My big girl panties are plaid

Business Item:  There is a giveaway going on, check it out and know that sharing this post will get you entered to win!

Yesterday I had a shame-spiral type meltdown, I couldn’t tell you exactly why.  We all have shockingly bad days that hit from left field.  Yesterday morning an impressively bad mood knocked on my door and made itself at home in my heart.  It stayed until about 2:00 in the afternoon when I finally got the common sense to give it the big heave ho.   Until that point I felt small, useless and I could only view my work and passion as a joke.  From my kids to my words I felt like everyone was laughing at me.

It took a phone call from a dear friend and a lot of quiet reflection to help me realize that I was being selfish and a half.  I had been living in a rhythm where my days and weeks centered around finding my joy in what other people thought of me.  She pointed about that until I stop living that cycle that the joy in my spirit will always ebb and flow, not my happiness, but my joy.  My hope and my self worth cannot depend on my circumstances.  We decided that if I was going to do what I set out to do, IE: Write a book proposal and parent passionately, that I had to put my big girl panties (more on this later) on and do it.  That it was like being pregnant, once you go down that road you cannot turn back.

The truth of the matter is that we are all trying to get to the same place regardless of what our passions or callings are.  We have to climb to a high altitude place where we are content in our God alone, period.  It is the only guarantee we have, which is terribly scary and hard to process, we love our places and our people and rightfully so.  But fully living hinges on finding your full contentment in God, in all three parts.  We have heard that said at least 742 times at church and we know that we should live like that, but it sounds a little lofty and unattainable, but the truth is that placing our trust anywhere else leads to fearful living.

I’ve been through painful seasons and I have learned that if you want to live without fear, with Gods love and passion pulsing through you, that you have to find contentment in him.  Because and I am sorry to say this, life will continue to hand you painful seasons and bad days, wave upon wave.  It will happen, and when you recover, it will happen again.  So we can’t find our strength and peace in our circumstances because they will continue to fail us and then we will fall and spend too many wasted days on the floor reaching for a foothold.

So, back to the big girl panties, I am putting mine on.  I’m begging God to teach me how to live rooted in him alone so that I can carry out the calling I’m hearing in my heart.  To signify how seriously I am taking this I drew up a picture of myself, donning the aforementioned panties.  It it turns out that they are plaid, which is kind of awesome.

I am not “there” yet.  No one really is, but I’m going on the record and saying that this is me, with tiger striped running shoes and plaid panties on, determined to focus on the essential, drop the distractions and keep taking steps forward.  When I wake up and feel crappy, I pray that God will remind me that I’m strong, I’m lovely and I am called to something unique, but I can only carry that out with my roots in his strong foundation.

I hope that God speaks to you through this, that he affirms you, that you will join me on the lofty and life giving climb of finding your everything in Christ alone.

We are all seeking contentment, we are all scared of something we are being called to, so lets all put our respective big girl panties or big boy boxers on and find our peace in being faithful to walking our individual paths.

Counting Gifts (my first giveaway)

Last week was a tough one, I am a wussy single parent and Kel was gone for 7 days.  To all of you out there who do kids solo on a regular basis, you astound me.  One of the ways I got through it all with a positive attitude was by counting my gifts.  If you are unfamiliar with this concept, it’s all about taking time to physically keep track of all the great people, things and moments in your day to day life that strike you as gifts from God.  The concept of thanks and joy isn’t a new concept but its revolutionary in its simplicity.  Thankful living and gift counting will certainly rock your world to the core.  It’s painfully easy to focus on the negative, all that we don’t have and all that God hasn’t given us.

I’m not the author of this concept, Ann Voskamp is.  The beautifully written words in her book and the thoughtfully captured photos that fill the pages of her blog have made an imprint on my life.  God is working through the passion and perseverance of Ann from her home on a Canadian farm all the way to my kitchen table here in Oklahoma.  This isn’t an easy read and when I finished the first chapter I found myself balling in the bathtub and arguing with God from the depths of my soul.  Her concepts are true, vivid and life altering, but the best things aren’t always easy to swallow.  There is even an app to go along with the book and make your gift counting on the go easier to manage.  A beautiful book with an app!  Life is good.

I’ve become so passionately wrapped up in the biblical truth that she highlights that I’m making her book my first blog giveaway.  So here is how you can enter!

