Monthly Archives: August 2014
The other day I did something I should have never ever done. I did something you should never, ever—under any circumstances—do.
In a moment of obsessive deficit thinking, I took a picture of my own butt.
I put on my raspberry workout skirt that has the built-in raspberry spandex underneath. I lifted the back of the skirt up, held my phone behind me (shooting up toward my butt), switched the camera to mirror mode, and I clicked.
Then I did the second dumbest thing I had done all day. I looked at the picture.
Of course, I was aghast. There, on my phone was an upward-facing shot of my own butt in tortured raspberry spandex. (Apparently, this is what they refer to as “a bad angle.”)
“Have you lost your mind?” my husband Steve said when I told him what I did.
“Well, I just wanted to see what I was working with.”
“And did that help?”
“No. No. IT. DID. NOT.”
This just goes to show you what we will do at our own expense. We’ll sell ourselves out, time and time again, for the fix we think will—once and for all—help us feel safe in the world.
It never works. I will never take a good enough Butt Picture. Ever. And neither will you. If our insides are hurting and unattended, there isn’t a Butt Picture in the world that will make it all better. Not one. This is possibly the most profound truth I know.
In Psalm 18:16-19 (MSG) the psalmist talks about being saved from the void in which he was drowning, being stood up on a wide-open field, a spacious place, surprised to be so loved. I’m obsessed with this passage because I so get it.
I get what it feels like to be drowning in a void. Drowning in my own anxious thoughts. Drowning in self-deprecation. I think every single one of us, if we’re honest, knows what it feels like to be suffocating ever so slightly.
And we all know, in our secret hearts, the crazy things we will do to try to make ourselves feel better.
But, the reality is, if we are drowning in a void, everything we try to throw into that void will be consumed. Everything. Nothing will satisfy. Nothing will save.
And, unfortunately, our attempts to make ourselves feel better just end up making us feel worse. Because they aren’t truly liberating. They’re the Great Lies. (Example of a Great Lie: “If you have a lovely butt, you will feel healed and safe and powerful and like you ultimately belong.)
I once read in 12-step literature a line that stopped me cold: “We do not deserve to keep hurting ourselves.”
We do not deserve to keep bullying ourselves into a sense of belonging. We do not deserve to keep squeezing ourselves into a sense of safety.
I know this, and I forget this. I get panicked and, instead of turning toward myself with compassion, I look for the fix. I look for the thing that will satisfy the ache.
Instead, salvation is in my answer to that one little pesky question Christ is looking in my eyes and asking, “Leeana, do you want to get well?”
I take that question to be Christ’s hand extended to me, reaching toward me in great love and grace, waiting for me to reach back and grab hold so he can pull me from the abyss.
The Butt Picture will never offer me that kind of hope. (Why do I have to learn this lesson over and over and over again.)
What are you secretly hoping will rescue you? Does that thing have the power to truly offer you freedom, ease, space, breath?
Weekend mantra (let’s all put this on repeat in our souls): “There will never be a good enough Butt Picture.”
I know a lot of people who are staring down some hard things right now. Recovering from loss, beginning again, believing something could change, facing down those awful brain vultures who want to convince us we’re done, fighting for some creative space, staying married, looking for beauty in the mess. These things require Navy-SEAL level soul resolve.
Remember the SEAL mantra, “The only easy day was yesterday.” Stay in the fight. Keep showing up. Keep breathing.
No matter what you’re up against today, you are a warrior.
And I believe in you.
So many thanks to the amazing women who participated in my “Squeeze & Space” guest series. If you have not yet read their stories and their words, I so encourage you to take a moment this weekend and read through each of them: Kristin, Elaine, Jenny, Deanna, and Audi. Each feeling the squeeze of life in their own unique contexts and each finding the spacious place, too, turning toward God’s “yes-breath” in their lives, as Jenny put it. Love that.
And now . . . A shift is in the air, isn’t it. Summer is coming to a close and we are headed into the first days of school. The carefree of summer is traded for the focus of fall. And I’m feeling that here in my house too.
Last week, Luke and Lane started Kindergarten and Elle started preschool, events our household has been anticipating all summer. And, as I sit at our kitchen table, typing away, with a bit more space in my life and in my home—a sliver-more of margin—I know it is also time for me to invite you, more intentionally, to come with me on a journey.
