Ragamuffin Faith and Patchwork Theology

I was baptized as an infant at a traditional Christian Reformed Church.

Then we switched to a contemporary one

But it wasn’t my Dad’s favorite so he and my sister went Baptist for a while.

Then we all found a Christian Reformed Church we liked and it stuck

But I struck out on my own after high school and was baptized (again…) as an Adult at Mars Hill Bible Church.

Then I found my Best Friend, and she’s Roman Catholic.

After that I fell in love with this Methodist guy I met on the internet.

And we went to a non-denominational seminary before moving to Oklahoma where we joined an evangelical non-denominational church that did altar calls.

This is where my own children were dedicated as infants.

Now it looks like I’m going to be a Methodist Pastor’s wife, or maybe I already am one, they don’t give you an official certificate or anything.

After perusing my impressive list of denominational switching, can you tell where I’ve landed?  Yeah, me either.  I’ve tried a lot of different denominations and congregations and I’ve come to one extremely important conclusion.

The name on the sign doesn’t matter.  

I’m not a methodist, and I’m not CRC, and I’m not Baptist.  I’m just… a child of God.  I have no idea how to classify it and I’m really not all that worried about it.

But, I did’t always feel this way. For a long time in my late teens and early twenties I thought that all these distinctions mattered.  A lot.

I had huge political and theological ideas and a lot of energy to expend on debating them.

I was prepared to go to war and convert the world to my self-proclaimed “right way” of believing.  Which was so post modern and flexible, it had no labels, it was organic… how could anyone else possible do anything differently?

I was determined to convince everyone that my “no-labels” labeling was the right labeling system.

If I couldn’t sway them I walked away wondering how sad it must live in their overly labeled religious world.

I threw around theological slang like it was my job.

Reformed! post-modern! Non denominational!  Progressive! contemporary!

These labels (or lack thereof because again I was SO post-modern) mattered to me greatly and I expended a lot of energy on it all.

And then my Dad died, suddenly and all my family and all my people gathered in my parent’s house and we watched as they took his body to the funeral home.

My world truly and utterly fell apart that day and as we sat in that house, Baptists, Roman Catholics, Non-Denominal, Reformed and Christian Reformed people all grieved the very same man with a line of questioning that transcended denominational boundaries.

Because who cares about trans or consubstantiation when you’re just trying to remember that the blood of Christ will set everything right someday?

And infant versus adult baptism seems laughably trivial when you’re just trying to hang on to the belief that God is good and on your team… when somehow he allowed the glue of your family to leave through the portal of an unexpected heart attack?

I can pinpoint that day to the beginning of the end for my theological battling.  Because on that day it was simply back to basics, trying to hold onto the most simple truth and hope.

the old church nestled in the woods.

That God loves me
He is somehow still here
And somehow ….. still good

I’ve learned that religious and denominational distinctions evaporate in the face of the grieving, questioning thirst of real life. Continue reading

The Story of Two Parades

ADHD pic

We sat together on the curb, denim buns snuggled against each other on cold the cold concrete as we watched the parade go by.  As it passed we chatted about every detail that struck her four-year-old fancy from the white walls on an antique tractor to the rows of flutes and clarinets in the middle school marching band.

As she took in the parade with wonder I reflected on a parade we shared not so long ago, just this past Christmas in fact.  As my mind wandered my eyes filled up with grateful tears that trickled down my cheeks and screwed up the last minute mascara job I’d done in the rear-view mirror of our mini van.

Kel was working the night of that first parade so I found myself wrangling two preschoolers on my own.  Caedmon wouldn’t sit in the stroller and my hips ached for the weight of holding him.  Noelle was running, always evading my grasp. At one point we lost her for five minutes only to find her a half block away sitting with an unknown family.  I felt completely undone by my inability to keep my two children content and safe.

All my friend’s children were staying close by, content to gather candy and wait as Santa made his way down Main street.  But my daughter?  She was like a whirlwind I couldn’t control, a danger to herself and source heartache, anger frustration for me.

Just a few weeks earlier we’d received the diagnosis which simultaneously shed light on her behavior and broke my heart.  Just a few days before Thanksgiving, while the turkey was defrosting in the fridge, I found myself sitting across from our pediatric psychologist as she went over my 3 year old daughter’s test results.

She told me that Noelle’s inability to focus and her delay in fine motor skills, as well as the test results from us and her teachers indicated a solid ADHD diagnosis as well as some likely Sensory Processing Issues.

As our session came to a close we knelt together to pick up the toys that my daughter had scattered across the office floor and she attempted to reassure me:

“It’ll be okay, cut yourself some slack…. raising Noelle is more taxing and exhausting than raising a typical three year old.  Oh and don’t be too afraid to put her on medications someday, or even sooner.  I know you don’t want to, but it may make things so much easier.” Continue reading

All things for good (on 8 years without my Father)

Today marks 8 years since I lost my Dad, and I hate it.

