Where Perceived Judgement Teaches Me That My Way Is Good, Too.


So, I go to a sort of a… crunchy church.  At least it feels like that to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. I love that we have compostable everything and that my children learn about the bible through actors and readings rather than on tv screens.

Yet, sometimes I feel a bit “less than” in the face of all the wholesome goodness. I feel like if wholesome were a game, I would be middle of the pack… or lower.

We have regular (BPA free) Target sippy cups, with Cars characters on them
I did not cloth diaper
I only breastfed for one year
My kids eat the non-organic Aldi brand (100% all natural) fruit snacks

Every morning my kids get up and watch a little (usually educational) TV so I can work.

Often I feel, wrong…

Take this past Sunday where despite our best efforts we arrived late to church. Due to the snow and the low volunteer turnout there was no room in kid’s church for our three year old son.

So I prepared him for a teachable, “life’s not always fair” moment while my husband checked our daughter into her room and we took him to “big church.”

I melted a little when he asked: “Why didn’t they have room for me?” and told him they did in their hearts but not in the rooms, that people couldn’t make it in to play with him because of the snow.

He seemed okay, then asked the inevitable question:

“Can I play on your phone?”

Sigh…. “Yes, but NOT during the songs.”

During the songs we bounced and sang along and helped him engage what we call “big church.”

Then as we settled in for the sermon he looked up at me with expectant eyes and an open palm.

The phone please.

I looked around (surely judgement was on it’s way) and handed him the phone so I could tune in to a desperately needed teaching on help, faith and prayer.

For the first twenty minutes it worked great, he built pretend cupcakes on my phone as I tuned my heart in to the words of the pastor at the center of the room (we do church in the round).

During the last third of the sermon he started to get restless. Why? Well because he could only shoot the angry birds backwards… obviously.

So my husband scooped him up and did what any good Pastor (who isn’t preaching today) does with his son in church.

Shush him?
Tell him a parable?
Hand him a bible?


He taught him how to shoot the birds correctly, obviously.

Every time a bird and pig collided, my son erupted in a giggle that was slightly disruptive but a million percent endearing and my husband couldn’t stop grinning.

Me? Well of course I joined in by feeling a deep level of embarrassment and shame via some daydreaming about what “good families” must do”

Good families have children that play with wooden toys during church while subtly absorbing foundational truths that will see them through the rest of their lives.

Good families whisper into their children’s ear and explain the message on a three year old level while missing half the sermon, because those moms don’t need it like I do… they’re naturally holy.

Good families don’t use Cars cups, they use expensive glass ones withs with cool tops and their children never demand juice with marathon tantrums.  They say something like: “Excuse me mummy, would you refresh my drink while I continue to build these blocks after which I will pick them all up, especially the ones under the couch?”  Probably while wearing both clean clothes AND pants…

Daydream-shaming was interrupted by church activity: to write our prayers on pieces of paper, to ask for help from Our Father directly, specifically and then to fold those prayers into paper birds.

I did so after which we rose to sing another song. I can’t remember what it was but it grounded me from my shame-spiral. As was we sang I handed my son the prayer-scribbled bird which he pretended to fly in the air as he rested in his daddy’s arms.

Then I heard it, that voice that doesn’t originate from my own nervous spirit: “Your way is good too, be free”

There was something about the bird and the music, something about my son playing with the vehicle of my prayers that made this truth sink in, deeply.

Your way is good too, be free from the voices of not good enough.
Be free from thinking everyone else is doing it better, from that illusion.
Free yourself up to be you, that’s what I’m really inviting you to.  

The early morning TV and writing, the angry-bird giggling, the ugly sippy cups, the cheap date nights at home, the wild play around the house in lunch-stained shirts with no pants, really it’s my freedom.

our home
our life
our way is good too.

So is yours.

Be free to love your way of doing things,to look around yourself and find more good than “things that need fixing.”

Be free from always finding yourself lacking.

Write it all on a bird and let it all fly away.  