In six short weeks my newest book, Breathing Room, will release. In the following days I want to bring you into the heart and soul of this book—why I wrote it, why I want you to read it, why I believe the story matters.
Breathing Room is the story of what happens when we get to the point in life when something has to give. We can decide to vacate and drift out to sea. Or we can show up, keep our eyes open, ask for help, be brutally honest, and listen listen listen. Ultimately, it’s the story of me drowning and reaching up in frailty and overwhelm and God reaching down in his grace and bringing me breath, spaciousness, one tiny miracle at a time.
If you feel as though something in your life might need to give—anything at all, really—and it’s causing you angst and overwhelm and, dare I say, anxiety . . . I’m inviting you to come with me as we talk more about what we need to hold onto and what we need to let go of so that we might fully live.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share excerpts and backstory and maybe even a little video, if I can get the nerve up. I’m going to talk about getting to know ourselves much more deeply—our desires, our longings, our pain, our stories—and, thereby, allowing ourselves to connect much more deeply and authentically with each other and with God.
I’m going to talk about letting go of the ways in which you might be bullying and silencing yourself and to listen listen listen to the hushed drum beats of your soul that are telling you how you might really want to live.
I’m going to share about feeling nuts and chaotic and frantic and the really weird and unexpected ways God put his arms around me when I was at my worst.
Hopefully, when Breathing Room releases, you will have a clear idea of what it’s about, who it’s for, and how it might intersect with your own story.
If you’d like to read a few excerpts, Amazon has the “look inside” feature ready to go and you can get a sneak peek of the Table of Contents and some of the chapters.
It is with great anticipation that I approach these upcoming weeks. I know so many of us are longing for freedom, centeredness, wholeness — the miracle of breathing room. And I am so very grateful to bring you the stories of how God has visited me with his love and grace, the everyday miracles he’s sent my direction.
A huge thanks to Deanna Ramsay for her post last week! Sometimes we get blindsided by life. I love how Deanna talked about being in need and how uncomfortable that can be for all of us, but how God provides for us through the hands and feet of each other. Beauty right there in the midst of a mess. Love.
Today, I’m bringing you the soulful, Audi Swift. Audi is a wife, a mother to three littles, a writer, and a deep well. When I asked Audi where she if feeling the squeeze in life and where she is finding space, she wrote about the process of reclaiming her voice — a journey of healing — which I so resonate with personally. I truly love this post, and I believe it will say something important to you.
Here’s Audi in her own words . . .
Hi! I’m Audi Swift and I’m so glad to connect with you.
I’m a native Oregon girl who lives in San Diego with my husband Jeremy and our three kids. I’m a confusing mix of girly-tomboy, athletic-writer and social-introvert. I love long delicious meals, being close to water and listening to dance music. I’m on a new journey of writing more seriously, which is both invigorating and terrifying. It is my hope that as you read my writing, God’s love and redemption speak to your heart despite all of my humanness.
When thinking on how I’m experiencing ‘the squeeze’ in life, a very current, very vulnerable struggle came quickly to mind. But as in anything that makes us feel see-through, an uneasiness quickly swept over me.
How can I share that I’ve spent over a decade of my life living within the framework of the lie “I’m not good enough”? Never a good enough wife, mother, friend, writer, etc. How can I share that I’m in my early thirties, with a husband and three small children and I’m just now realizing I don’t know my own voice?
The thing that is getting me down and leaving me breathless is that I am having to face the pain of my past. I am having to trudge my way through another layer of growth and healing in order to not stay stuck. The tension between staying stuck and moving towards growth is what makes the squeeze so very uncomfortable.
My past has seen me through well over a decade of tumultuous family years when I was entering junior high, a verbally abusive ex-boyfriend, an eating disorder that nearly killed me and the death of my older brother. Year upon year, heartbreak upon heartbreak, I believed I wasn’t good enough, resulting in unconsciously making myself small and not voicing my thoughts for fear of rejection.
If I’m being honest and if I allow it to, the squeeze of facing The Past can make me feel defeated, stuck and sad. The kind of sad that makes me want to stay in bed all day. The kind of stuck that makes me wonder if I’ll ever be able to change the unhealthy rhythms from the past twenty years. The kind of defeated that makes me wonder if I’m letting my kids down. Will I ever come to know my own voice instead of the voice of my past abuser? Will I ever be rid of the shame that tells me I’m not enough? Will I ever not feel fragile and scared and like a child?
