Yearly Archives: 2016
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,
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
To be who and how you are
To astonish a mean world
With your acts of kindness
To allow humor to lighten the burden
Of your tender heart
In a society dark with cruelty
To let the people hear the grandeur
Of God in the peals of your laughter
To remind people that
Each is as good as the other
And that no one is beneath
Nor above you
To put the mantel of your protection
Around the bodies of
The young and defenseless
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
To ignore no vision
Which comes to enlarge your range
And increase your spirit
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.
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.
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,
I 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.
If You’ve Ever Been Inclined to Apologize for Your Existence in This World
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.
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,
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.
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.
All my love,
Thank you for ALL your beautiful comments on my last blog post. Our winner for a free copy of Present Over Perfect is . . .
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.
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.
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.*
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,
*Taken from Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist Copyright (c) 2016 by Shauna Niequist. Used by permission of Zondervan. www. Zondervan. com.
Tender Friends . . .
It’s HERE! It’s HERE!
I am SO thrilled to share the FREE Brazen Group Study Guide with you! With the Group Guide, you and a handful of your favorites, can go through Brazen in 6 weeks, with an optional 2 weeks added at the end for Brazen Boards. I’ve included ideas on getting your group going, discussion prompts, and little bits of homework here and there to help you put Brazen into practice!
All you need to do is go HERE and follow the prompts. You’ll get the Group Guide right in your inbox!
So grab some friends and put together your very own summer book club and lean into the invitation in your life to be BRAZEN. It’s time!!!
And if you do — if you form a group and go through the book together — PLEASE post a picture of your group somewhere online and tag me. I’m @lmtankersley on Insta and Twitter. And I’m Leeana Tankersley on FB. You can also use #beingbrazen and #brazenboard and I’ll be sure to find you. I cannot wait to see all your gorgeous faces holding up those hot pink books!
Here’s to a Brazen Summer!
I recently hired some guys to come do a full day of clearing on our property. We have just over an acre of land, most of which is kind of wild and untamed and overgrown. And we like it that way. But every once in awhile, it needs to be cut back and cleaned up. We had a few areas in particular that were problematic. Lots of brown palm fronds hanging lifelessly from trees. Two dead trees — one in a prominent location in the front and one in a prominent location in the back. And then there were the weeds, the stumps, and the overgrown grasses that will all become fire hazards as the weather warms up.
I was reluctant to let them cut down the dead trees because . . . well . . . what was it going to look like with them gone?
But they assured me. The dead stuff had to go.
As the guys descended with their power equipment, branches began flying furiously. And after a full day’s work, things looked differently. When you get rid of the brown, the green is much more prominent. When you cut down large dead trees, you can see things that were previously hidden. When you pull up stumps and brittle bushes, the landscape you were used to is altered.
It’s weird at first. I was so used to that big dead tree blocking the gazebo. And then it was gone. And I could see things I couldn’t see before.
I gritted my teeth and wrote a big check and handed it to the guys and I walked the property and looked at what remained. Now that all the dead was gone. And it was surprising. I thought I would hate how it all looked, but the truth is, it felt like parts of our property could breathe again.
What’s true of the yard is true in our lives, too. We let the weeds and the half-dead and the fire hazards hang on. Because we’re used to them. Because we don’t know what will be left if we hack away what we know. It’s scary, isn’t it. I get it. It’s scary to let go of the things that are threatening our aliveness. Because, for many of us, our aliveness is scarier still.
Who will we be if we were fully flourishing? Who would we be if we let go? Who would we be if we let the dead things die so that new life — true life — could be reborn?
Uncertainty sucks. We might have to tolerate loss. We might have to wait for regrowth. We might have to navigate fear. As an anxious person, this is so very hard for me. I would often rather live with the known, even if it is not working, than step toward the unknown.
But here is the inconvenient truth: God will not leave me alone.
God whispers in my ear,
It’s OK to let the dead trees go. It’s OK to pull them up from their roots and carry them off. It’s OK to bring in power tools and prune what’s brown and withered and no longer thriving. It’s OK to let something die in order for something truer and freer to be reborn.
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you
God keeps tapping on my soul and telling me it’s time to expand. Expansion isn’t notoriety or fame or upward mobility or success. Expansion is fully inhabiting me. Expansion is allowing the fully saturated me out into the world. Expansion is ruthlessly confronting what is not working and allowing it to die (allowing it to be crucified) so that what is true can breathe. Expansion is being honest about the too-small spaces in my life and what needs to be cut back so that growth can occur.
There is more inside you than you realize. More desire. More creativity. More wonder. More resilience. More power. More hope. More beauty. More breath. More brazen. There is more of all of it than you realize. May we have the courage to find the you and the me that is hiding and bring him or her out into the light. May we have the courage to cut away what is keeping us down, keeping us small, keeping us confined. And may we trust that God’s invitations for growth are always, and I mean always, rooted in love.
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
It’s time to go into the night
where the dark has eyes
to recognize its own.
It’s time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will make a home for you tonight.
will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing. You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.”
Decisions tend to be hard for me. I think it must be because of my propensity toward anxiety which causes me to second-guess and swirl whenever I have to really plant my feet firmly in a decision. I don’t like the idea of losing my options or, worse, making a “wrong” or “bad” decision and then having to live with regret.
Making decisions is a part of life. Just about every single day. And as I’ve been working along the journey of becoming more brazen and less woeful, I’ve wanted to become better at the decision making process. If for no other reason than I’d like to stop torturing myself so much when the particularly large decisions come my way.
