use

Alone

Armed with faith and hope

And without knowing of the wealth which awaited

You broke through dense walls

of poverty

And loosed the chains of ignorance which

threatened to cripple you so that you

could walk

A Free Woman

Into a world which needed you

My wish for you

Is that you continue

Continue

To be who and how you are

To astonish a mean world

With your acts of kindness

Continue

To allow humor to lighten the burden

of your tender heart

Continue

In a society dark with cruelty

To let the people hear the grandeur

Of God in the peals of your laughter

Continue

To let your eloquence

Elevate the people to heights

They had only imagined

Continue

To remind the people that

Each is as good as the other

And that no one is beneath

Nor above you

Continue

To remember your own young years

And look with favor upon the lost

And the least and the lonely

Continue

To put the mantel of your protection

Around the bodies of

The young and defenseless

Continue

To take the hand of the despised

And diseased and walk proudly with them

In the high street

Some might see you and

Be encouraged to do likewise

Continue

To plant a public kiss of concern

On the cheek of the sick

And the aged and infirm

And count that as a

Natural action to be expected

Continue

To let gratitude be the pillow

Upon which you kneel to

Say your nightly prayer

And let faith be the bridge

You build to overcome evil

And welcome good

Continue

To ignore no vision

Which comes to enlarge your range

And increase your spirit

Continue

To dare to love deeply

And risk everything

For the good thing

Continue

To float

Happily in the sea of infinite substance

Which set aside riches for you

Before you had a name

Continue

And by doing so

You and your work

Will be able to continue

Eternally

(originally written as a birthday gift to Oprah Winfrey)

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fear and freedom, a follow on

breathe out fear

 

I’d like to offer a follow on to last week’s post about fear and freedom.

 

Over the course of the weekend, Steve and I have made a decision about Luke and Lane’s school, and what I want to report is that the school we have chosen is not perfect. That’s the big news.

 

I have researched, registered for, and prayed over a large handful of schools. And we finally have our decision. AND, the crazy truth is . . . what we’ve chosen isn’t perfect.

 

I’m kind of laughing about it actually. I prayed for wisdom and clarity, and it has arrived tiny inch by tiny inch, and we have also inched our way into this decision. And, here we are. No fireworks or anything. No major glamour or anything.

 

But, and I’m going to borrow a line from The Nester here, “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”

 

Steve and I looked at the entire situation . . . our family’s needs, Luke and Lane’s needs, Elle’s needs, and we are moving forward with a decision, trusting (and asking) that—even though our final decision isn’t perfect—God will show us the beauty of this tender little community where we’ve landed.

 

Because if I trust the voice of fear, then I will be living out of scarcity, worry, distrust, panic. And if I trust the voice of freedom, then I will be living out of abundance, peace, trust, and breath.

 

I am reminded of the truth that we cannot take in what we need until we have let go of what is no longer needed. We cannot inhale until we have fully exhaled. So, a great mantra for us all to hold, like a breath prayer, is this:

 

“Breathe out fear on the exhale. Breathe in freedom on the inhale.”

 

Amen.

 

Is there a situation in your life that you’re responding to in fear instead of freedom?

 

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fear vs freedom

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Years ago, Dr. Henry Cloud wrote a book in which he uses the following working definition for the word integrity: “the courage to meet the demands of reality.” It’s a business-y kind of book, not really my thing, but I have always been struck by his definition of integrity. The courage to meet the demands of reality.

 

Not run. Not hide. Not snivel. Not panic. Not freeze. Not escape. But, instead, meet. Show up and be present and meet today, with whatever it holds.

 

Integrate instead of disintegrate.

 

I’ve been thinking about that lately.

 

I’ve been praying and asking God for specific guidance on Luke and Lane’s school for the fall. They will be starting Kindergarten, and unexpectedly we have a myriad of really good options in front of us: public, private, charter. And we have multiple good options within each of those categories. I guess it’s a good problem to have, but this is a total trigger for someone like me who gets a little desperate and crazy when it comes to her kids.

