Monthly Archives: February 2016
I was driving out of our neighborhood the other day, through the series of single-lane roads that bring you up and down from our house. Cars traveling both ways share these roads so we inch up and down them with neighborly care. I came to a T in the road right before you head down the hill, and a cadillac the length of a vessel met me at the T. I gestured to the darling old woman driving the cadillac to go right ahead.
Almost imperceptibly, she creeped her car in front of my bumper, put her hand up to her mouth in slow motion, and blew me a kiss that was so prolonged and so emphatic that it looked as though her entire driver’s-side window was filled with her salmon lips.
I giggled and blew her a kiss back.
As so many of you know, we returned from the Middle East just about exactly three years ago. We returned with two four year olds and our new baby, Elle, who was almost one. We were exhausted, slightly strung out from the adventure, and in a very demanding season of parenting. For months and months and months, I was in a place of recovery. Some of you are there now. You are wanting to be farther along, but the truth is, you need to recover.
Slowly and not all-at-once, the recovery has happened, more or less. Energy has returned. Exhaustion has lifted. But after you have lived in a state of recovery for so long, sometimes it becomes all we know. We’ve kind of forgotten how to dream and desire and play. We’ve kind of forgotten what we love, what we want, what wakes us up.
As I wrote here, I believe we already know what we love, what we want, what wakes us up . . . often, we just need to return to it.
One of the exercises that’s helped me return to this knowing, soulful, awake, strong part of me is to begin talking with my inner 86 year old. I think we all have an old woman inside us. She’s perhaps the version of ourselves we most want to become. For me, that would be: creative, elegant, risky, a little eccentric, slightly unapologetic.
She knows things. She’s seen things. She knows when to get panicked and when to just let it roll off. She’s the fully expanded version of you. And she has things she wants to tell you. I promise. She has secrets she wants to whisper in your ear if you’ll take a little time and listen.
Write a letter from the 86 year old you to the current you. What does she want to tell you? What wisdom does she want to share? What is she encouraging you to let go of? What is she reminding you to hold on to? What is really important? What is actually trivial? What’s worth worrying about? Where should your energy go?
This is a profound practice of reconnecting with the soulful, resilient, centered version of ourselves. If you’ve lost your way, if you’re feeling untethered, if you need to get to know yourself all over again, I so encourage you to meet your old woman within. Maybe she drives a giant cadillac and blows kisses to the neighbors. Maybe she wears the most memorable salmon lipstick. Maybe she runs around town in a caftan and forty pounds of jewelry. I don’t know for sure. But I do know one thing:
She’s waiting for you . . .
Oh, and I’d love to know what she says. I’m sure she has wisdom to share with us all.
Believing in you,
I have a dozen bougainvillea planted or potted around our property. If you’ve been around here for any amount of time, you know I can’t help it. I’m slightly obsessed. But over the last few weeks, as our El Nino rain fell, my bougainvillea turned to twigs. Flowerless.
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, heat descended here in So Cal. We’ve had temperatures in the UPPER 90s (!) all week. What. In. The. As one of my dear friends and followers put it, “It’s hard not to take this heat personally.” Exactly.
And as much as I love a cool rainy day and a fire in the fireplace — and I do — I have to admit that this heat wave has done wonders for my bougainvillea. I walked around the house this morning and where there had been sticks just days ago, little leaves, petals, blooms . . . are emerging. Ugghhhh. The itsy bitsy fuchsia buds are so tender and so vibrant. The whole scene is enough to make you weep.
Like this one . . .
At the very end of the brittle branches, little buds are pushing through. And this particular plant is beginning to vine it’s way up the stucco wall. It’s literally pure magic.
Beauty emerging. What’s more profound?
I’ve been noticing an odd thing I do recently. I spend a lot of time apologizing for myself. Do you do this too? I’m just standing in the grocery store, looking at grapefruits, and someone comes up beside me to look too, and my immediate reaction is to apologize for taking up space. “Oh, I’m sorry.”
I have a vulnerable conversation with a friend, and I leave feeling like I’ve said too much, like I am too much. I run to my phone to text my concern and a caveat and an apology. “So sorry. I know that was way too much.”
Maybe it’s harmless. But I wonder.
I’m more and more convinced that God is pretty much always trying to tell us, “Yeah, I got it. You’re not perfect. But do you know you’re beautiful?” You are brittle twigs and you are flowering vines and you are dormant beauty and you are flashing fuchsia. And it’s all beautiful. Let. Yourself. Emerge.
Some of you have never had anyone in your whole life tell you that you’re beautiful. And so it’s very hard for you to believe that what’s inside you is gold. And I want to be a voice that presses into those places of self-doubt inside you. I want to be a voice that tells you . . .
It’s OK to let us see you. It’s OK to bloom, blossom, vine. It’s OK. You don’t have to shrink for fear of actually being seen. You don’t have to whisper for fear of actually being heard.
You do not have to apologize for yourself anymore. You are allowed to take up space in your life and in this world.
Beautiful, uninhibited, creative space.
I spend a good deal of time in conversations with women. And one of the things I hear over and over and over again is this: “I feel like I’ve lost myself.” or “I feel like I don’t know who I am any more.”