1) comment on my blog this week
2) Retweet or share a link on Facebook or twitter
3) Like the author page on Facebook (for the first time, if you “unlike” and then “relike it” It’ll just irritate me and you will win an eye roll next time we meet.) 

If you do these things multiple times, you will be entered multiple times, so yay for that!   If you already have it, enter anyway, I’m sure you can think of a dear friend you could bless with a present like this.

Is a book a big money giveaway?  Not really.  But any book has the opportunity to change your life, and this book very well may bring you closer to God and fill your life with increasing joy as you gain eyes to see all the gifts that abound in your life.  You will find that Gift counting is a delightful practice that it leads to joy filled living, which lines up exactly with the way God wants to see us doing life.

Non-traditionally blessed

After my Dad passed away I spent a lot of time focusing on how mad I was that my life didn’t follow the normal pattern.  I was living in a family on the verge of collapse: my sister had a brain injury, my mom was struggling with serious mental illness and my brother was awesome, but still in high school.  It seemed like a huge mess, and I played the “not fair” card, over and over again.  Geez Go… how could you allow so much pain come to one family?  Can’y your spread it around a bit?  I spent a lot of time focusing on what I didn’t have, what would never be and it ate me up, a dark sticky poison in my soul.

By the time my Mom died I had grown a lot stronger and God granted some shares of wisdom to my heart.  That loss came with a lot more peace and a lot less anger, but buckets of confusion.  It’s really hard to know how to process suicide, and to tell you the truth, I am still learning and fumbling my way through it.  It’s hard to mourn someone you could barely see underneath the thick shroud of depression and numbness.

These days I simply stand amazed at God’s provision in my life.  Instead of focusing on what I don’t have in the traditional family sense, I stand in awe at the non-traitional ways that he provides for us.  We are non-traditionally blessed.  My children have no biological grandparents, but there are several adoptive Grandmas that bathe their little lives in love.  I don’t have parents, but I have a strong circle of older and wiser family members that are honored to step in when I need support and advice.  Even though on paper our small family of four looks orphaned, our reality is that we are strong, supported and surrounded.  I think that all our lives have a corner or two that falls into the non-traditionally blessed category.

This week my husband has been out of town taking one of his last few masters courses to complete his degree.  Around Tuesday I gave up the single parent lifestyle and came up to Oklahoma City to stay with our “family” here.  They’re the parents of Kel’s best friend and they love us like we’ve been around forever.  Last night as I watched these huge hearted people bathe my kids and even blow dry my 2 year old’s hair, my heart popped.  The giggles and the bubbles overwhelmed all five senses.  I am non traditionally blessed, and how.

I don’t know why God didn’t prevent mental illness and heart disease from taking my parents so young, so soon.  I don’t know.  But I do know that when the bible says he will always provide, that I am living proof of that.  I don’t have parents, but our lives are bathed in family love.  When I was in the darkest seasons of depression I was surrounded and supported with prayer, casseroles and friends across the country.

God always provides and if you choose contentment you will come to find that you always have what you need.  There is something breathtakingly beautiful about reflecting on how you’re non-traditionally blessed, don’t you think?

Long Distance Living

Quick think of all of the things that you love in life….  You know, your family, your life, your hobbies and passions, the stuff that you would put on the top of your priority list.  These are the things that bring you the true God joy that we’re all searching for.  Mine would be my God, my family, my friends, my writing, cooking and just generally soaking in all that is really beautiful on this planet.

Now… reflect on the list you just made.  Do all those things on your list always come easy?  Mine don’t.  I love being a mom but a lot of days require a healthy dose of perspective and a heavy reliance on God to get me through to bedtime.  I don’t get to call in sick on mom-ing, kids don’t let you do that, they want cheerios and bananas all the time, not just when you fee up to it.  If I really want to parent, write, or carry out my calling, I have to do it whether I feel like it or not.

The essential, quenching stuff of our lives isn’t always appealing.  There is a less than appealing “tough side” to most everything, except massages and pedicures, and sometimes we have to push through and do it anyway.  There are 700 sayings about how the stuff worth having doesn’t come easy, and the “not easy” part is found in doing it no matter what.  The “not easy” can be found in all of those grown up words we rejected in college, words like discipline, priorities and motivation.  But we need those words if we want to be in the business of finishing our races, and finishing is never as fun as starting.  The nitty gritty of life is never as easy as we thought it would when we were dreaming about it.

