Monthly Archives: November 2015
Good Monday morning!
I’m pairing chapters 23 and 24 together this morning because there’s a connection I’m sure many of us are living, and yet I want to specifically point out. First, in chapter 23, we’re talking about the reality of life’s indirectness. I’m sure none of you have any idea what I’m talking about here. I’m sure you have no experience whatsoever with waiting, uncertainty, or circuitousness. But, on the off chance you might have an inkling of such experiences, I thought I’d go ahead and write a few words on the subject.
We can pray for God to help us tolerate the waiting and the seeming lack of control, to help us focus on what we can control, which is how we treat ourselves in the middle of the uncertainty.
Few things have forced me into making peace with uncertainly like being a military wife. We just really do not get a longterm life plan. And if we do get some sort of indication of what the future might hold, I will promise you that whatever we’ve been told will likely change. Perhaps this is God’s way of inviting me to plant my feet firmly in today. To take the next step. One step at a time. Focused more on what’s right here, in this moment . . . what God has put in my hands today.
The word courage comes from the Latin word cor, meaning “heart.” To be courageous, then, means to be people of the heart. Not people of the white-knuckling, glamour-seeking, must-be-perfect, I’m-too-good-to-wander world. Not people of control. People of the heart.
As we are journeying, walking the labyrinth of life, it is so very important to be keeping a close eye on ourselves, especially when the wandering is extended. This is where we transition into chapter 24, Believing your Body. See, the extended journey can drive us to be impatient and contemptful with ourselves, which is never, ever a solution.
When I am gentle with myself, I become gentle with others. It is this gentleness and caring, not impatience and criticism, which brings about continued growth and healing.
— Emotions Anonymous
Our bodies bare the brunt of our journeying. They get sore, cranky, creaky. And we are given the opportunity to listen to these whispers for care or to override them, shut them out. We are given a chance to honor our humanity or to smother it.
Now is the time to care for yourself as you would a dear friend. Now is the time to nurture yourself like a mother would a child. Now is the time for compassion, empathy, love.
So if this is a protracted season of uncertainty, waiting, walking the worn path, wandering for you . . . then this is also a time to practice being a companion to yourself. Because now is when you need a friend the most.
One small step in the right direction . . . met with God’s grace. Sometimes this starts with the everyday tasks of skincare, walks outdoors, feeding ourselves. Often it is the very little things that tend to add up. Small choices to nurture instead of numb.
As I mentioned last week, our bodies are just about always a good place to start. This is one of the very tangible and practical ways we learn to nurture ourselves. We believe what our bodies are trying to tell us. Without judgement. Without eye-rolling. And we practice being the strong warrior mother on our own behalf.
What a concept.
You are pure gold,
Here we are, the day before Thanksgiving, talking about “Practicing Plenty.” I love the way this all worked out.
I don’t know where this season finds you — in the spaciousness or in the squeeze. I know what both feel like. What it’s like to feel the breath and the space and the grace. And what it’s like to feel like Hard is just on your heels or, even, here for a good long stay. In Chapter 22, I talk about my journey of finding plenty within my own soul even though I could not see plenty around me with my own eyes:
Plenty means fullness, and I believe it’s one of the most subversive things we can do to scout out the fullness instead of focus on the lack. It’s too easy to settle for scarcity.
I truly believe God wants to show you and me his mysterious abundance this Thanksgiving — an abundance that transcends circumstances. An abundance that transcends even the facts in front of our face. God is in this very strange business of giving us things we cannot secure for ourselves. He can give us space, breathing room, a very real sense of plenty . . . no matter what evidence our lives are presenting to the contrary.
So here we are, on the eve of Thanksgiving, and I want to give us all an assignment: Notice one holy thing. Notice one holy thing that you may not have paid any attention to had you not been looking. Notice one holy thing that is waiting for you to notice it. Maybe it’s been there all along. Maybe it will walk through your front door tomorrow. Don’t prearrange it. Let it surprise you. And let the holy thing — no matter how simple or how lofty — fill you with a posture of plenty.
With so much love and mashed potatoes and holiness waiting to be noticed,
P.S. Last fall, right after Breathing Room released, I had the opportunity to give a preview of the book at a conference in South Carolina. While I was there, I got to meet two of the most lovely people you will ever meet. Sisters Myquillyn Smith (aka The Nester) and Emily Freeman. They invited me to be a guest on their podcast and we recorded a conversation titled, “WHEN IT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE PLENTY,” in which I relate the story from this chapter. I thought a few of you might be interested in listening to us chat about plenty.
The week of Thanksgiving! Here we are, friends!
Today’s chapter — “Jiggling” — is about tricking our busy and buzzy minds by moving our bodies.