 

We have friends at each of the schools on our list, all of whom have sold us on why their school is the best. Hands down.

 

I don’t know what decision you’re trying to make today, but I know that life is full of big decisions. Moments that create trajectory in a certain direction. Rarely are those decisions and that momentum and that trajectory un-doable, but still, we want to make the “right” decision the first time. We want to feel at peace with where we’ve landed and we don’t want to have to go through the pain of undoing something that we’ve done. Right?

 

So, with all this being true, it’s easy to get stuck.

 

I borrowed some words from Scripture and turned the whole mess over to God: “I need wisdom, God, so I’m asking for some.” And here is the only thing I keep hearing from him: “Leeana, do not make a decision based on fear.”

 

When I live out of fear, I disintegrate. When I live out of freedom, I integrate. False self. True self.

 

But, hey, easy for you to say, God. These are my precious babies. Of course, I’m afraid. In fact, I started thinking about all the things I’m afraid of when it comes to sending Luke and Lane off to Kindergarten. By the end of the list, I see how sending them off to Kindergarten has somehow been confused with sending them off to the lion’s den in my own crazy mind. And I see that, perhaps, I might just want to listen to that word from God. Don’t let fear rule. Don’t let fear be the impetus. Don’t let fear be your guiding principle.

 

Instead, what decision would you make, Leeana, if you felt perfect freedom?

I am still pulling that apart, to be honest. But when we think about what we would do, if we allowed ourselves the freedom, we learn a lot about ourselves, don’t we. Who we’re trying to please. Our fears. Our traumas. Our own stories that we’re projecting onto our kids. Our assumptions and generalizations. Our places of pride. Where we do and don’t trust our own intuitions.

 

Sometimes having the courage to meet the demands of reality means we move forward, even imperfectly, and fight against the temptation to stay stuck. We fight against the wallowing. We fight against the paralysis. Somehow. Some way.

 

We get up and brush our teeth. We go for a walk. We take a vitamin. We read one Psalm. Or even just one line of one Psalm. We say a very simple prayer, like: God, I need you. We get moving in one way or another. I think this is very profound.

 

We decide that we will have the courage to meet the demands of reality. We decide to integrate instead of disintegrate.

 

My dear friend from Bahrain, Jean, told me this story:

I had just birthed my first baby. I had just lost my mother unexpectedly to cancer. My husband was deployed. I was hardly making it. I was down on myself. I was just down. My friend called me and I explained to her how hard things were. She said to me, “Jean, are you getting out of bed each morning? Are you feeding that precious baby boy? Are you caring for his needs? Are you getting yourself to your therapist’s office? Are you fighting for your marriage even in the midst of a deployment?”

 

“Yes,” I told her.

“Then, Jean,” she says, “here’s what I want you to do. You get up every morning and you go look at yourself in your bathroom mirror and you say to yourself, ‘Jean Gibbons, you are one bad ass bitch.’ You got it?”

And Jean did. She got up every morning of that awful season of life and she looked herself in the mirror and she said, “Jean Gibbons, you are one bad ass bitch.”

 

And it changed everything.

 

Not a single circumstance changed, but those foul-mouthed, raw, primal words conjured a bit of gumption and strength that she assumed had been buried by all the grief and loss.

 

Those words gave her the courage to meet the demands of reality. And, they were a reminder that however wobbly she felt, she was doing it. She was getting up and getting out of bed and she was facing the reality of her life head on.

 

That’s the kind of woman I want to be. One who is not guided by fear. One who does not react to life in order to appease my fear. But one who acknowledges the fear—welcomes it even—and then moves forward in spite of being afraid.

 

Now, go get ‘em.

 

Ask yourself:

What decisions would I make differently if I weren’t afraid?

What do I really want?

What’s holding me back from what I really want?

If I felt perfect freedom, what would I do?

What is God’s invitation to me today?

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T is for . . .

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This blog post is brought to you by the letter T.

 

T is for . . .