I hate everything about it.

I hate looking at the landscape of our lives and not seeing him there.  I see his fingerprints all over the place, but those joyful eyes behind the paint speckled glasses?  They’re nowhere to be found.

Somedays I can’t believe he’s gone and others I struggle to remember what it was like to have a Dad at all, a Dad to call with tears or mortgage questions.

I tell the kids about him sometimes, but mostly they’re too young to understand. I tell Caedmon that he has his Grandpa’s middle name and I tell Noelle that she has a nose just like her Grandma’s.

I tell them: “I had a mommy and daddy too and they’re in heaven with Jesus and they love us all very much.”

Some people may see 8 years of grieving my Father and think: “Wow, she’s still not over it?” To those people I say this: “When you lose a parent, you’re never truly over it, there is always a unfilled gap, which is okay.”

And somedays that void takes the form of a lump in my throat, sometimes it causes my eyes to tear up because I just want my Daddy.  Somedays don’t we all?   And on those days when I need my Dad but can’t have him I ache on a cellular level.

I want to revert back to calling his cell phone and listening to his voice mail message over and over again.

“His this is Dave, please leave a message.” 

I stil remember the inflection of every word.

Somehow, shortly after he died it was put upon me to design and purchase my Dad’s headstone. I knew nothing about headstones, all I knew is that I wanted it to look as little like a headstone as possible.  Nothing grey, no block letters, I just couldn’t go there. Continue reading

She is incomplete

This week I forego Mom Hacks because I would be phoning it in.  The mom who started that column seems to have packed a bag and left. 

March marks the 8th anniversary of my Father’s death, March 19th to be exact.  This a huge weight on my chest and when I think about it I can’t breathe.  It cannot, CANNOT have been 8 years since I last spoke to my Dad.

But it has. It’s been nearly 8 years since we chatted on old-school cell phones or shared a raspberry coffee cake after a long Sunday morning of delivering newspapers.

After his funeral I had no idea what grieving looked like for me so I focused on healing and survival. I napped a lot and threw all the funeral flowers off the balcony of my apartment to get rid of “that funeral home smell.”

I refused to drink alcohol, I didn’t want to rely on it to see me through, no matter what.  I feared dependency. I refused antidepressants and sleeping pills as well, there was something within me that needed to prove to myself that I could make it on blood sweat and tears alone, that God could heal even this au natural.

I talked about my loss, wrote about it and went to counseling for the first time in years, I knew I needed a guide for the grieving journey.

I distinctly remember a session of therapy a few months after my Father’s funeral that will forever haunt me. I sat across the room from my trusted therapist of 2 months and listened as she explained to me her opinion that I suffered from moderate bipolar disorder.  She suggested I see a psychiatrist and get on a lifelong med regimen to counteract my seasons of mania and depression. This come out of nowhere for me, I wasn’t even aware I was living in such a cycle, I thought I was just grieving.

I was beyond crushed, I was looking for help with grief, not a lifelong diagnosis.   Continue reading

Red yarn, purity and my misplaced worth

7782343794_4a8c280005_cI was 21 years old, just, when I found myself sitting in a tiny counseling office trying to recover from a painful breakup. The woman in the chair across from me was praying passionately as she called upon the Holy Spirit to free my heart from my ex-boyfriend.

From the aching of being dumped… over email.

The focus of our session was all about freeing my heart, which was intrinsically linked to his, because we’d had sex.

She opened an old, metal drawer and took out some pre-cut, crimson yarn. She held the ends between pinched fingers and held the taut strands between us.

She handed me a pair of scissors and told me to cut the yarn as a representation of my cutting my heart free from my ex.

Through snipping this yarn, the Holy Spirit would set me free and disconnect us. Although I was told my heart was forever damaged and would be messy and incomplete because of my transgressions.

I remember getting into my raggedy blue Saturn and wondering… “Would cutting the yarn really do it? Should I feel different now? 

And for that matter, would this painful breakup be easier if we hadn’t… “gone there?”

I turned it all over in my head for months, like you do when you’ve been dumped. I took to rollerblading around my parents neighborhood while I listened to Dashboard Confessional on my disc-man.

Was it true that I had superglued my heart to his, never to be whole again?  Had I robbed my future husband of something special? Was I forever demoted because I proved true the age old cliché of “looking for love in all the wrong places?”

The more I rolled around the neighborhood, the more I realized that I hadn’t had sex with this guy out of love, or even for physical pleasure.

I’d done it because I needed to believe that someone had wanted me completely, just as I was.

you see, my problems went far deeper than my lost virginity. I had an incredibly screwed up sense of who I was… and whose I was… and what I was doing with my life.

