Yearly Archives: 2015
Happy Friday, dear friends.
Today’s post marks the end of our Breathing Room Blog Book Club! I’ve loved journeying back through the nuances of the book with you this fall.
This book is my love letter to every soul that has ever been hurting. Some of you thought you were the only one. You were alone. No one understood. I hope Breathing Room is one small gesture that helps you know . . . me too.
It’s an interesting thing to go back and read through a book you’ve written. I realized that many of the events written about in this book feel less acute now, but — the truth is — I have not evolved beyond the struggles that I explain. In other words, I have not “learned a few things” and been able to just move on with my life. I have to practice the practices in this book. By God’s grace. Every day.
I practice beginning again, talking back to the brain vultures, sharing real life, rejecting frantic, being nonGodly, saying no to the bad pants . . . just to name a few. I want to normalize the fact that these are practices and postures we must continue exercising, not necessarily skills we master, or information we possess.
I hope you have begun to see the book as a series of practices, too. Watching the gutter is our last one, and this last chapter is a celebration of being able to see. When we’re in the thick of the Come Apart, it’s so hard to see. So hard to trust that the light will return. In these times, God gives us glimpses of beauty, symbols of his love for us — often totally unexpected. And I just love that.
In this final chapter, I tell a story about witnessing gorgeous hot pink bougainvillea petals dancing down the street on gutter water . . . and how it arrested me when all I had been seeing (and feeling) for days was beige. You will see this story again in the future. That’s a little tease. It became the jumping off point for some important revelations in my life. What it meant to show up, emerge, let myself been seen. You’ll hear more about all that in the months to come.
For today, I leave you with my love and my belief in you. That you can see the wonder that is in the world around you, even if it shows up in gutter water. And, a I share in the Postlude, that you would have the perseverance and encouragement to “continue.” Continue engaging in these life-line practices that will bring you back to yourself and to God and to those you love.
Thank you to SO very many of you who continue to tell me that the stories in this book saved you in some small or large way. It makes me want to fall down dead on the floor from the tenderness of it all. Thank you for walking the worn path of grace with me. Thank you for giving me hope.
With so much love,
P.S. If you know someone who could use a dose of understanding this Christmas, Breathing Room is just about $10 on Amazon right now, which is a great price!!
I was sitting at My Group last night, talking with girls I love so deeply and have walked so many miles with. We talked about tasks, expectations, plans, decor, ideas, assumptions . . . we told stories about what has happened in our lives since we last met, what we’re looking forward to, what is on the docket for each of us this month. We talked about relatives visiting and test scores and paint colors and babies and Christmas cards. We talked about childcare and baking and therapy. We talked about birthday plans and birthing plans and eyelash extensions and trauma. And threaded through it all . . . was letting go.
What do I need to let go of so I can hold onto what matters most?
Chapter 25 — letting go — is perhaps one of the most central chapters in all of Breathing Room, one that anchors the core theme of the entire book. What do you and I need to let go of so we can fully live? This is certainly a big sweeping question — about our lifestyles and our values and our life rhythms — but it’s also a daily practice, too. Today, this minute, this hour, is there something you need to let go of that’s not serving you? Something that, if you were to relinquish it, would create a greater capacity for space, grace, and breathing room in your life? What help do you need in order to let that something go?
Daily, I have to let go of my fears, my frustration with my own humanity, my self-doubt, my self-aggrandizement, my reluctance, my need to fix and solve and figure it all out. Hourly, even, I have to do those things . . . ask God for the grace to open my hands and breathe. To stop trying to constantly do his job for him.
This is the time of year when all our best intentions collide with our real time capacity. It’s an invitation — often one I don’t particularly appreciate — to open our arms and receive our humanity, as we receive God coming to us in the human form. It’s a celebration, oddly, of fragility, limits, flesh. God chose a human body. He let go, so we could truly live. And as we embrace the humanity of God, may we also embrace the humanity of ourselves and each other.
This isn’t necessarily about whether or not we send Christmas cards this year or we bake peanut butter balls or we do or don’t put Christmas lights on the outside of our homes. This isn’t about how many activities we schedule, parties we attend, or platters we deliver. It really has nothing to do with all that, as we all have completely different capacities and normals this holiday season. Two years ago, Steve had hip surgery, and our capacity that year was just completely different than our capacity this year. In 2008, I was deeply pregnant with two babies at this time of year, and our capacity — after bringing them into the world on December 23 — was totally different than the years before and since. I was laying in hospitable bed that Christmas.
It’s not so much about what you and I choose to do or don’t do. It’s deeper, more essential than all that. It’s about letting go of the ways we tell ourselves we must function in order to be loved.
When you have a chance, read the story at the end of Chapter 25, the one about the little girl in Miss Leonard’s class. It is the most poignant reminder of how we are loved in all our humanity.
We come to the door with all our maladies and brokenness only to be received with revolutionary love.
No matter what you and I decide to hold onto and what we decide to let go of this Christmas, let it be motivated by one thing: Our humanity. Let us live and give and love from our fleshy, limited, fragile, messy, magical humanity. Not from a slicked-up version of ourselves that must function in a certain way in order to be loved and accepted.
If the Christmas story tells us anything, it tells us this: It’s holy to be human.
It’s holy to let ourselves be imperfect.
It’s holy to let ourselves let go.
It’s holy to let ourselves be touched by the miracle.
It’s holy to let ourselves be loved.
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,