It turns out that life is a marathon, and we all need to be long, long, looooong distance runners.  My uncle is a track runner and coach, and has always told be that I was built to run distance, so today I’m going to take that as encouragement for my soul in addition to a commentary on my body.  Which is apparently distancey… like what, an RV?

I think often in the middle of projects we feel too small or runty to make it to the end, so we give up.  I know I do. I am easily prone to see other runners who are at my finish life and instead of seeings encouragement, I get discouraged about how I don’t measure up.  I focus on how I’m bound to fail at my race simply because I’m me.  So I give up, sit on my couch and watch food network instead of running on.

But, God didn’t call me to quit, however his arch enemy sure hopes that I will.  So I need to put my big brave-girl pants back on (again) hit my knees (again) and just pray for perseverance to keep running.  As for wisdom to keep listening and for the love of pete to stop comparing myself to everyone else.  The things we love the most require the most stick-to-it-ive-ness, and I am pretty sure that in the end that they’ll define us.

Whatever your race is, I know that its hard, but I promise that its worth it.  I hope you keep running with me.  I hope you remember that giving up is lame and easy all at the same time, but that very act of picking up and running again is breathtakingly brave and pretty dang beautiful to boot.

Lets run.  Shall we?  I know you have something you are sitting out because you feel weary or inadequate.  Lets believe that we are called and that we are totally and amazingly more than adequate because of that call.

Lets strap on metaphorical neon pink pumas and kick it like crazy.  Gunshot.  Go.

The big “I don’t know”

My phone lights up and buzzes with words and news from friends both near and far away.  I stroll across the living room and grab it, always wondering what the display will bring, good news, bad news?  Life has conditioned me to be on guard when the phone goes off.  Lately it seems like the phone is programmed for bad news, like death is everywhere clamoring to grab hold of the people around me.  And in a way, it is.

These messages often come with an urgent request for prayer.  “Will you pray?”  My loving heart longs to help so, of course.  I will pray.   I close my eyes, open my heart and go to our father with a shaking spirit and simple words. “God, please?  Will you come? will you heal? will you give more beautiful days on this earth?  Can this be one of those miracle stories?  I know you have those to give.”  Sometimes healing comes in breathtaking beauty, but sometimes it doesn’t.

More than once the bible tells us that by faith we are healed, it speaks of an army of heavenly warriors who rocket down from heaven to kick tail on our behalf.  However, when I am on my knees begging for healing, my mind can’t help but drift back to moments that have passed where I went to my knees over and over again and the chariots stayed in heaven.  As time passed my prayers ended on my knees by a headstone.  I’m sure your prayers have gone that way too.  So I think the dark question that even the strongest of us ask in our hearts is: Why?  Why do some get miracles and some get headstones?

I have come to an answer to this question and it doesn’t draw heavily on any of the classes I took at bible college or seminary.  I am falling in love with the simplicity of “I don’t know.”

Once you have kids you realize just how much family language there is in the bible.  We are so often compared to the children of God and he is referred to as our father over and over again.  The longer I parent, the deeper I resonate with this language.

Lately, I’ve learned so much about myself through disciplining and leading my 2 year old daughter.  She does pretty well most of the time, but she does throw tantrums and test boundaries, she’s human and she’s 2.  The thing that keeps catching my attention is how strongly she wants her own way, and how she doesn’t seem to trust me much anymore.  She trusts I will feed her, clothe her and kiss her, but when I say something is dangerous she often marches out to do it anyway.

These experiences have  struck a deep parallel with my confusion on one of life’s biggest questions: “Why are some healed, and some not?  Why do some live long, and some die young? Even when we have strong faith, why does the healing hand stay in heaven?”  I don’t know why and if there exists an answer to this question we couldn’t handle it.  But I feel like some deep understanding can be found in my own relationship with my daughter, I just know better than she does, I can see a bigger picture.

Here is what I know in my deepest heart:

1) God loves us, but he hates sin
2)  Our world has the love of Jesus but at the same time, the death giving sin abounds
3) Sin = Death… at some point.
4) When we hurt, so does God.