These are the moments when I’m in desperate need of space. I’m in desperate need of breath, light and truth.
Throughout my life, this place of space always comes in the form of alone time. And as our family has grown, I’ve had to hold this space as sacred, because it means life for every single person in our family. These days I’ve found this alone time in my early morning runs, before tiny feet are up and running around our house. Running alone is giving me the quiet and clarity a house with three tiny people can not.
And wouldn’t you know? Just when I need it. Just when I am feeling defeated, stuck and sad. Just when I’m breathless and my heart feels like failing…
God shows up and meets me.
As I run, I’ve been praising Him and pouring out my heart to Him. Most importantly, I’ve been trying to be quiet and listen. And in the hush of the morning, He’s been whispering His wonderful light and truth deep into my soul.
I’m removing your shackles, my girl.
You ARE enough because of ME.
I will give you a voice for the voiceless.
I whisper back, “Thank you, thank you, thank you”.
With each pounding footstep on the pavement, real breath comes inside of me and revives my heart. I am connected to my breath, body and strength. Instead of defeated, I feel lifted. Instead of stuck, I feel free. Instead of sad, I feel peace.
It is beyond me where the squeeze of facing this layer of The Past will take me. But there is something the pain from The Past has given to me: the confidence that the sacred, spacious place God is giving me today is enough to carry me through whatever squeeze might press on me today.
So today, I just show up. I breath in the space. I remain brave in the squeeze.
Even in writing this, I realize how both the squeeze and the space are vital to my soul. Without the space, I am not able to grow in the squeeze. Without the squeeze, I am not desperate and thankful for the space.
You can follow Audi at www.audiswift.com to read more of her journey and her beautiful writing. She wrote what I would consider a companion piece to this post on her own blog that I’d so encourage you to read as well.
If you’re new to this guest series, here’s some backstory. I chose a handful of women I admire and asked them to respond to the following: “Where are you currently experiencing the squeeze in your life and where are you currently finding some space?” Of course, each of them has answered in their own way, with their own stories. And it’s been a gift to read their unique perspectives and to offer their insight to you.
Today, I’m so honored to welcome Deanna Ramsay, mother of four and extraordinary vocalist (she and her husband sang in my wedding almost 11 years ago!). Deanna’s story is about life unexpectedly spinning beyond our control, and what happens as we walk that unknown road. If you’d like to read more about Deanna’s life, you can follow her at www.deannaramsay.com.
Here’s Deanna in her own words . . .
Learning to Breathe.
It was 8pm on a Tuesday night and I was driving my husband to the Emergency Room because of a 4 day long headache. I know what you’re thinking. We thought it too. “Really? The ER? For a headache?!?” But Jon’s parents had popped by our house that night and insisted we go, since headaches are out of the norm for him. With 4 young children, a trip alone to the ER seemed like as good a date night as any, so off we went.
We expected them to give Jon an “extra strength something” and send us on our way. But after 3 hours, we found out that our lives would never be the same. An MRI revealed my husband had a golf ball sized tumor in his brain. He was taken in a wheelchair to Intensive Care and I was instructed to go home and gather some belongings, since my husband was going to have brain surgery in the next 24 hours and we wouldn’t be returning home any time soon. This was 9 months ago. Today, my 38 year old, handsome, strong, talented husband who has been a Worship Pastor for the past 15 years, is still recovering. He is left with a little bit of tumor still in his brain, SSD (Single Sided Deafness – meaning, completely and permanently deaf in his right ear) and the right half of his face is paralyzed.
There are few things that can prepare you for those middle-of-the-night phone calls you never want to receive, let alone make. There are fewer things that can prepare you for the weeks and months (and eventually years) that will follow.
With every nurse that came into our hospital room, I felt The Squeeze. The squeeze that says life is different. Breathing felt different. Harder. Each doctor’s appointment, each meeting with a specialist and every argument on the phone with our health insurance company came with a squeeze. There became very little room for margin in our lives. Very little room to breathe comfortably. Because not only was my husband sick, but my 9 year old had baseball practice, my 7 year old needed extra help with her math facts, my 2 year old wanted me to read her “just one more book” and my 1 year old thought the only way she could possibly exist outside of my womb was if she was perched on my left hip. All. Day. Long.
