Holding Both

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

Death & Life

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,

Leeana

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The Energy Required to Be Still

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,

Leeana

 

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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. ;)

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The Continued Practice of Self-Companionship

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As much as I have thought about, written about, and talked about the idea of learning to be a companion to myself, I am as certain as ever that self-companionship is a practice . . . something we must get up each day and decide, yet again, to participate in. Will be on our own team, or will we allow the vicious voices to coax us back in the ring with ourselves?

I’m afraid that sometimes you’ll play lonely games too

Games you can’t win ‘cause you’ll play against you

-Dr. Seuss, Oh the Places You’ll Go

We are in the midst of an entire country-worth of big feelings right now, and we can easily punish ourselves for not doing more, knowing more, speaking out more. As always, I believe we do not punish ourselves into change. We do not demean ourselves into meaningful action. We do not bully ourselves where we’re trying to go. Instead, we believe ourselves there. We companion ourselves there. We finally realize we deserve something more.

Just this week, I listened to the vicious voices, the Soul Bullies, in my head as if they were the only voice to listen to, as if they were the truest truth, as if they were the voice of God. And it got me nowhere. Those voices offer no way out. They offer a tangle.

As soon as I realized who had my ear, I had to do the difficult and holy reparative work of coming around the table and sitting next to myself as I would a dear friend. I had to ease up and back off and breathe. I had to forgive myself and begin again, which are two tasks that feel impossible when we’re listening to the Soul Bullies.

Last weekend, I was part of a workshop for about 25 women. The closing question we posed at the end of the workshop was this: What are you serving that isn’t serving you?

I would invite you to sit with this question. I can promise you that if you are serving shame, it is not serving you. I can promise you that if you are serving self-loathing, self-destruction . . . these endeavors are not serving you. They are bottomless pits, closed loops, that will keep taking from you and they will give you nothing in return.

However, I have found in my own life that as soon as I can—because of God’s deep grace and love for me—access a place of compassion and care for myself, I can begin to see a way forward, a way out.

Pushing, punishing, scolding, cornering, comparing, bullying, ignoring, overriding, silencing, shaming, blaming . . . these behaviors do not lead to anything productive. And we cannot in our own power just simply banish them once and for all. We need to see self-companionship as a practice we will commit to. And when we falter, as is inevitable, we will recommit to being on our own team. We will not serve the god of shame and its empty promises.

Self-companionship is not self-worship. Let me be clear. Self-companionship is about being able to see our beauty and our brokenness alike and to hold them and allow God to heal them instead of needing to hide our own wonder or our own wounds.

This is transformation.

What are you serving that isn’t serving you?

All my love,

Leeana

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Closing Thoughts, 2016

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These words of Parker Palmer’s are the words I’m taking with me into the New Year. With them are: congruence, wholeness, and listening (listen is my word for 2017). The beginning of this New Year will be an intensive writing time for me, which means the call to integrity and honesty is resting on me anew. Joining that call is the conviction to burn down those false mantles that are heavy and contradictory to my soul. In a word, paralyzing. It’s a call to trust myself more deeply as inklings surface and as desires deepen. And it’s an invitation to run headlong into offering that which I’ve been given. Gifts are best given. I was reminded of that recently.

I’m sharing all this with you because I wonder if you, too, feel like you lose your way about every week or so, that all the popular wisdom is confusing you more than it is helping you, and you are longing to live “divided no more.” I don’t know what that looks like in your life. I barely know what it looks like in mine. But I have whispers and ideas and thoughts and I feel compelled to tease those all out. And I want to encourage you to do the same.

Of course, integration requires listening. To ourselves. To God. Listening is a lost practice. And I’m going to rediscover it this year. No matter what this year has held for you — glorious or gutting — we must begin again. Always we begin again.

All my love,

Leeana

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Continue, November 2016

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I instinctively rolled up my denim shirt sleeves before I started this post, a ritual that signifies getting to work, digging in, getting down to business. I think, in part, because it feels like things are a bit of a mess and there’s work to be done. Maybe you too are feeling helpless like you don’t know where to start, what to think, how to begin.

I sat in a circle of dear friends last night and there were so many tears. So many tears. So much frustration and rage and confusion. So much exhaustion. So much honesty and fear. So much beauty, too.

Whether you were startled and speechless by election results or you were unexpectedly affected by recent online announcements from voices you follow or whether you feel as though you have whiplash from the backlash of all the sides raging and shouting at one another . . . I get it.