So I’ve started to learn from what my 2 year old is still trying to grasp:  God has a whole realm of understanding that I just don’t have.  He doesn’t send all pain for a reason, sickness and death is bound to come our way but he isn’t up there sending cancer and car accidents like lightening bolts.  That’s sin, with its black, sticky fingers all over our sphere of green and blue.

We know that he can prevent death, prolong it, but that he doesn’t always and this just feeds our “why” question.  My peace with my father keeps coming to me in the moments where I force my daughter to hold my hand as we cross the busy road in front of church.  It is a matter of faith and trust.  I correct my baby girl when she needs it, but I don’t cause her to scrape her knee or get ear infections.  That’s a part of being alive, and in this simplicity I find the answer, or rather the lack of one.

There isn’t an answer, there is just another situation where we grab onto his hand.  When my skin bleeds he holds me, he didn’t push me over or cause it, it’s just part of being alive.  He trains me, he’s molding me and I don’t understand the half of it.  I’m just learning to throw less tantrums and take a trusting breath of faith.  Finding peace in “I don’t know” is one of the Mt Everest situations of our faith journey, so I’ll just keep climbing until I make my own exit, foothold by foothold and day by day.

Wherever you are, you have or will wrestle with this question.  I beg you to keep holding his hand, even when you slip just thrust your hand out again and he’ll be there to hold it.

Less is More, Less is Better

Good Morning, I’m still alive, just drowning in snot with a cold that has had me down for the count for a couple of days.  However, I have maintained a positive attitude and although its failed to chase my illness away, it certainly has made enduring it loads easier.

Moving on from snot, which is always a good thing, I’m still reeling from the message I heard at church Sunday morning, entitled “Better.”  I don’t want you to feel like I am always trying to coax you to watch/listen to our church’s sermons but I can almost guarantee you that if you check this out you won’t regret it.  I know your time is valuable and your resources limited, but if you take 35 minutes to listen to this in your car or while you workout you may find your year will take a completely different turn.  If you don’t I’ll buy you a cup of coffee or something…

Check it out Here

If you don’t get a chance to listen to it, here is my quick summary:

Our culture is obsessed with more, we do more, have more and take in more than any other culture at any other time on this earth.  We are overwhelmed, distracted and exhausted and if we are asked what our top priorities are we would say something like: God, family, giving, wellness, friends, etc.  But typically if we were to look at how we spend our time, it doesn’t line up with what we claim is most important.  This message will challenge you to cut back your spending and commitments, throw out what you don’t need both literally and figuratively, and turn off the TV and computer more often so that you can connect with what will sustain and last.

Lately, I have felt overwhelmed with trying to be and do too many different versions of myself.  Last week my good friend and guru Jenni challenged me to look at my interests and commitments as different versions of myself:  Such as gourmet cook Leanne, crafty Leanne, Author Leanne, Health-Nut Leanne, Wife Leanne, Mother Leanne, Friend Leanne, Budget Leanne,  etc… Then she challenged me with this question:  Can all of these Leanne Co-exist and thrive during this season in your life?  Or do some “Leannes” need to warm the bench for a while?  Can crafty Leanne make curtains and hand sew party favors while Author Leanne gets her book proposal done?  Can budget Leanne keep the grocery bill in check while Gourmet Leanne prepares involved food, taking huge chunks of time away from Mom Leanne who wants to connect with the kids?

No… there are too many “good” Leannes and they are taking away from what is “better.”  A streamlined and more peaceful Leanne… Who may or may not wear a cape… but crafty Leanne has no time to make streamlined Leanne a cape, so I shall remain cape-less… for now…

So.. Essentially some of my desires and ideas, which are great, need to go in the “someday pile” so that the most important callings and passions can be realized now.  My house will have to be a bit chaotic and go without window treatments if I want to get a book proposal done.  My meals may be simpler for a while because I have a 1 and a 2 year old who want my attention and will only be little for a few more precious years.

So this week I packed away a lot of my crafts and I literally got rid of over 350 items in our house to simplify, prioritize and streamline.  My hands are too full and my life stuffed with too much good, that I am constantly frustrated and unable to achieve the great “God things” that I can feel in my heart.