So here are FIVE things I’ve learned about making decisions. Certainly some of these things I’ve had to learn the hard way . . .
ONE> FEAR CANNOT BE THE MOTIVATION
A couple of years ago Steve and I had to make a big decision. And the tentacles of the decision got all tangled up inside me to the point that all I could see or hear was confusion. It was a decision about our kids’ school, and I was in knots. I asked God to show me something different than the frantic confusion, to make a way through it, to help me untangle the tentacles that were squeezing my insides.
And here is the only thing I kept hearing from him: “Leeana, do not make a decision based on fear. Don’t let fear be the impetus. Don’t let fear be your guiding principle. Instead, what decision would you make, Leeana, if you felt perfect freedom?”
When I looked through the lens of freedom instead of fear, I gained an incredible amount of clarity about the entire situation. I realized I was hooked into other people’s expectations, my own assumptions, and outcomes I had no control over. I had to actually identify and process what I was afraid of.
What would I do if I felt perfect freedom? What would I do if I felt perfect freedom? I kept asking myself that question and the answer came toward me with a surprising amount of ease.
When we make decisions based on fear, we’re making a decision based on trying to avoid something. And I don’t think we end up moving toward our true desires when we are in a posture of avoidance.
TWO> SEEK GUIDANCE INSTEAD OF ANSWERS
Too often I just want someone to tell me what to do when I’m faced with a big decisions. But this is kind of a cop-out when I stop and think about it. It’s a way to escape having to take ownership of my own desires, fears, regrets, confusion, hope. I am a huge believer in guides in our lives, people who can help us sort through our thoughts and feeling and stirrings and pace us on the journey.
The wisest guides listen and reflect and know that the answer we need is inside us and their job is to just help us find it for ourselves. Some people want to tell us what to do. It helps them feel powerful. This is not good for them or for us.
When I seek guidance instead of answers, I find that I am truer to myself and to my own path than if I simply find someone who will tell me what to do. In other words, other people’s solutions are typically a shortcut that stunts a valuable process I need to navigate.
My spiritual director, Beth, is a skilled guide. She is less invested in telling me what to do and more invested in the deep work that is happening inside me. She’s teaching me how to fish instead of just handing me the fish.
THREE> THE THIRD WAY
When I look at a decision that needs to be made, I am often looking at two potential options. I can either do this or that. What I’ve come to learn is, even if I can’t see it, there is usually a “third way” hanging around just waiting to be noticed — an option that isn’t readily presenting itself, but is there nonetheless. The third way may be a middle ground, a totally new paradigm, a “wait” option, or some creative combination of them all. If you can only see two options in front of you, ask God to show you the “third way” and then resist the pressure to act until you have clearly seen the third way.
Often we feel so frantic to just make a decision that we don’t wait for the third way to develop, and then in retrospect we see it and wish we would have waited for it.
FOUR> AVOID GOOD/BAD AND RIGHT/WRONG THINKING
The Soul Bullies are SO very invested in coaxing us into either/or thinking. “You will either make a good decision or a bad decision.” “You will either make a right decision or a wrong decision.” It’s like a full court soul press. They raise the stakes, raise the stakes, raise the stakes, which makes us both frantic and paralyzed at the same time.
The Soul Bullies are always trying to convince us that we are one step away from ruin, that there is no grace in this decision-making system, and that there are only good and bad/right and wrong decisions in this world.
What if we backed out of that dichotomy all together. What if we decided that we were not going to allow those words to touch our potential options. What if the words instead were:
Is this decisions healthy for me?
Will this decision be life-giving?
Is this decision in line with my values?
Am I basing this decisions on fear or freedom?
Am I trying to please people (who I will never be able to actually please) with this decision?
Am I trying to fill a hole inside myself with this decision?
Have I talked to God about this decision?
Have I talked to my own soul about this decision?
These are different kinds of questions than “Is this a good decision or a bad decision?” If the Soul Bullies can trap you in their either/or thinking, then everything feels deeply urgent, which isn’t helpful when we need to be clear-headed and centered. If you feel yourself moving toward “good/bad” and “right/wrong” take a deep breath, get out your legal pad and spend 20 minutes with your soul reminding those Soul Bullies that you are refusing to assign any judgment to your options at this point.
FIVE> MAKE A DECISION FROM A PLACE OF BELIEVING NOT BULLYING
My mom has always told me that the most transformative decisions are made from a place of strength not weakness. We do not bully ourselves into decision making. We believe ourselves there.
If you’re making a decision right now based on your desire to shame yourself into better behavior or different behavior, I promise you it’s a doomed strategy. We do our best work when we are making decisions from a place of self-compassion, caring about ourselves and wanting more for ourselves. I don’t care how many “bad” decisions you’ve made in the past. Do not make your next one out of penance. In other words, do not make your next decision out of self-punishment. Make your next decision from a place of finally believing you are worth more, you are enough, and you are resilient. Make your next decision out of self-care and worship to God.
If nothing else, take your time, slow your breath down, drop your shoulders, breathe into the tight places in your chest and your back and your neck that are carrying all the tension of this decision. Allow God to sit beside you for a time. Until you hear him say, I love you. And then move into your potential options from THAT place, the soulful place, instead of the striving/solving/shame place.
What resonates with you? What intersects with your own decision-making process? I so hope this was helpful and can give you even just a tiny bit of space and grace in whatever decision you are trying to make.
Love to you,