I’ll never forget that first night in the ER. My phone was dinging nonstop from friends with offers of childcare, meals, running errands… My knee-jerk response was what it had been my whole life. “Oh no, I’m good. I’ll be fine. Thank you though!” I hated the thought of putting someone out. Well somehow, God gifted me with friends who completely ignore me. :) Within hours, a hot breakfast was at my front door. My kids were picked up. Friends and family were by our side. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this squeeze I was feeling would only persist and continue, getting stronger with each passing day. And my only hope at breathing again would be by engaging in community and allowing the Body of Christ to, well, be the Body of Christ. This sounds simple enough, yet I don’t know anyone who is “good” at accepting help. And at the risk of bragging, I’m REALLY good and not accepting help. ;) You see, my entire life I had preached the value of community. But in this season, I quickly realized the form of community I’m comfortable with is the one where I am helping someone else. Where I am the listening ear and the helping hand. What I’m not comfortable with is the type of community that requires me to receive. The one that has someone else serving and meeting my needs. But that idea of community isn’t humble. It’s prideful. Ugh.
People brought meals.
[I squirmed in my seat. I felt the Squeeze, but in a different way. It squeezed my pride.]
They cleaned our home.
[Squeeze again. Dangit this is uncomfortable. But then came a tiny breath.]
And did our laundry.
[Ugh. Squeeze! Breathe.]
And decorated our home (inside and out) for the different holidays as they came up.
People ran errands. And babysat. And made sure the bills were paid. And brought Diet Coke. Oh the glorious Diet Coke. Between that and Jesus, I knew I was going to survive. ;)
[Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.]
It was as if with each encounter, God was holding my face in His hands, looking into my eyes and saying, “I didn’t create you to go through this alone. I created you for community. ALL types of community. The kind where you serve and the kind where you are served. The kind where you offer extravagant love and the kind where you receive extravagant love. Don’t fight this gift I’ve created. The Body of Christ is a beautiful, living, breathing part of Me. On Earth. Feel My love through My people. Don’t fight it. Find rest.”
As I surrendered the brokenness in me (called pride), the squeezes decreased and my gratitude increased.
This is good. This is right.
And then came The Letter. A knock on my front door. An envelope put into my hand. And as Jon and I sat on the couch and read the words, we wept. “Dear Friend, My entire life I have questioned the church… Watching your journey has made me realize what fellowship and the church could be like. …Frankly I have never had the honor to witness or be a part of the love a community like that could give. Thank you for allowing me to share it with you.”
The Body of Christ was operating how it was created to, and people were being drawn to Jesus by its pure and profound beauty! And here I thought someone bringing us dinner was about me feeling like a burden and them feeling put out. How limited my view had been! God’s ways are so much higher than our ways!
Friend, we were designed for community. The full expression of community. We were designed to breathe – even if it means relying on others to help you. We were not designed to go through life alone – even if it makes you feel needy. Even if it requires you to swallow your pride. We all will go through seasons of being in need and we’ll take the humble posture of receiving. We also will all go through seasons of being in abundance and we’ll take the humble posture of serving. There is no right or wrong position. As long as both are accompanied by a posture of humility and gratitude.
Will you allow God to bring healing and hope to your life through His Body here on earth? Will you put His Body on display to the world around you? As we courageously say “Yes,” we will find a more complete, healthy, fulfilling, God-honoring way of living. We will find healing. And we will become healers. We will find love. And we will become lovers.
This is good. This is right.
So many thanks to Elaine Hamilton for her post last week. If you want more of Elaine, definitely check out her latest book, Church on the Couch: Does the Church Need Therapy, an important book on how to foster authenticity within our church communities. And, if you’re local to San Diego, you can also find her at The Soul Care House, her marriage and family therapy practice. Thanks, Elaine, for the reminder that even when our very bodies are betraying us, we can still experience a soft place to land and be loved through the people God has given us. Loved that post. And be sure to also read Kristin’s beautiful post, the first in this guest series.
Today, I bring you a gutsy post from Jenny Leboffe. She’s raw and she’s real, and I know her words will resonate. Jenny is a pint-sized person with a larger-than-life soul, and I SO SO SO connect with what she shares here. As with every guest writer in this series, I asked Jenny, “Where are you currently experiencing the squeeze in your life? And, where are you currently experiencing some space?” Here is Jenny’s response . . .