Better has been a word that has always stood to remind me of all I am not, yet this teaching series from Lifechurch is reminding me of who I really am, of all the color that I bring to this world.  This new view of Better is helping me lay down the demanding way that the enemy wants me to view myself and pick up the way God is calling me to live “better”, fuller and free.

I can actually feel some clean corners start to open up in my soul, and I am excited to see what God has in store for them.

Gray Light

Did you know that you can subscribe to this blog via email?  It’s true!  Technology is just that awesome.  So please feel free to do that.

This is a scrap from the book I am working on, very rough around the edges.  It may speak to the title of my book, or at least what I am calling it in my proposal.    But in order to continue reading you have to promise that if it gets published (big fat if) you will still buy it.  Deal?   Okay now that that’s settled… you may proceed.

It’s been gray outside lately, last night we even got a few rare flakes of snow here in Ada.  Can I be honest?  I like it gray so much more than I like it sunny.  I love it when the sun sets in the 5:00 hour during the winter months, it seems like the struggling parts of the day are over.  The sun with all of its demands and revelations has called it quits for the day and a quiet calm settles over our house.  I don’t hate the sun, I know enough science to know that I’d be a penny-sicle without it, but still I like the sun better muted behind some clouds or at least cooler temps and breezes.

I am blessed, I am an optimist, and for the past week or so I can say that I have felt many moments of deep contentment.  So why the continued appreciation for a cloudy sky or the dark of night?

I am going to continue on under the assumption that you have been through something extremely painful in your life.  I am going to assume that you have lost, grieved and have been broken somehow.  You know those first few days after the meteor of pain has hit?  When your life feels burned, dry, damaged almost beyond repair?  You need hope and the light of love, but even though you trust God, your life is sort of dark and garishly bright light hurts your eyes and heart.

After my mom took her life, I needed the light of Gods love more than ever before.  I needed the support of friends and I craved their prayers and encouragement.  However, I found it hard to be in the presence of blindingly bright people who were unable or unwilling to connect their painful seasons with mine.  Some people, movies and songs seemed day-glo orange with joy and optimism.  It was like someone turning a floodlight onto me in the middle of the night, absolutely unhelpful.

God sustained me through the gray love-light of friends who came quietly, connecting with my pain by sharing some of their own.  They saw my gaping wound and knew that it would take months and years to scar over, rather than days and weeks.  They gently loved and kept my room softy lit, and in doing so they were the hands and feet of Jesus carrying me from minute to minute, a slow and tender journey.  Even in the most painful hours I remember words, text messages and phone calls that kept my world lit with love.  My life was never dark, God always supplied me with light, but I certainly can’t identify the deaths of my parents as bright spots on the timeline of my life.  However I praise God always for the graces and gifts he endlessly supplied during those seasons.  There was always joy to be found, always light for my path, but a gray light, which was exactly what I needed.

So often we view the light of Gods love as a supernova, and it is, it absolutely rocks our world with its impact.  Yet sometimes, more often than we realize, we are called to love softly, gently. I know from reading about our Jesus and from experience that we are always called to meet people exactly where they are.  Often when we grow and mature through something we forget what it felt like to “be back there.”   When we forget, we often fail to extend people the grace of time and patience and we expect them to “get over it” far more quickly than we did ourselves, if we’re honest, which we should be.

God never showed his full glory to anyone he met- we can’t handle it, we’re  too fragile.  A common phrase used at our church is “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good”  It’s easy to think that this phrase applies to the days on our calendar that are marked by birthdays, promotions, weddings and celebrations.  I would argue that this phrase is never more true that when we are experiencing a cup of tea in the midst of our tears, a tender hug at a funeral or a pot of soup on a day when we aren’t able to get dinner together on our own.  That is good God stuff right there.  God was so good to me in my dark seasons and that gray love-light is the only reason I am here today.  God never ceased being good, it was just a totally gray and different kind of good.

Sometimes God works through gray light, just enough love to sustain us, no more than we can handle.  I want to spread this soft gray-light around to those who may not be in a place where they can see it for themselves.  I promise you that it never ceases to surround you, no matter where you find yourself on your journey.  Gods love is the headlights on your wall when you can’t sleep or the moonlight on your floor before the sun rises.  He never ever fails to softly love you, using his words, his creation and his people all of which will shine on your with small and sustaining graces.