The narrative shifted. And when that happens, it’s confusing, tiring, and it takes us some time to catch up. Meanwhile, our bodies are sore, our sleep is interrupted, our hearts are very fragile. All of this makes sense to me. If you, like me, are a deeply feeling and empathetic person, it does not matter where you land on any of these issues, the sheer weight of dissent and discord and rage is enough to make you want to wear Ugg boots and no make up for the foreseeable future.

I mentioned yesterday on IG and FB that we happened to pull up right behind a car that had “F@$k Trump” painted in huge letters across the back of the windshield. And Lane immediately begins sounding out the sentiment for all of us. “What does F@$k Trump even mean, Mommy?” she asks.

And we—right there on the corner of Avocado and Fuerte—had yet another conversation about this election, people’s very different perspectives on the very same issues, and how so many people are angry and hurting right now.

As we were talking, I wished that my 7 year olds and my 4 year old didn’t have to learn the word F@$k right then. Because now they know it. I wished all the feelings of being unhinged would just evaporate. And I wished rage wasn’t pouring down our streets for my kids to witness.

And yet, here we are. So what do we do? In times like these I turn to two people primarily: The “magnificent madman, Jesus” (a perfect term from Vincent Harding) and Maya Angelou, of course.

First, Maya. If she were still with us, I believe her word to us all right now would be: Continue, which is the title of one of my very favorite poems of hers. Here is a selection:

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 remind people that

Each is as good as the other

And that no one is beneath

Nor above you

 

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 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

***

I think the soul bullies want to convince us that to continue, at this point, would be such a waste of time, such a foolish endeavor. But we cannot let them convince us to remain sidelined, silenced, small.

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And then our magnificent madman, Jesus, who subversively found the third way in every conversation with people who “knew” it all. When asked to choose a side, be black and white in his rhetoric, Jesus always seemed to give a third way. Are we looking for a third way these days or are we entrenched on “sides”? The entrenching will get us nowhere, I’m convinced. We’ve got to come out from behind our barricades and start looking together for a third way.

I have a hunch the third way begins with serving. Especially serving those God has put in our lives, right here, today. And then looking up together and asking how we might continue the work of love and service in whatever way God has invited us to love and serve. Rhetoric keeps us safely distanced from each other. Serving forces us to roll up our sleeves and stand shoulder to shoulder, which somehow feels terribly, uncomfortably right, right now.

Mother Teresa said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Do you know how honorable and vulnerable it is to start with the people right here in our homes, to serve them and cherish them and witness their lives? We can so easily look past the people around our table—the family God has assembled around us, be them blood related or brought to our doorstep—and focus entirely on the big picture. Let’s not miss out on the love in our own living rooms.

I wonder if we are to also serve ourselves: empathizing with, caring for, loving even our confused and vulnerable selves. Read beautiful writing. Stare at nature. Light the expensive candle. Gather ourselves so that we can be of some good to those who need us most.

And then wrap our arms around all the children. Every last one of them: “Teach the children. We don’t matter so much, but the children do. Show them the daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. . . . Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged form the lords of profit. Stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms” (Mary Oliver). YES. Especially the line about giving them peppermint to put in their pockets.

And as we spend time with the children, who Jesus always, always, brought to his side, we gain some kind of miraculous perspective, I’m convinced. And we will know the next breadcrumb we are supposed to follow, the next meal we are supposed to serve, the next hug we are to dole out, the next kindness we are to bestow. And we will continue. Until somehow, some way there is a kind of relief that comes from the inside. Nothing whatsoever may change on the outside. But we, my dear friends, can begin again on the inside.

Leeana

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And the winner is . . .

Thank you for those of you who entered to win a copy of Kristen Strong‘s beautiful book on change — Girl Meets Change — from my last post. Our lucky winner is . . .

Sheila Millinder

Congrats!

Sheila, please email me at leeana (at) leeanatankersley (dot) com and provide your mailing address and a copy of Kristen’s book will be on its way to you!

And THANK YOU to Kristen for responding to all of the entries personally. She’s just gold like that.

Stay tuned for more posts from some of my favorite Brazen Voices along with book giveaways throughout the fall!

Love and more love,

Leeana

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Brazen Voices — Kristen Strong (+ a giveaway!)

on-your-kneesI am genuinely grateful for what I’m about to share with you . . . a vulnerable post from author, dear friend, and tender warrior, Kristen Strong. Kristen took the theme in chapter 24 of Brazen (“Don’t Walk on Your Knees”) and wrote her own version of what living apologetically has looked like in her life. And I couldn’t love it more. I know it will meet you . . . and don’t miss the details for a giveaway of Kristen’s book, Girl Meets Change, at the end of the post.