I absolutely adore the opening quote by Richard Rohr:
There is such wisdom in those words. Often we believe we can analyze our way into breathing room. But what I’ve seen over and over again is that our practices, much more than our solutions, are what begin to deliver space and grace into our lives.
In this chapter, I’m talking about healing my mind by moving my body. Jiggling on an inner tube four months after having a baby, to be specific. Nothing like your entire body feeling like the world’s wobbliest jello salad to help you let go a tiny bit. Our minds can get so rigid, so focused, trying to pick apart all the tangles we’re facing. One way we can trick that over-active mind is by turning to our bodies instead. Getting outside. Going to yoga. Taking a walk in the woods. Jiggling. Moving our bodies, getting ourselves out into beauty, takes us out of our problematic heads and gets us re-integrated with our entire selves. This opens up space for God, for breath, for air, for love.
Not nearly enough, but sometimes, I go to this place:
This is a perfectly perched set of hiking trails overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Torrey Pines, here in San Diego. It’s hardly believable how beautiful it all is. When I go here, no matter what I’m turning over and over and over in this busy little brain of mine, life opens up. All of a sudden I experience a spaciousness I could have never willed myself into.
You may not live near a stretch of coastline. Or, you may. The point here is to think about a place that helps you get your body moving AND helps you ingest natural beauty. These kinds of places are literal balms.
Some of my favorite Christmas memories from growing up were the Christmases when my mom would load us all up in the car after we opened presents and drive us out to the beach where we’d walk . . . with coffee and hot chocolate . . . all bundled up and together. Maybe we tossed a football around. In my memory, we had the beach entirely to ourselves.
I’m going to do my best to get myself outside and into beauty these next six weeks as often as I possibly can. It will be the practice that helps all the meaning and significance of this season sink into my soul that much more deeply.
Additionally, I’m gonna do my best to pee when I have to pee. Eat when I have to eat. Sleep when I have to sleep. It’s the little things, people.
Yesterday, I helped out in my big kids’ Sunday School class. The emphasis was on Psalm 136 — a Psalm of thanks to a God whose love endures forever. Or, as it says in The Message, “His love never quits.” Such a gorgeous thread that is woven throughout this season, and everyday, the thread that holds us all together even we we feel like things are coming apart (Psalm 136:23, MSG):
God remembered us when we were down,
His love never quits!
Amen and so much love to you today!
P.S. Be sure to stop back by on Wednesday, as I’ll be discussing chapter 22, “Practicing Plenty,” which just so happens to be a perfect lead-in to Thanksgiving. Can’t wait!
I went to yoga this morning, and I never go that I don’t leave feeling courageous for having shown up. My practice is inconsistent and giantly labored and huffy and puffy, but oh well. I did it. I showed up and sweat every last molecule of liquid out of my pours and I came out feeling a bit more open, a bit more confirmed, a bit more aware of who I am in the world. This is a miracle.
I was thinking about our next two chapters in Breathing Room — about offering ourselves permission and about channeling our inner Navy SEAL — and I decided I’d put them together for today’s post. After all, it’s Friday.
What occurs to me this morning is this question: Are you and I giving ourselves permission to be the strong, resilient, competent, resourceful, skilled versions of ourselves? Or are we editing ourselves down to a watery version of who we are because we’re afraid? Are we allowing ourselves to be as big as we could be, or are we worried that when we really go for it, our courage we will garner such contempt, that it will bury us?
What would it be like for you and me to give ourselves permission to live out of that warrior within? To trust that brave, battle-tested soul of ours? To lean in his or her direction a bit? To trust our skill, our experience, our instincts just a bit more?
I have found that the lies about ourselves are easier to believe than the truth. What would it be like for you to spend some time with the truth about yourself today and then courageously live from that truth? I’m going to spend the weekend with these thoughts, and I encourage you to do the same.
Is there an area of your life where God is calling you out from your places of hiding? An area of your life where he wants you to be courageous, trust yourself, trust Him? Take this post as my way of co-signing on your emergence.
This is my message for you and for me today: Breathe in the courage on the inhale and breathe out the self-doubt on the exhale. That will be our practice for today and for the weekend.
And, just maybe, it might be helpful for you to do something confirming or empowering to solidify these thoughts in your body. Do something physical or active to seal this idea that you have a strong warrior within. And then, by the grace of God, we will all begin to let her out into the world a bit more.
Giving ourselves permission to channel our inner badassness. Yes, that.
All my love,
P.S. While we’re giving ourselves permission to be freaking awesome, let’s give each other permission to be freaking awesome, too!!!!!
Good Wednesday morning to this precious crew! I just went back and reread Chapter 18 in Breathing Room, and I felt as though the words were for me . . . all over again . . . today. Because isn’t it true that learning to be compassionate to ourselves is a practice. It’s something we must wake up every day and choose to do. It’s a way we decide to live. It’s even a skill we hone. We learn what it looks like to tend to ourselves instead of tear into ourselves. This is often counterintuitive.