Gray light is still my favorite, because I wouldn’t be here without it.  I want to give it, point it out and in so doing carry out my small and unique purpose while I am blessed to have days to do so.

Exactly what my heart needed

In High School I remember promising my Aunt Ruth I would never be married to a pastor.  I am.

In my early twenties I thought I’d never have kids, I have two.

I would have never thought I’d end up in Ada, OK but that’s where we call home.

After we had Noelle I wanted to wait a while before we had another baby and then a few weeks before her first Birthday we found out I was pregnant.  In order to stay in my comfort zone I secretly begged God for a girl so of course at our 20 week ultra sound our baby let us all know that he had the essential bits and parts to qualify him as a boy.   I remember telling the Dr that I didn’t know how to do boys, that he would pee all over everything.  And he has.  But I can assure he has sprinkled my life with much more than urine, more than anything he has brought unending joy.

Clearly I have no idea what I “need” and that’s strangely comforting, and irritating.  I have my pastor husband who transplanted me to Oklahoma, then we got a daughter and a blue eyed baby boy in quick succession.  I could never do life without any of them, and today as we celebrate the first birthday of our little man I am bathed in the truth that God knows exactly what I need.  My life needed a fuzzy blonde baby boy.  Happy birthday my son.  

Not BETTER, but ENOUGH?

Another day started at 5:30 to the sounds of a crying baby boy, one day shy of his first birthday.  Another blog written from a dated dinette table, sticky with this morning’s oatmeal breakfast, chunks of which sit just a few inches from my laptop.

The totally unnoticeable difference is that I am desperately trying to start and stay in connection with God today, among my mess.  As a banner over it all I wrote the following verse on our chalkboard as our daily bread:

“Whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, giving thanks to God father through him.”

I want my parenting, wife-ing, cleaning, cooking, writing, and everything to be Jesus.

By 8:15 I found myself clinging to those words, my last nerve wearing thin to the constant repetitive demands of my two year old.  “Read this dinosaur book mommy, read it?  Read it?  Read it?  Have it mommy?  Have it?  Have it?  Mickey mommy?  Mickey?  I want Mickey Mickey Mickey.”

Inwardly I begin to scream at her, but outwardly I stay calm, a small grace, a small victory.  I know my limits so I head to the shower and catch a glimpse of my face close up in my husband’s shaving mirror.  The kind that makes your normal size pores look like swiss cheese and your minimal blemishes look massive. Great… I hate that mirror, thanks for pointing out my zits.

As I breathe in the steam my thoughts drift to the message from yesterdays church service.  It was called better, a word which has nearly ruined my life.  The perspective from our pastor was that life with God is better, that constant awareness of the spirit, communication through prayer and obedience of his word will lead to BETTER life.  Gods way is BETTER than the “good way” of this world, and it is.  Unquestionably.

Here is my problem, the word Better has stolen so much from me.  At the end of a day, a date, a meal, a moment, when I stop to reflect on what I have been given, my response is so often, it could have been better.  When I self evaluate, I could always do better, be better, do everything and be everything better.  When applied to performance better is an impossible goal because there is always an elusive better out there, forever out of reach.  When faced with the word Better I am always reminded that I am currently not good enough.

Then among the steam of the shower a small thought drifts in.  What if all I am is enough for today?  What if the small amount of money at our disposal today is enough?  What if the patience and mental energy I have for my family is enough?  What if the time I have to pray and be is enough?  Just enough to keep me coming back for more.

It’s all over the bible isn’t it?  He asks me simply to be content with what I have been given today.  He tells me that the means with which I have been asked to do “right now” are enough.  If they are from him, then they are enough.  The deafening and constant voice demanding more and better isn’t the voice of Abba, father, but that which steals me from him.

Is Gods way better?  Yes, of course yes.  But that word, it’s hard for me.

I think ENOUGH suits me BETTER right now.

I have enough, I have all I need to do this day, he wants me returning to him, renewing in him, I don’t have endless amounts, but just enough to do this small right here, just enough to keep me returning to the source.

He isn’t demanding better… he is giving enough.