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If You’ve Ever Been Inclined to Apologize for Your Existence in This World

by Kristen Strong

Recently I recalled a memory from a few years ago, one where I sat in a booth with five girlfriends at the Cheesecake Factory. As I chatted with my people, I scanned the menu up and down, asking myself what I should order. My rumbly stomach answered that basically, every offering sounded like the best meal ever. When it came time to place my order, I still hesitated with indecision. Looking up at the waiter, I apologized for taking so long. And then once I did spell out my order for Chinese chicken salad, I quickly changed my mind and said, “Oh wait! I’m so sorry, but I’ll have the fish tacos after all!” I proceeded to apologized again for being so difficult.

The waiter tapped his pencil on his pad, eyed my group of friends collectively and said, “Does she always apologize this much?”

As if they had rehearsed it, my friends responded in a uniform chorus, “Yeeees.”

Guess what I did next? Ya, I apologized again for apologizing.

Gah, sometimes I get on my own nerves somethin’ fierce.

I have a few theories that explain this part of my personality, but they all seem to fall under one lie that in my mind has twirled into truth: In one way or another, I don’t have a right to exist in this world.

Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about thoughts of ending my life or anything along those lines. I’ve never believed I shouldn’t be alive. Rather, I’ve believed I’m somehow mistaken when I come across too big in my alive-ness. I’m wrong to take up space and in doing so, I’m in the way of all the other people taking up space next to me. So if I do something that puts me out there in a bigger, more present level–like taking extra time to make a decision or changing my mind about that decision–I apologize for it.

This manifests itself in other ways too, like apologizing to the friend I call or text to ask a question–or God forbid–for real deal help. I apologize for taking too long to pay for groceries at the commissary. All in all, I apologize for being someone who walks and moves and thinks and holds opinions and needs help.

Crazy, I know.

“God gave you a name and a place in this world and he is calling you back to his love each and every day. He is inviting us to unlearn the muted versions of ourselves that we put out into the world and to return to his fully saturated love, our fully saturated selves.” Leeana Tankersley, Brazen

It seems all my apologizing is my attempt to show a more muted version of myself, and it’s going to take some major unlearning to stop begging forgiveness for simply taking up space.

I wonder if you have struggled with the same thing? If like me, one way you attempt to mute your existence is by over-apologizing? Listen friend, you and I need to understand and remember that I’m sorry should be saved for situations that warrant repentance. It should be used in circumstances where we’ve hurt someone and need forgiveness. It should not be used because we believe we’re intrinsically sorry or no good.

We are not dingbats or dead weight here on this planet.

Still, I know myself well enough to know I won’t be able to quit apologizing cold turkey. But I think a good place to start is to intentionally listen to God’s affirmation in the moment rather than the enemy’s accusations. 

God made me and you not to be hidden, put away, or to feel like our existence constantly puts others out. You are here on purpose and for a purpose. Just as his fire orange and hot pink sunsets show up each and every day, he wants you to brazenly show up in your circles, your community and in your life. You are allowed to do your thing the way he’s created you to for as long as he asks and you need. I am too. So:

  • I get to change my mind about an order.
  • I am no less okay because I ask questions when I need help.
  • I have the right to take a little extra time at the check out line because of my coupons.

We get to be here big, bold, and brazen. Not in an obnoxious way, but in a living-how-God-created-us way.

And may we never apologize for that. 

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I am thrilled to be giving away a copy of Kristen’s beautiful book, Girl Meets Change. If there is any constant in this world, it is change. And that truth seems to always catch me by surprise for some crazy reason! In her book, Kristen provides honest and helpful companionship to any of us — all of us — who are in the midst of new territory.

To win a copy of Girl Meets Change, please leave a comment below about something that resonated with you from Kristen’s post. Can’t wait to read your comments! The winner will be chosen randomly and announced here on the blog in one week! Good luck, precious souls!

Love upon love,

Leeana

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Breadcrumbs

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We woke up to a wall of fog this morning. Gloriously. Like Northern California has blown down her mystery and romance. And . . . to be honest . . . the lingering fog puts a smug smile on my face because it is such a mirror of my internal world these past few days. Feels like irony.

Henri Nouwen quotes Antonio Porchia in the Introduction of The Wounded Healer: “A door opens to me. I go in and am faced with a hundred closed doors.” This is what I feel up against. Real or perceived, this is what I feel. And what follows is fog, angst, paralysis. Can you relate?

I decide to take my office outside this morning, to the back patio, which I reference more than a few times in Brazen, and which is always — and I mean always — a source of soul oxygen to me. I ask God for a breadcrumb.

Beth-with-Dreads prays the Lord’s Prayer this way: She says, “Give us this day our daily breadcrumbs,” and I think this really is IT. We pick up the next breadcrumb. And the next. And we trust the crumbs are actually taking us somewhere, a path to something that matters in the scheme of the universe. The breadcrumbs wind us around and through and keep our eyes present instead of out across a looming horizon.