 

Travel

We just returned from a week in Missouri, visiting my sister and her family as well as my mom. Every time I’m with my sister, I’m reminded that I don’t get to be with her enough. She is a “climbing companion” to me in this life, and I treasure getting to be with her and her darling kids and husband. It was also such a treat to get to be with my mom on Mother’s Day. She spoiled me with hot coffee on demand, babysitting so I could sleep in or nap, and lots of hands-on time with my kids. Even though I braved the flight there and back by myself with my three kids, I return home feeling surprisingly refreshed.

2014-05-07 10.51.29

I love San Diego and I love getting away from San Diego. So nice to experience a slower pace, so much green green green, to hear a hail storm, and to watch the turtle and the bunnies and the mama bird sitting on her nest in the back yard.

 

What a gift.

 

Tribe

While we were in Missouri, a dear member of my tribe back here in San Diego experienced a deep and tender loss. I sat in church on Mother’s Day, and her name kept echoing through my head and heart, and I took that to mean God just wanted me to hold her name before him, like a breath prayer. So I did that, but often—in these kinds of situations—praying or remembering doesn’t feel like enough. But, the truth is, that’s what we can offer. Our presence, our prayers, our vigils for each other. As Anne Lamott says, we’re here on this earth to bring each other a glass of cold water. That’s what this little tribe here does for me and for each other. We try to offer each other relief, refreshment, and the gift of presence. And you know what? It matters. We are so changed when we know we are seen, our struggle is witnessed, someone cares. Even though I was far away when the tragedy happened, I knew she was surrounded by the hands and feet of Jesus back home and I knew God could work magic through my little prayers.

 

Taking Care of Myself

After years of feeling subject to the toxic voices, and being in a very real battle with their henchmen the Brain Vultures, I am really amazed at how much calmer my internal world is feeling. This has been the result of taking care of myself. Again, sometimes taking care of ourselves doesn’t feel like it will be enough. But taking the time to consider what we need and then getting that help for ourselves, as a mother would for her child, we are changing the game. For reals. (This is basically what Breathing Room is all about.)

 

What is really striking me is the capacity I am experiencing for being present, for experiencing pure joy, and for peace. Ridiculously amazing. I owe my patience on the flight to and from Missouri, my ability to truly enjoy the time away with my kids and family, and my overall feelings of energy to the time I’ve spent going to battle with those Brain Vultures. Head on. Because, as I’ve said here before, our mental health affects everything. So cheers to taking care of ourselves . . . because it matters.

 

Transition, Time, Today

With the Brain Vultures better caged, I am able to turn toward and experience the upcoming transitions of this summer and fall with much less anxiety. Luke and Lane will finish preschool in the next month and we will transition to a summer full of fun as we prepare for them to begin Kindergarten. We are entering new territory as parents and as a family, and we want to usher them into this new season with a sense of confidence and excitement. They are so ready, and I’m very grateful for that. As we prepare for this transition, I’m soaking up this time. Five is proving to be a truly magical age of wonder, questions, enthusiasm, interest, and launching out into the world a bit more. I’m holding them more, kissing them more, telling them what I see in them, and talking with them as much as possible. Transition is completely and utterly bittersweet, so I am especially grateful to have the capacity to enjoy this time, today.

2014-05-11 18.25.57

 

Thankful

Well then, I guess my last T will be thankful. Thankful for: a chance to experience Missouri with my kids (did I mention the gorgeous green?), a chance to giggle with my sister, a chance to share the joy of my kids with their grandmother, smooth plane flights, the tenderness of loss laced with the great power of love, a rite-of-passage summer, and hope. Yes, thankful. And, let’s be honest, ever-so-slightly tired from that plane flight yesterday, too.

 

Which one of my Ts do you resonate with?

What is your T today?       

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a letter to kate

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In honor of mother’s day . . . a repost from a couple of years ago.