Turning 30, Overflow

I’ve spent big chunk of the morning writing about my life in a sort of verbal music montage.  I’ll post that later in the “My Story” section.  It’s an interesting exercise, writing your life in highlights and scenes, in moments and flashes.  I’ve struggled for a long time to like myself before the age of 22, even remotely.  When I look back on the little girl with the brown bowl cut, braces and beaver teeth I often want to deny that we are one in the same.  I’ve spent a large part of my twenties trying to build a bridge between us.  To come to terms with the fact that so much of my childhood pain stems not from my being born damaged, but from my parent’s reactions to their own wounded-ness.  I was born someone beautiful, sinful just like we all are, but beautiful nonetheless.   It just took me a long time to believe that truth, even a little.

This is little me… and some fish… and some really questionable shorts action.

Now when I see little bowl-cut me with the bad bad front teeth, instead of hating her for screwing up my current life, I want to go back and hug her, to hold her and to make her feel valuable for as long as possible.  I want to tell her she’s not broken or bad, that her boundless energy and endless words will come in handy someday.  Hold on baby, I promise it gets better.

So… here we are, I’m her and she is me and this morning when I flipped through my overflowing photo box and found her face I also found overflow, in abundance.

I found pictures of my Mom and Dad, the two people who would remember my birth day more than anyone else.  I deeply believe that on this day thirty years ago the original plan included them seeing me to 30 and beyond, to be here to celebrate their Leanne at 30. It really aches when life gets in the way of those kinds of plans, doesn’t it?  Sickness and death got to them too soon, before we could celebrate miles of life together.  Birthdays, Christmases, graduations and weddings have passed and will continue to pass without their witness or presence.   In the photo box I find a physical, tearful overflow of sadness at the un-fillable Mom and Dad shaped holes in my heart and life.

And then of course I found pictures of my deep eyed and huge hearted Kel with all his different hair and beard combinations.  Even though his facial hair is ever changing, you can actually see how much he loves me in every picture.  In the box we see engagement pictures on the beach, wedding pictures in the orchard, camping trips, anniversaries with champagne toasts and shots of brand new babies in homemade hats.  When I see his face on the glossy photos my heart feels an overflow of almost underserved loved.

And then, taking up tons of space in the box, are pictures of my little girl and baby boy.  They are the photos of my life these days.  They are my wake up call in every possible way and every morning they get me out of bed with very vocal demands for milk and bananas only to spend the entire day waking me up to life.  Life with all its simplicity and complicated depth, from the beauty of the moon to the excitement over a chocolate chip cookie their fresh take on this world is waking me on the inside.  They cause the box to overflow from every side.

On a practical note, I do need a better photo organization system, or at least another box.

There’s a pretty common song that has played in my head on countless occasions, including this morning.  It always brings me to tears because its so beautifully true, so very common and yet super easy to miss.

Better is one day in Your courts
Better is one day in Your house
Better is one day in Your courts
Than thousands elsewhere
(Chris Tomlin) 

I always hear this song when I find myself in his house after an absence of wandering.  When it finds me I cry on two fronts because

1) I am so glad to be in the beauty of his will again
2) I am so frustrated that I keep leaving.

It’s better here in his house.  There has been real and undeniable pain in my life, sometimes stemming from my wandering but often stemming from the inescapable sin and death that coexists with us in our joyful places.  Ann Voskamp said it best for me this week when she wrote:

“There’s only one address anyone lives at and it’s always a duplex:  Joy and pain always co-habit every season of life.”

Gods dwelling place on this earth will still see pain, but better BETTER is one day there.  I think my aching and overarching prayer for the next 2/3 of my life is to make my home in his courts, to stray less to breathe in the better of his presence.  I don’t expect a 100% track record, but I pray that the stats start to change in my favor with more days spent dwelling than wandering.

So today I want to build a monument, an ebenezer, a reminder of overflow with a strong prayer and a thousands of hopes.  I pray and hope that my life, my family, my heart sees joy and above all else that it dwells in the home, the two-sided duplex of my Father.

(Yes I am only 2/3 done… I plan to see 90, with my bladder in working order thank you.  And I’m going to be feisty like that lady from Titanic… but I’m not going to throw millions of dollars into the ocean, because that’s just silly.)

So Here I am, at thirty, I’ve only just begun…