I want a strategic plan. God whispers in my ear, what if you let go of your strategic plan and offer a sacred prayer instead. Like, “help.” Or, “here.”

Here, God, is my uncertainty and self-doubt and God-doubt. Here, God, is my fear and my need for control. Here is my hope and my most profound dream. Here. Take it and show me the next breadcrumb.

Here’s what arrives: The only thing that matters right now is how you walk with yourself through right now.

That’s this moment’s breadcrumb.

Don’t you just want to roll your eyes. That can’t possibly be the answer. Deep down, I know this is really all that matters. I have said it a million times: There are so few things we can control. Almost nothing. One thing we can control is how we treat ourselves and that one thing can change everything.

Ugghhhhhhhhhh.

I was reading toward the end of Ecclesiastes 9 where Solomon writes, I realized that if you keep your eyes open day and night without even blinking, you’ll still never figure out the meaning of what God is doing on this earth. Search as hard as you like, you’re not going to make sense of it. No matter how smart you are, you won’t get to the bottom of it” (The Message).

This tells me I will not analyze, figure, plan, or scheme my way into space and breath and grace. I will “here” myself there. I will keep handing the heavy back over to him and I will ask him for the breadcrumb, which is light and straightforward and uncomplicated in its ease.

As I sit here, I am struck with a profound realization: No door is actually closed to me. None at all. Did you know that? I perceive doors to be slamming shut, but it’s just the work of the Soul Bullies. Nouwen goes on to say, “But I wanted at least to prevent the temptation of not entering any doors at all out of fear of the closed ones.” The Bully’s entire agenda is to keep us from entering any door at all out of fear, a sense of being doomed, an inevitability of failure or disappointment.

So the antidote, I guess, is to keep following the breadcrumbs into the fog, through the fog, to “here” ourselves there (“here, God, take what’s in my hands”), and to do all this with the gentleness we would offer a child hiding in her closet. Because SO many voices have told us to be afraid, to stop, to stay put, to quiet down, to quit with all this nonsense. And we need to help ourselves heal from the trauma that’s been done to our souls. We need to help ourselves heal from the continual self-doubt. We need to learn what it feels like to sit with our very scared selves in the closet and say, “You’re OK. You can trust yourself. Do you see a breadcrumb? I’m with you.”

Since I sat down out here, since I followed the breadcrumbs to the back patio and began writing (which, like the patio, is always a source), the fog has burned off considerably. A sweet breeze has replaced the stillness. It’s still so deliciously cool, but a bit more light has arrived.

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All my love,

Leeana

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And the winner is . . .

Thank you for ALL your beautiful comments on my last blog post. Our winner for a free copy of Present Over Perfect is . . .

Meghann Eastham!!!

Meghann, I hope you LOVE the book and it speaks right to where you are, as I know it will. Everyone needs to go read Meghann’s comment on my previous post. You will find yourself in her words, to be sure. Meghann, please email me at leeana (at) leeanatankersley (dot) com with your mailing address and we will send a book to you right away!

I’ve got more book giveaways coming this fall in my “Brazen Voices” series, so stay tuned!

Have a fabulous weekend, friends.

Love,

Leeana

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Brazen Voices — Shauna Niequist (+ a giveaway!)

Hello precious souls!!!

After some refueling this summer, I’m thrilled to be back in action on the blog! Throughout the fall, I’m going to be featuring a series of “Brazen Voices” — women who have impacted me with their words and their ways, women who I want you to know and read.

Present Over Perfect

Today, I’m bringing you an excerpt from my friend Shauna Niequist’s brand new, already bestselling book, Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living. This book is confession. That’s what I kept thinking as I read it. It’s an aching, vulnerable, gorgeous confession of how Shauna realized she got it wrong — how she got caught up in a lifestyle that didn’t actually produce and the ways she’s choosing something slower and quieter and simpler now. I don’t know a woman who wouldn’t benefit from reading this book. It’s incredibly personal, subversive in its message, and beautifully written. (And one of you will be lucky to win your very own copy!)

And so, here are Shauna’s brazen words . . .

This last weekend was one of the sweetest yet, and part of it, certainly, owes itself to my new learning: Memorial Day Weekend in the past has been frantic shopping and cooking and menu planning, guests upon guests, plans upon plans time and places and texts, a chaotic effort to ring in the summer season with one more drink, one more ice cream cone, one more boat ride before falling into bed.