This is the time of year when even our nurtured practices can come off the rails because everything gains speed, intensity, significance. In these final months of the year, we can become insane with our expectations of ourselves. We can forget what we spend the entire year forging — a new relationship with ourselves.
This line hit me right between the eyes this morning:
Isn’t it amazing what we will do at our own expense.
And this one:
I will never take a good enough Butt Picture. Ever. If my insides are hurting and unattended, there isn’t a Butt Picture in the universe that will make it all better. Not one. That is possibly the most profound truth I know.
If you haven’t read the chapter, then you don’t have context for the Butt Picture. It’s a super embarrassing story, but I included it because I knew I’m not the only one who does insane things that I think will motivate me. Things that only end up shaming me.
My desire would be to travel through these weeks with my soul intact. To be able to see my children. To be able to hear the music. To be able to feel the story. To be able to ingest all the beauty in all its forms.
Maybe I’ll write those words “Isn’t it amazing what we will do at our own expense” and put them somewhere I will see them often. So as I’m making plans and decisions this season, I’ll remember the plans and decisions don’t have to happen at my expense. Because if I’m buried, I will not be able to see. I will not be able to hear. I will not be able to feel.
How have you begun to care for yourself as you would a friend instead of an enemy?
How have you been nurturing yourself as a mother would her child?
How have you become a companion to yourself instead of a critic?
How do these practices impact your holiday season?
With love and more love,
Here’s what I know today:
If you’ve read chapter 17, then you know the chapter is all about wanting life to be picture perfect — a real fantasy — and all the times we find ourselves in the soup. The absolute insanity of it all is when we realize the soup has gifts for us that we could have, would have, never experienced if life had been easy street. There is substantial beauty in the mist. I hate this and I love this.
So if today finds you in any kind of soup — an unexpectedly difficult circumstance or a prolonged season of haze — just remember to (1) take a moment every day and breathe. Big deep breaths. We have such a tendency to hold our breaths, muster, power through. We gotta breathe. (2) Be extra gentle with yourself. Nothing was ever solved by us pushing and striving and punishing ourselves into some kind of solution. Instead we make space for comfort, care, large cups of coffee. (3) The liars will be in full force, so be sure you’re listening to the truth talkers and not the brain vultures. (4) GO. TO. SLEEP. Let your body and mind heal. Amen. (5) And then, of course, let some things go. Maybe even let yourself off the hook. When we’re in the soup, we may need to reduce our expectations of ourselves just slightly. It’s OK. Take one thing off your list.
What is one of the above you need to practice today?
Mine is being extra gentle with myself. I’m tired today, and I’ve learned that pushing hurts a whole lot more than it helps. I’m returning to comfort instead of forging ahead. That’s what I’m practicing. What about you?
Dear precious friends,
It’s actually a bit difficult for me to go back and read this chapter. The term PTSD comes to mind. The events of Chapter 16 are some of the most traumatizing and terrifying events of my life. Ever. Period. That flight from Amsterdam to Cairo. The Cairo airport. The flight from Cairo to Bahrain. There was a lurid darkness that hung over it all, something that felt oppressive, something so hard to put into words.
And then, on the heels of arriving in Bahrain, needing to put my kids in childcare every morning was one of the most triggering events of my life. Ever. Period. I have spent the last almost-three years unpacking all of this. The why. The how. The what now. Learning to be a companion to myself and helping my body let go of all these events that were stored up in it. Going back and re-feeling all the desperation and letting God visit me in the vortex of my need.
One of the ways God visited me during the season of my life I write about in Breathing Room was dropping off little mantras to keep me going. For example, “Leeana, there are so few things you can control. Almost nothing. But one thing you can control is how you treat yourself. And that one thing can change everything.”
And, from this chapter . . .
I don’t know what you might be feeling desperate about this morning. Some of you are not in that desperate place at all right now. But some of you, assuredly, are. If you are panicked, prickly, nervy, sweaty, or otherwise undone, I just want you to know I understand. And, if you will reach out to God from the floor where you are sitting, I promise you he will visit you. I promise you things won’t always feel the way they do right now. And if you can hold those words in your head like a mantra, then you are also holding hope. Which is so extraordinarily powerful.
And if you are through the roughest waters today and you find yourself saved — “stood up on a wide-open field” — then may this very moment be a moment of gratitude in your heart (psalm 18:16-19 MSG). Join me in saying “yes” and “thank you” for the ways in which God sees us and saves us when we are drowning. And, join me in holding onto hope for those in our lives who need someone to believe on their behalf.
