Monthly Archives: October 2017
I spoke to an amazing group of women this weekend. we talked about the word BRAZEN and how it literally means “unashamed” and “unapologetic.” We talked about receiving our identity, reclaiming our voices, and recovering our souls, which is all a part of the brazen work of coming out of hiding and honoring who we are created to be.
HIDE or HONOR. We get to choose, but I believe God is always inviting us to honor the gold in each of us. Genesis 3 is the story of the fall, and it’s easy to forget that the story starts two chapters earlier when God formed us from dust. The shaming Soul Bullies want to keep us small and hidden and they want us to live the Genesis 3 story every single day. But I don’t believe the most essential thing about us is that we are flawed.
I believe the most essential thing about us is that we were made in the image of God. On the day of creation, God put his hands in the wet concrete of our souls and said, It is good. Actually, it is very good.
If you’ve been reading my writing for any amount time, you likely know that bougainvillea is special to me, especially the gorgeous fuchsia variety. I love that color with my whole heart, and when I see bougainvillea, I am reminded to be brazen. I am reminded that I am invited to talk back to shame, that it doesn’t get the last word on me.
So, when I walked by this huge, flowering, bougainvillea this weekend–and I felt like she was practically cheering me on–I had to stop and get a picture with her. “You don’t have to be afraid of who you are,” she whispered to me. “You don’t have to silence your own voice or bury your gifts. You don’t have to squeeze yourself into the smallest space possible in this world. You are not a liability.”
I’ve been writing here a bit about a “messy middle” I’m in the midst of in my life right now. You can go back and read the last few blog posts for more. Some of you have raised your hands, so to speak, and said “me too. I’m in the midst of a messy middle, too. And I’m not sure how to navigate my way through.” Yep, I get it. This weekend, God gave me a sentence that I’m holding onto. A counter-spell to shame, and a reminder of who I really am.
He said, “Leeana, YOU are not your circumstances.”
And I want to pass that along to you as well. Your circumstances do not define you. God does. So no matter how messy the messy middle is that you’re in right now, I believe there is a part of you that is deeper and more essential than anything you are going through.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). And it is with unending hope that I repeat Lamentations this Monday morning. Because of God’s great love, we are not consumed. Circumstances cannot consume us. The Soul Bullies cannot consume us. Shame cannot consume us. Fear cannot consume us.
Something deep and original and enduring in us exists apart from all of the ick and insanity of life. And when we forget, when we forget that our story started in Genesis 1 with God calling us forth and calling us good, we can call upon his new-every-morning mercies to help us remember who we really are. Created. Beloved. Brazen.
“Always we begin again,” St. Benedict tells us. Great is God’s faithfulness. Inexhaustible grace. Unending love.
Remember who you are,
If you’d like to read more about my journey of receiving my identity, reclaiming my voice, and recovering my soul, you can pick up Brazen here, available in paperback, kindle, and audio.
Yesterday at church, we sang the line “You are the beginning and the end” over and over again as a chorus to one of the worship songs. And it took me right to this thought: Even when we are in the midst of a messy middle in life, and I am (and some of you are too), even when we are so far ashore we cannot see the end from the beginning, God holds them both. Our unresolved, protracted, murky circumstances are contained in him. He is the beginning and the end, even when we feel like no such boundaries exist anymore.
I hope this somehow comforts you as it did me. To know that something bigger and beyond holds our stories, contains all the missteps and questions and ambiguity. And if we believe this, that we are held even in the midst of the mess, then the best thing we can do is surrender to that held-ness. I’m not saying we can’t scream obscenities into a pillow now and then, I’m just saying that perhaps after we do that, we might want to just fall into being held. Sink into it. Drop our shoulders and breathe. Allow something/someone that is stronger and wiser to take over.
Exodus 14:14 says it all:
This doesn’t come easy or naturally to any of us. We have to choose to be still, like a practice, especially when life is handing us extraordinary circumstances. Our fight-or-flight bodies want to spring into frantic action. Our black-and-white minds want decisive resolution, a strategic plan. Our broken-and-bruised hearts want to be fixed . . . immediately. But I’m wondering if the best thing we can do for ourselves is light a candle, breathe, and be still, trusting that the Beginning and the End holds even the messiest of middles.
We can use this passage as a breath prayer if needed: Pray “God is fighting for me” as you inhale. Pray “I can be still” as you exhale. Practice the breath prayer if you can’t sleep or if you feel anxious. Use it to calm your body or your mind.
It’s ironic, isn’t it. The most productive thing we can do is be still. Totally counterintuitive. And yet, this is what trust looks like. Allowing ourselves to be held; acknowledging our stories are held.
Main task this week: breathe and be still.
All my love,
If you need a companion in the messy middle, Breathing Room is a friend in the overwhelm.