I thought that I needed to belong to a man to feel complete and that belief was far more damaging than my sexual mistakes would ever be.

I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking through all the clumsy, awkward steps that led me to ultimately “losing it.” All those concessions I made, one by one that ended with me tucking my purity ring in my jewelry box and hoping my Dad wouldn’t notice its absence on my ring finger.

If all the girls I’ve ever mentored as a youth worker were sitting across from me and I could tell them one thing about their sexuality, what would I say?

They’ve heard thousands of words from hundreds of sources, what would I add?

It’s this: Your worth cannot be found or taken from you through sex.

You were created for a big, bold beautiful purpose. If you go have sex to feel better about who you are, you will only be taking steps backward.

I would tell them that I regret having sex before marriage, but that I regret all the years that I lost believing that I was worthless even more.

I regret looking for my worth in sex, because it only ever left me emptier.

I would tell them that if they’ve already had sex, God loves them and values them just as highly as he would if they had their “v-cards” in tact. I would let them know that they can still have a healthy, joy-filled, passionate, sexy and intimate marriage someday.

I would remind them that even though the church world seems to see sexual sin as weightier or dirtier than the rest, that God sees it all the same. And that he loves the virgins and the non virgins equally.

That he’s close to the broken hearted, even the ones who didn’t wait.

Then I would tell their parents that when it comes to “the sex talk” that they should spend most of their time teaching their children who they are and who they belong to. Because kids who value themselves and have a solid send of self worth are less likely to go looking for it in all the wrong places, Like in the backseat of their cars.

And then I would go home and kiss my husband and cry a little. Because there is nothing easy about this jumbled mess of human sexuality. I would lay my head on the pillow and thank God for infusing my journey with so much grace… for leading me to this place, this day, these words.

Caedmon’s Surgery or God be with the mommas at the Children’s Hospital

I’m going to take a little break from the Kuyper Coffee Dates and tell you about our yesterday, do you mind?

photo copy 5 Yesterday our newly 2 year old son Caedmon had outpatient surgery to fix a hernia of sorts called a Communicating Hydrocele.  It was the first time I went through surgery with one of my children and let me tell you, there is no such thing as minor surgery when it’s your child on the table.

We went in at 7am and the first surgery in the pediatric urology department had been cancelled, so we were up first. They rushed us through pre-op so they could get a jump on their surgical schedule.  Caedmon was so angry with us and the staff because he was confused and so thirsty from being denied liquids that morning.

I remember crabby too when I couldn’t have water the morning of my C-section and unlike Caedmon, I understood what was going on.

After pre-op we met with the anesthesiologists and they asked one of us to come in for a few minutes and hold him while they held used the gas mask to sedate him pre-anesthesia.  So I donned the paper surgical gear and followed the wheeled crib to the operating room, we got him to breathe into the mask and I watched his eyes roll back as he relaxed on the table.  I was an emotional wreck inside, weak in the knees, although I kept my cool on the outside.

Diptic

I was quickly escorted out of the operating room and back to Kel where we exchanged “now what?” looks.  We decided to grab some breakfast and bring it back to the surgical waiting room, although I was racked with guilt the whole time.  What kind of Mother can just eat eggs while her son has surgery?

We sat there staring at the patient status screen waiting for Caedmon’s number to change from the green “Operating Room” status to the the pink that indicated he was in “Post-Op.”

Before we knew it my cell was ringing.  It was a member of the surgical staff informing us that they were finishing up with his surgery and needed to see us in the consultation room. Continue reading

31 Letters to my Mother {Day 11} Cupped hands, held high

 Dear Mom,

Guess what? These letters are not just bringing healing to our hearts, but they’re inspiring people to reconcile with each other here on earth. While they have the blessing of breath and life to share.

I’m broken hearted that our real life, skin to skin time has passed. I will never claim that this road of losing and remembering you is an easy journey.  It has undone and remade me Mom.

Yet, I keep imagining myself with cupped hands, held high, begging God to redeem my story.  A posture of “here, take it, make it beautiful in a way that only you can.”

Do you remember the story in John 9 about the man born blind?  I have no idea how heaven works, but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.  Heck maybe you’ve done drinks with THE man born blind.

My mind is imprinted with the verse: “this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:3

I love that Jesus side steps the stupid trap of the question and gives something far more lovely.

We question “why” all the time, both on purpose and by nature. The why of pain is a road that cannot be navigated and to be honest I rarely mess with it anymore.

I have no idea how to sort out what God sends for his glory and what is an inevitable result of living in a broken world.

This world, that operates outside of original intent.

I don’t think God sent your depression, or that his finger was on your death.