Whatever my mix of calling is… wife/mom/writer/pastor’s wife/communications director… it must contain a freedom and the ability to love “my way,” my place.

To love us.

Your way is good too, let’s be free.

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  • http://www.addingaburden.com/ Jill – addingaburden.com

    Amen sistah! 😉 Have you seen this essay from Glennon Melton? It’s right in line with your wisdom! http://momastery.com/blog/2013/06/21/quit-pointing-your-avocado-at-me/

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      I have and I LOVE THAT by Glennon. Still need to read her book though…

      • http://www.addingaburden.com/ Jill – addingaburden.com

        It’s a good one to get on audible b/c she reads it herself! And I think you can get a free 30 day trial with them if you’ve never signed up before! I love listening on my phone when I’m doing dishes or housework.

  • pastordt

    LOVE this, love it, love it. This line right here? “Free yourself up to be you, that’s what I’m really inviting you to.” THAT’s what I’m writing about on Friday at a new series I’ve started called Q & A. Cuz somewhere along the way, we got so enamored of the language of ‘abandonment’ to Jesus, that we missed the part where Jesus actually calls us to be the best versions of ourselves we can be, not mini-robots looking alike. Great stuff, Leanne. Thank you.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Thank you so much for this, I absolutely want to turn in to that because you’re right it is a unique and beautiful freeing invitation which opens up infinitely more than it closes off.

  • Andrea Frazer

    This was awesome. I’m totally going to share your site in our newsletter over at Believe.com. More people need to read this kind of stuff! You’re not making up a god of your own making, you’re living as God (in my humble opinion) wants us to live: FREE. I am so inspired by this! I can also be found at http://www.happilytickedoff.com

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Thank you Andrea! I will endeavor to check both of those links out after the kids nod off later. Thank you so much for sharing this piece, it means SO much to me.

  • http://simply-rea.blogspot.com Rea

    This is a lesson I’ve been learning over the last few months after driving myself (and my family) crazy by trying emulate that person that I thought I should be more like. Time, therapy, and a little distance from said person are slowly teaching me that my way is ok. That I’M ok.

    (Also, my boys had a darling little bag of cloth safari animals hand sewn by Rwandan refugee women to play quietly with in church. Which to my knowledge they played with about two times, much preferring the Made In China metal cars that make so much noise when crashed into chairs and dropped on the floor in the middle of a sermon. And which always require the user to make sound effects of motors and tires squealing. I’m sure if we had smart phones as an option at the time they would have been hurling birds at pigs as well.)

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      There is no shame in the occasional angry birding 😉 There’s a reason I have it on my phone… mindless moments of decompression.

      This lesson is NOT an easy one and I am glad that you and your family are experiencing the freedom and peace that it DOES bring. Therapy is the best and I love your puppet idea, I have some but don’t think to bring them for quiet time in public places.

  • Mark Allman

    You go Leanne.. I think how you and Kel do it with your kids and family is much better than that “good family”. It is often the simple cheap things that build the most powerful memories. A smile from a mommy goes a long way!!
    By the way I am not very good at angry birds.

  • http://dontstopbelieving.me/ Brenda W.

    SO much truth here. I think most people experience this regardless of where they fall on any spectrum. I feel perpetually too-much and not-enough no matter what kind of group I’m in, which is ridiculous because none of us are exactly alike. Thanks for sharing.

  • Heather@ To Sow a Seed

    We *don’t* go to a particularly crunchy church, so *we* are the odd ones out! We are the ones with the “gross” cloth diapers that put off the nursery workers and the stainless steel sippy cups that look so boring compared to the colorful character decorated ones. Lol. To each his own, sister. Jesus did not die so that we could feel persecuted or imprisoned by our choice in parenting techniques. Instead, He died to set us free from those outside distractions that separate us from true union with Him.

    Oh, and I would totally sit next to you in church and giggle at your kiddo’s Angry Bird onslaught. :-)