I talked in my post last week about how being still, being right where we are, often takes more energy than jumping up into frantic action. We want to “be present,” but we underestimate how much discipline and grace is required in returning, over and over again, to today . . . especially if today is some kind of unresolved “messy middle” that is very much still unfolding.
I am doing this work right now in my own life, resisting the urge to jump ahead of a messy middle that I’m in. Of course, I do jump ahead. I forecast and I fantasize and I forget all this great wisdom. My heart starts to race and my chest gets heavy and I know I’ve launched into territory that isn’t helpful. Grace, in that very moment, means I simply begin again instead of bullying myself for messing up. Ugh.
Something that helps me be where I am is what I call “holding both”– allowing space in our souls for opposing emotions to simultaneously be true. For example, glorious beauty & a well of sadness. Possibility & regret. Peace & worry. Trust & fear.
As I’m writing this post, I can see the window pictured above. It’s a vintage stained glass window, and it’s broken. Both beautiful and broken.
Anxiety, desperation, trauma, and scarcity thinking force us to choose one experience. That person is either bad or good. This situation is either bad or good. I am either doing a good job or a bad job handling this. The past is either bad or good. The future is either bad or good.
I can’t even tell you how unhelpful this all is. Holding both isn’t magical thinking. It is a spiritual discipline, in my opinion. We do the work of looking for the nuance instead of allowing ourselves to be backed into a corner.
One thing we learn when we go through difficult seasons (if we will do the work of getting help and support instead of getting stuck), is that they will actually expand us instead of reduce us. They will give us more capacity for empathy, love, and trust. They will expand our faith. They will give us more capacity for holding both.
A way to practice holding both is to write down some of the opposing things you’re thinking about or feeling right now. Pair seeming opposites if you can with a big fat “&” between them:
Empathy & Anger
Heartbreak & Hope
Lost & Found
Beauty & Brokenness
And let’s be real clear that it takes A LOT of energy to hold both. So we might need a nap or a long walk or we may not end up being as productive as we’d like to be. That’s OK. It’s worth it. Dualistic, either/or thinking is what gets us completely stuck in bitterness, rage, self-protection. Holding both is what allows room for grace, movement, resilience, the work of the Holy Spirit.
I hate that life can be, in the very same second, both broken and beautiful, but it can. And it is. Allowing space for both will keep our souls from souring. I believe this wholeheartedly.
Love and grace to all of us who are holding both today,
I’m currently in the midst of a messy middle in my life. Here’s what I mean by that: I’m not at the beginning of a hard situation, but I am not at the end either. You know that feeling of wanting to be “through” something, of wanting to just know how it’s all going to reconcile, how it’s all going to look on the other side?
And what I’ve been reflecting on lately is that sometimes being right where we are is the hardest work. Sometimes it takes more energy to *be still* than to spring into frantic action. Being “present” is all the rage, a buzz word even, but we don’t always acknowledge the spiritual, emotional, mental, physical discipline required to stay present, especially when the present is uncertain or unresolved. For me currently, being right where I am, today, this week, is the invitation, instead of trying to figure a way out.
But, let me be clear, I don’t like this. I don’t like it one bit. Because it takes so much energy to stop, surrender, let go. More than expected, even.
Whatever “middle” you’re in today, I understand the urgent temptation to want to push through the process, grasp for control and certainty, and resist the invitation (maybe even the mandate) to be still. It doesn’t matter if the messy middle is financial or relational or professional or physical, the interminable-ness is exhausting and makes us edgy.
So here’s what’s helping me:
— Taking life in 12 hour increments.
— Welcoming all the crazy feelings. I cannot say enough about this. Instead of driving away all my frantic thoughts and insane solutions, instead of judging myself for being so out of control and adolescent, I make a point to welcome it all. That doesn’t mean I act on any of it. I just acknowledge all the ways that I want to jump forward, which seems to relieve some of the pressure.
— Resisting the urge to make anything urgent. So much of what I think must be decided and figured out, doesn’t. It needs to unfold.
— Remembering to be good to myself, like I would a friend. Understanding. Empathetic. Patient.
— Beginning again. If I get too far ahead of myself, I recommit to the present. This moment. Now. Over and over again. This is what it means to give myself grace.
Here’s another bit of gold: Your issues are not your identity. THANK GOD. Something runs deeper in us than any circumstance. So WHERE you are right now, WHERE I am right now, is not WHO we are. Isn’t that everything. Our messy middles don’t define us. And maybe if we can remember that truth, we can hang in a bit longer, commit to being still for another three seconds. And then another. And then another.
I lit a candle this morning, a reminder to myself to be still long enough to let God sit by me. Right here in my messy middle.
Love you all,
If you need a kind companion to walk with you while you are in the midst of a messy middle, check out Breathing Room, a book about letting go even when we are overwhelmed. For some insane reason, it’s only $6.99 on Amazon right now. So, Id’ say that’s a sign. ;)