{My dear friend Kate is becoming a mom for the first time in just a few short weeks. Her baby shower is today, and because I am a world away in the Middle East, I can’t be there — in person — to celebrate the upcoming arrival of this baby boy. So, I decided to write her a letter, to give her some words she can hopefully hold onto in the days ahead.}

Dear Kate,

After I became a mother for the first time, as you are now on the threshold of becoming yourself, I spent a lot of time in fear. I feared how much my life had changed—the ways it had narrowed and the ways it had expanded. I feared that I would lose myself to Luke and Lane’s needs and care. I feared I would never be able to become the woman I wanted to be. I feared that I would always feel exhausted. I feared that Luke would pick up a drug habit at the age of nine and Lane would become a fan of Britney Spears at any second. I feared they would break my heart. I feared the monotony, and I also feared the grand adventure. I feared how much I loved them, too, because the love was like the force of a tidal wave sweeping you up and tossing you around.

I underestimated the losses and I also underestimated the gains, which is to say that the whole entire enterprise of motherhood caught me so off guard with it’s primal intensity that I am only now, still, recovering.

And four weeks ago, I got another stab at it. I got baby Elle. This time around—by some Grace—a few lights have been turned on where there had previously been shadows.

I can see now that becoming a mother for the first time was hard. I can see now that I believed it was hard because I believed I was failing in some way. But, the truth is, it was just hard. And I can see that so much more clearly now.  I can see how tired I was and how much pressure I was feeling and how much grief I was experiencing. And how all of that was normal and natural, and yet I punished myself for it.

What I want to say to you, Kate, is that you will have to walk through, crawl through, dig through this first experience of becoming a mother. There’s no short cut. You have to go through it. But on the days when it feels hard, I want you to remember something. Paint this on the wall of the nursery if you have to. It’s not hard because you’re failing. It’s hard because it’s hard.

And if you can remember that, you can make it. You can be a good companion to yourself. You can see yourself through the eyes of kindness and grace and compassion—as Christ sees you, as we see you—the most brazen shade of beautiful.

And one more thing . . . because I have learned there’s a magic elixir to fear . . .

On the days when you are hog-tied by the treacherous tethers of “how am I doing at motherhood?” I want you to remember the truth, which is, precious Kate, that the most transformational thing in all of time, in all of story, in all of the world is LOVE.

How you’re performing at motherhood is the false, and love is the true.

No matter how questionable your personal hygiene gets, no matter how much you want to kill Michael, no matter how desperate you are for sleep, no matter how badly you need a pedicure, no matter how breastfeeding goes or how your delivery turns out or how good of a sleeper you have on your hands . . . YOU. WILL. LOVE. THIS. BABY. BOY.

 

I recently received the most amazing children’s book* from my mother-in-law. I cried when I read it because it brought me back to what was most essential in my relationships with Luke, Lane, and Elle. And that is love.

I can get really mixed up and turned around and swamped by shame when it comes to all the messages whirling around me and inside me about motherhood. But this book reminded me that something far deeper, far truer exists. And that is, simply, my great love for these crazy kids.

Here are a few lines from the book for you to take with you:

 

If someday you’re lonely,

Or someday you’re sad,

Or you strike out at baseball,

Or think you’ve been bad . . .

 

Just lift up your face, feel the wind in your hair.

That’s me, my sweet baby, my love is right there.

 

In the green of the grass . . . in the smell of

The sea . . . in the clouds floating by . . .

At the top of a tree . . . in the sound

Crickets make at the end of the day . . .

 

“You are loved. You are loved. You are

loved,” they all say.

 

My love is so high, and so wide and

so deep. It’s always right there, even

when you’re asleep.

 

So hold your head high

And don’t be afraid

To march to the front

Of your own parade.

 

If you’re still my small babe

Or you’re all the way grown,

My promise to you

Is you’re never alone.

 

You are my angel, my darling,

My star . . . and my love will find you,

Wherever you are.

So you are already triumphant, Kate. You are already the most amazing mother. Because, I know you. And you know how to love.

Even a world away . . . I see you. I hear you. I love you.

Leeana

(*Wherever You Go My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman)

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