Trauma, stress, transition, life stage, responsibilities — hard things and even hoped-for things — can cause us to lose track of all those pieces and parts of us that make us who we are. And it’s scary. It’s scary when we don’t feel like we have footing, when we feel slightly untethered and we don’t quite recognize ourselves anymore. As a result, many of us have taken a step back, gotten too quiet. Some of us are even hiding a bit.
One option, when faced with this sense of self-loss, is to launch out in search of reinvention. I don’t know about you, but I don’t always have the time and energy for reinvention. And, perhaps “who I am” is not so much “out there” as it is “in here” — and it just needs to be rediscovered more than reinvented. Is that possible?
Throughout last year, God kept pressing a word onto my heart, tapping it into my soul. It is the word RETURN. Return to me, and I will return to you (Zach 1:3). Return to yourself. Return to your own soul. Return to the garden where we can walk together. Return to beauty. Return to your loves. Return to your 6 year old self. Return to your 83 year old self. Return to your strength. . . . And I will meet you there.
Returning, while not nearly as sexy as reinvention, sits well with my soul. It seems like the holy postures and practices of abiding (which literally means “onward wait”), listening, being still, confessing, longing, and honoring the God-work in us. Returning, to me, is less about striving and pushing and strangling and control. It’s about sitting down and doing exactly what Maya tells us to do: “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”
Here’s how it looks for me. I find a beautiful spot . . .
I bring items that make me feel extra safe and extra inspired . . .
And I set my phone timer for as long as I can. Ideally, it’s 20 minutes. Sometimes, it’s 4. I call it “Twenty Minutes of Soul Time” and I spend some time with my soul. I light the expensive candle as a way of honoring those lost parts of myself, even though it costs like $6 every minute the candle burns. Even though.
I take notes for my soul. Literally. I just agree to transcribe, instead of judge, anything that surfaces. My role is supporter not skeptic.
Then I ask God if there’s anything he wants to say about what I’ve written down. And I listen some more.
I cannot tell you how powerful this practice has become for me. I am often so tempted to rush toward reinvention when God is always calling me back. Return, Leeana, return. You already have everything you need. It’s time to return to what I’ve written on your soul.
Lent is such a perfect time to begin your practice of 20 minutes of soul time. This is a season of quietude, of reflection, of listening. And I’d love to hear how it goes for you, what you discover, the ways you reconnect with those beautiful and mysterious parts of yourself.
As always, I am with you and for you!
My dear friend Wanida has the spiritual gift of picking out MAC lipstick. Gorgeous shades of pink and red. She’s a master. But not because she chooses the perfect shade. GET THIS. She’s a MAC lipstick Yoda because she — without fail — finds lipsticks with the most perfect name.
On December 16th I turned 40. It’s still weird to type that. On the night of my birthday, I was surrounded by an entire table of dear friends who covered me with their love and affirmation, and at one point in the evening, Wanida handed me a little black box with a tube of lipstick inside. I opened the box and on the end of the lipstick were the words, “Speak Louder.”
The lipstick is hot pink, of course. And, what’s nuts, is that it actually looks pretty good on me. But what is most significant about that tube of lipstick isn’t its color. It’s the name.
When Wanida reached across the table and handed me that little black box, she looked me in the eye and she said, “You speak louder. You put that lipstick on and then you put it on again. And you get out there and you speak louder. Because we need your voice.”
I tear up right now thinking about that moment, those words and how they anointed me with courage and resilience. The lipstick is a talisman that reminds me to be courageous.
Because we all use our voices and then we cower, we feel this surge of bold but then we bury it. We find it hard to trust ourselves, our intuition, our sense of knowing. We forget who we are.
I talk with a lot of women, and one thing I hear over and over again is “I feel like I’ve lost myself.” For too many of us, some of the most beautiful parts of us have gone dormant. And we are longing to go in search of them and gently wake them up.
Sometimes we need to sit on the floor and just breathe. That’s all that can be managed or accomplished in a day. I believe God, in his extraordinary grace, comes and sits on the floor with us and strokes our arm and lets us know it’s going to be OK. But then there are times when the color in our face returns, our hearts awaken, and we are ready to get up again. We are ready to inhabit our own lives again. We are ready to emerge.
We are ready to speak just a little bit louder. For ourselves. For those we love. For God. For hope. For justice. For grace. For creativity. For courage.
Speaking louder isn’t about being boisterous or belligerent or adolescent. It’s not about waving our arms just to be noticed. It’s not about decibels whatsoever. Sometimes the quietest grace is the loudest sermon. Speaking louder is the brazen act of showing up a tiny bit more, standing up a bit straighter, putting your shoulders back and your chin up and allowing yourself to be seen. Believing you are a trustworthy observer of your own life.
This is what I’ve been writing about and longing for in this most recent season. I’ve shared bits and pieces along the way, letting you know that a new project was coming. Something bold and pink and brazen. And I’m so excited to let you know that my new book, Brazen: The Courage to Find the You That’s Been Hiding, is now available for pre-order. Here is a sneak peek at the fabulous cover:
Think of this book as my way of handing you a tube of MAC “speak louder.” Think of this book as a nudge in the direction of your own soul.
I’ll be watching for the ways in which you are brazen in the coming months. I’ll be watching for the ways you’re speaking louder—celebrating your mess and your magic—knowing that God is working in and through you.
For now, just know that I believe in you.
All my love,