And this year, none of that. We stayed on the beach for hours, because there’s something about the beach that just brings out the best in little kids—imagination and sand and sun and yelping and tumbling around, all the good stuff. We went to bed early knowing that, with all the fun, it would take the little boys some extra time to settle down. We stayed in our pajamas till eleven on Sunday, my cousins, their kids and mine, their parents and mine, all sitting around the Blue House kitchen table, a box of donuts from Golden Brown Bakery and a pot of coffee. We made s’mores and played with sidewalk chalk. We had breakfast tacos from the farmer’s market and kept the kids happy with bowls of strawberries outside on the lawn. It was slow, and it was simple, and it was sweeter than I can remember, because it felt more like a glass of water than a firehose. Pride, for years, has told me that I am strong enough to drink from a firehose, and gluttony tells me it will all be so delicious.

But those voices are liars. The glass of cool water is more lovely and sustaining than the firehose will ever be, and I’m starting to trust the voices of peace and simplicity more than pride and gluttony. They’re leading me well these days.

The more I listen to myself, my body, my feelings, and the less I listen to the “should” and “must” and “to-do” voices, the more I realize my body and spirit have been whispering all along, but I couldn’t hear them over the chaos and noise of the life I’d created. I was addicted to this chaos, but like any addiction, it was damaging me.

Here’s what I know: I thought the doing and the busyness would keep me safe. They keep me numb. Which is not the same as safe, which isn’t even the greatest thing to aspire to.

If you’re not like me—prone to frantic levels of activity, swirling chaos, fast-moving cycles of over-commitment and resentment—then you might press your face up to the glass of my life with something like wonder and a little confusion. “Why don’t you,” you might suggest gently, “just slow down?” I understand the question, but I find it’s a little bit like asking people who are ruining their life and health with their addiction to alcohol why they think they’re so thirsty.

The stillness feels sort of like walking on the ceiling—utterly foreign. What makes sense to me: pushing. Lists. Responsibility. Action, action, action. What’s changing my life: silence. Rest. Letting myself be fragile. Asking for help.

This weekend at the lake, Friday and Saturday were clear-skied and gorgeous, and we played outside absolutely all day long, morning till night. Sunday, though, and Monday were cloudy, storms moving through, showers on and off, and that cloud cover fell over us like a soft blanket, slowing us down, urging us toward naps and movies and coloring books. Lake life has those invitations to rest and slowness woven right into the fabric of our days—rain showers that send us inside, nightfall that lays us down. But so many of us, myself chief among them, have forsaken those natural rhythms and stayed at full speed, through the night, through the storms. . . .

It’s raining now, and I love the sound of the drops falling on the awning outside my window, love the smell of dirt and water, love the way the rain necessarily slows everything and everyone down just a little.

What kept me running? That’s the question I keep returning to, the lock I keep fiddling with. I was highly invested in maintaining my reputation as a very capable person. I thought that how other people felt about me or thought about me could determine my happiness. When I see that on the page now, staring back at me in black and white, I see how deeply flawed that idea is, how silly even.

But this is what I’ve learned the hard way: what people think about you means nothing in comparison to what you believe about yourself. Essentially, my identity then depended on outward approval, which changes on a dime. So you dance and you please and you placate and you prove. You become a three-ring circus and in each ring you’re an entirely different performing animal, anything anyone wants you to be.

The crucial journey, then, for me, has been from dependence on external expectations, down into my own self, deeper still into God’s view of me, his love for me that doesn’t change, that will not change, that defines and grounds everything.

I bet it all on busyness, achievement, being known as responsible, and escaping when those things didn’t work. What I see now is that what I really wanted was love, grace, connection, peace.

When you decide, finally, to stop running on the fuel of anxiety, desire to prove, fear, shame, deep inadequacy—when you decide to walk away from that fuel for a while, there’s nothing but confusion and silence. You’re on the side of the road, empty tank, no idea what will propel you forward. It’s disorienting, freeing, terrifying. For a while, you just sit, contentedly, and contentment is the most foreign concept you know. But you learn it, shocking as it is, day by day, hour by hour. You sit in your own skin, being just your own plain self. And it’s okay. And it’s changing everything.*

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Thank you, Shauna, for these gutting words that hit right at the center of things for so many of us. Ugghhhhh. Thank you!

I’m giving away a copy of Present Over Perfect to one lucky winner. To enter, just leave a comment below about what was meaningful to you in this excerpt, and the winner will be randomly chosen and announced this Friday!

And stay tuned for more “Brazen Voices” posts coming to you throughout the fall.

So much love to you all,

Leeana

*Taken from Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist Copyright (c) 2016 by Shauna Niequist. Used by permission of Zondervan. www. Zondervan. com.
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