Yet I am glad you’re free of pain, whole and reunited with Our Father, and Dad too. I’m glad for the redemption of your story, my story, our family, this life.  Piece by piece, day by day, bit by bit.  

That the works of God might be displayed in him

Redemption, hope, healing, reconciliation, I see those works happening and they certainly fall under the heading of works of God.

For without him, those words are not, cannot come to fruition.

I love you, I miss you,

LeaRae

Beautiful Scars – Princess Abi’s Faith

Today’s Guest Post came in this week from Laurie Wilks and I knew I had to bump my Friday posting plans to share it with you.  

Laurie is a new friend, mother, teacher and fellow Asbury-ite.  I promise you’ll walk away in love with her beautiful and brave daughter Abi, as I did.  Abi’s perspective on God, Faith and Scars is something that we could all take notes on.  ~ Leanne

A big chunk of our family time happens on-the-go, running errands in our sage green mini-van.

It was the week before Thanksgiving and we had several destinations to check off that afternoon.

We had reached the point in the day when sweet treats beckon, but dinner seems far off. The bickering from the older kids in the back seat was noticeably absent. On a whim, we pulled into the drive-thru and ordered two kid sized hot chocolates and a juice box.  Cheers and laughter erupted from the back seat.  Sweets! With Whipped Cream! Happy day!  John and Laurie Wilks: Parents of the Year!

We waited, as patiently as possible.  Soon enough, an awkward teenager handed us our steamy liquid goodness.  We thanked her and I passed them back to the worlds happiest 8 and 4 year-old kids.  They were so grateful, it melted my heart.  I hollered a warning that their drinks were hot; and glance back at their smiling faces as John pulled back on to the highway.

I wish I could have frozen this moment and savored it.

Suddenly, I heard an ear piercing, terrified scream from my 4 yr old daughter.  She just kept screaming, and crying.  Traffic prevented us from turning around or pulling over. Continue reading

Beautiful Scars- And Then The Morning Comes

I’m in awe of the strength and stories of the women who have submitted pieces for the beautiful scars series and Jennifer Little is no exception.  I’m humbled and honored to be a part of sharing her story with you and to be a small piece of her healing.  There is no story that God won’t redeem, but this one is especially dear to my heart.

~Leanne

And Then The Morning Comes

It’s easy for me to say I was molested for the first time as a nine-year old. It’s not, however, easy to sift through and relive all those years (27 to be exact), since I was visited in the darkness. That was when the safety of my pale pink bedroom shattered into millions of tiny pieces that would later cut deep like glass.

When I first began writing this, I fooled myself into thinking I could whip up an account that has, by the way, blossomed into one of hope and love and forgiveness. The truth is, though, there is no way for me to share the light without first revisiting the dark—the secret, the fear, the loneliness and wild anger. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there, thank God.

Thank you, God. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there.

One might think my childhood was a dark stain on my life. After all, the secret of sexual abuse is so devastating, it can set children up for a future of rejection and failure in every possible way. But I know my parents and step-parents loved me as much as they were able, and there were plenty of happy times and fun memories. Continue reading

Beautiful Scars- When I was a Christian

For a long time God has been nudging me about the need to be part of a community that not only shares their story, but speaks of redemption.  An honest connection for sharing how God has used our scars as unique qualifications to bring his light to the dark spaces.  

It all started with trying to write about my own story and being smacked in the face over how my childhood wounds make me the perfect mother for my own daughter.  And how my grief and loss has enabled me to talk about hope and tenacity in the valley.  

So I’m starting a series of sorts here on the blog where I’ll host and create space for other people to share their beautiful scars and painful yet unique qualifications.  A space for sharing our stories, even the most painful parts all for the purpose of glorifying a God who wastes nothing and is open to redeeming it all.  

If you have a story of beautiful scars and would be willing to share it here please contact me and we’ll chat about it.  

Today I am humbled to give blog space to my friend Joy Cannis as she shares her raw and honest story of loss and restoration.  I’ve known Joy for a while online now and I’m blessed to be in connection with her, hoping you feel the same:

I grew up in a loving home surrounded by “God-fearing” parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors. My mom says that I prayed to receive Christ at age two. Though she was unable to decipher my words, she’s certain that’s what I did.

I distinctly remember at age seven, sitting at the kitchen counter, across from my mom, when my dad called to say that my grandfather’s long and painful battle with cancer was over. And just like that I learned of mortality.

I was never afraid of death before having someone that I knew and loved pass away. It made it so real. When my grandmother died many years later, I can remember looking at her body in the casket. Her hands were pale and shriveled.

“Why do her hands look that way?” I asked my uncle.

He replied with a look of disdain, “There’s no blood in her body! They have to drain it all out! Didn’t you know that?!”

I didn’t know that, but I would never forget it after that moment.

Continue reading