Hi, I’m Jenny. I’m an elementary teacher turned stay-at-home mom turned part-time-work-at-home mom as a kidmin staffer for our church. My athletic, math-brained husband, our three kids, and I live in San Diego in our 1960’s “rancher” home craving restorative redesign. Originally an Oklahoma girl, big skies, loyalty, and cherry Coke are near and dear to my heart. I want children to know they are Divinely loved and I want to encounter God in ordinary moments.
On Caring , Creating, & Reintroducing Myself to Me
I’ve been on a journey the past six years. With our youngest almost two, I’m finally coming out of the pit. You know that pit. The one that’s all diapers and organic purees, desperate prayers, Target walkabouts and eyes so bloodshot the college kids are stopping to buy your presumed weed. The pit pulled me down with the weariness of exhaustion and the sameness of routines and the expectation I had for myself to be perfect. The pit laughed at me in the harsh reality that I will never be enough for my husband or kids or friends. The pit stole Me from myself then threw poo on my face and walls and rugs to add proverbial insult to injury.
Most people look at me and see that I have my shit together.
“How do you do it?”
“You’re amazing! Tell me your secrets!”
The job description of “mom” is tiresome. It’s monotonous and often boring. Truth be told, I resent making dinner (plus lunch, breakfast, and countless snacks between). Viva la pb&j! We bathe kids only when we can’t remember it happening last or if my daughter’s hair moves out of the wavy category into possibly permanent Rasta-locks. There is a pressure for bedtime to be this mystical experience. But with three little ones, my husband and I would both rather take a slap to the face than facilitate tuck-ins. Make that twelve slaps. Alternatively, one of us (me) will occasionally pretend to sleep actually sleep through bedtime on the couch and wake up like Christmas morning, full of hallelujahs and hollow so sorry, Babe’s.
As I climb out of the pit and turn away from the hobbled hopscotch of perfectionism and people pleasing, I’m starting to experience living in freedom. Allowing myself to be on my list of needy people. Living creatively and expressively. Not locking up my free spirit self for a Cinderella’s-stepsister-fit of “togetherness” behaviors I equated with being a good mom/wife/woman. The freedom to say shit earlier without the petrifying fear my pastor’s wife will be reading this. (Hey, Roxanne!)
I’m learning that reintroducing myself to Me and befriending Me includes embracing my Creator-inspired empathy as a strength instead of strong arming it away. This means feeding it the nourishment of creativity and tenderness it aches for; requires. For those of you who share this gift/curse of empathy, you know that at times you feel like a walking bruise. It’s living without skin.
So what do we do when marriage and parenthood taunt us to wear armor or die? How do I keep myself open when I feel pangs of rejection supremely and carry the heaviness of how I hurt my family, how they hurt me, and how we are hurting as a world in general? How do I step into not allowing the fear of what others think dictate my actions? Worry of people not liking me. Worry of whispers labeling me as (gasp) “flaky” or (gulp) “uninteresting”.
Self-preservation says to stop it with the feelings. But I yearn for connection. I burst forth toward life. More than manners or martyrdom, the gift I can give my family (and myself) is to show them how to live unapologetically as the one our Creator-Designer-God dreamed up. The over-feeler. The crafty, creative dreamer. The one who rescues unwanted furniture on the street the way others rescue stray dogs. The one who spontaneously drives a carload of kids to the beach and puts them to bed, heaps of sand and sunshine.
Recently I’ve been reading new research connecting EQ (emotional quotient) with creativity. Drawing a direct correlation between empathy and creativity makes so much sense to me. I rely on art more than meals as daily sustenance. Acrylic paint and Broadway reverberations are just as necessary and crucial as water or air. I’m not a painter, but I must paint. I’m not a singer, but I must sing. I’m not a writer, but I must write.
Through the act of the creative process, I am unknotting the threads of pleasing, performing, and de-sensitizing that threaten to entangle me. I am forgiving the wounds of hurting others and being hurt. I am feeling God’s yes-breath over me.
Being enough in God’s design. Letting myself off the double-hung hook of always feeling too much and somehow never being enough for others, connecting and creating, learning to be okay without everyone’s approval; these are the holy truths I’m standing on and my invitation to:
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. – The Message, Matthew 11:29&30
But, shit, it’s hard!