Holding the mantras of truth and hope together,
First you are a precious soul. Real gold. And I mean that. I doubt anyone has taken the time to tell you that today, so I thought I’d offer those words of truth to you this Friday.
A week ago, I spoke to a room of moms on the topic of “mom guilt.” We all got these keychains at the event:
I said, “It’s time we got out of the ring with ourselves.”
It’s always time. Time to stop, turn toward ourselves, and sit with ourselves as we would a dear friend. It’s time to practice that revolutionary prayer practice of being a companion to ourselves instead of the world’s most rigid critic. We all laughed and we all cried together because if there’s anything in this world that is more immediately bonding than mom guilt, I’m sure I don’t know what it is.
I was reminded, as I looked out at dozens of women wiping tears from their cheeks, that we’re all carrying around untold stories in our tender little souls. We’re all holding an entire universe, in fact, right here in our bodies. We see each other’s skin and eyes and hair and clothing. But deeper still are stories. And they are no joke. Every last one of them. (Let’s remember that as we go about our day. Especially when we hit up against that really intolerable person. We are all fighting something.)
We’re all carrying around a weight that is heavy. Heavier, likely, than we were ever meant to bear. Some of us are carrying around unspeakable weight that we need to attend to. Refusing to turn toward our own burdens is just one more way we stay in the ring with ourselves, bully ourselves into picking up that pack every day and forcing ourselves to march.
In Chapter 15 of Breathing Room, I talk about the difference between letting go and marching on. This is not a concept, a theory, a once-and-for-all. This is a daily practice. The daily prayer practice of letting love and comfort seep into our souls instead of just pushing forward pushing forward pushing forward.
In the chapter, I tell the story of my dear friend Rickelle, who is the inspiration for the title and much of what I wrote in that piece. She shared more of her story on my blog in 2012. In fact, she wrote the most gorgeous letter (in Part 2 below) to all of us. I could not finish it all in one sitting because of the sheer depth and beauty of it. If you’d like to read more about Rickelle’s story and the loss of her gorgeous baby boy, Lake, you can read more here:
Today, I’m so very thankful that we have each other. We have the gift of company and companionship in this life. That brings me such great comfort. I hope it brings you comfort too. We have the opportunity to spill open — let go — and let the hope arrive.
With love upon love,
Chapter 14 in Breathing Room is all about reaching out. The idea here is that when we are isolated in life, a membrane forms around us that keeps us in our own little bubble. All kinds of crazy stuff can happen in this bubble, devoid of any outside input, perspective, truth.
We get caught in the closed-loop of our own minds. I don’t know about you, but this is often slightly scary for me. All those Brain Vultures flying around in my mind want to convince me of some really weird stuff, and the next thing you know I’m buying their BS and I’ve got a one way ticket to crazy town.
We interrupt all this toxicity by reaching out. For help. For prayer. For a guide. For a coffee date. For a walk on the beach. When we reach out, we pierce a hole in that isolating membrane and we create enough room for someone else to reach in. This is a lifeline. It brings fresh perspective from a source outside our own minds, which can be supremely helpful.
Sounds super easy, right?
Here’s the down and dirty truth. Reaching out sucks. It’s good for us, We know that. But who in the world likes to be in need? Who in the world likes to ask for help? Who in the world enjoys sharing the scary contents of their own plagued mind?
But we do it. We do it together. We decide we will not stay stuck in our woeful world. We will reach out and get the love and support and grace we need. Even though reaching out — etymology of the phrase comes from “the rack,” as in torture — feels like we’re dislocating our carefully in-tact joints. In other words, reaching out is often uncomfortable. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.
And one other really somewhat-sucky thing: when we do reach out, the lifelines that God sends us don’t always appear as we expected. Another whammy. Sometimes lifelines are slightly odd, uncomfortable, a little bit unconventional. Think of all the ways God brought his people help throughout the Bible. Scarlet cords and prostitutes come to mind. So, it follows, that if you reach out and ask for help, often God will bring it to you. After all, he is in the business of saving. But often God will bring you that help in some form that you hadn’t totally planned or approved of, exactly. I think that’s just God’s way of keeping everyone up in heaven entertained.
So, whatever you’re struggling with this morning: mom guilt, panic attacks, food issues, body issues, loneliness, worry . . . God loves you and wants to save you from the closed-loop of your own human solutions. He wants to pull you out of the void in which you are drowning and set you up on a wide open field — surprised to be so loved! (Psalm 18:16-19 MSG)
Perhaps you could do the VERY courageous work of reaching out, asking for help, sending a hand in the direction of a trusted source. And then just see what happens, and trust God for the next right step to emerge.
Here I am, on this Monday, believing in you and believing in me . . . and our ability to pierce that membrane and let some light in.
All my love,