Pages, Pictures And The Telling Of The Story.

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For each of my kid’s birthdays and at the end of every year, I sit with my laptop and comb through photos. For every birthday, I make a slideshow to play in the background of their party and for every Christmas I make a year in review photo book.

This is my favorite part of each celebration, because it ground me like no other tradition can. When I sit with these books or drag and drop the photos into a cohesive slideshow it reminds me of the story we are telling with our lives.

At the end of every December, in the midst of each page, stories are ending and stories are beginning. The year is coming to a close and this practice forces me to sit and reflect.

For my children, their stories are new and uncertain, who knows where they will go? Their gap-toothed, awkward smiles are full of possibility and they beg to be reflected upon years from now after many more chapters have been written.

We are living out a story, for better or for worse, and our story is a small portion of the larger story that is being told throughout the world. The plot line that we play a part in moving forward.

And what was the story this year for our world? For your family? For your soul?

Some days it feels like one of hate and we wonder what sort of world we are leaving behind for our children.

Other mornings dawn bright and hopeful and our souls wake buoyant and light.

These days, these years, these pages are all part of a bigger story. It is easy, painfully easy, to get completely immersed in the mess of the here and now to believe that surely, truly this is all there is.

But when we scale back or look to the sky, we are reminded of the size of the universe and the sheer volume of the story.

So whatever blend of stories and emotions 2015 is leaving you with, remember that these are but pages in a book that is yet unwritten. Feel hopeful as you cling to the real truth that God is in the business of redemption and restoration and the telling of a good story.

The book is a beautiful mess that is moving toward something and we all influence the plot line and play a role in the character development of our friends and neighbors.

So, from me to you: Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Thank you for being a part of my story and allowing me, in a small way, to be a part of yours. May we continue to write and grow together as we welcome a sparkly new year.

~Leanne.

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Letters to my Mother {Day 10} Hope Collides

 Dear Mom,

Tonight my spirit feels lighter, after Kel left to go back to work the kids and I sat on our huge new bed and worked the Melissa and Doug puzzles you got us.

The cool fall air drifted in through the window and for a moment all was just… perfect.

In that breath I caught a glimpse of something, something that looked an awful lot like hope.  Something drifted through our window, beautiful and translucent, that reminded what me hope feels like.

Not what it looks like, because I think I get the physical steps down pat, but the feeling of hope has been sorely lacking, elusive.  Yet tonight my soul felt marshmallow light, feather free and I felt as though hope collided with us right there on the bed among the peg puzzle pieces.

It took me back to summer evenings when I was a child, laying with the windows open because we didn’t have air conditioning.  I remember even then marveling through the screen at the way the lawn smelled after Dad mowed it.  Or the way the neighborhood sounded as the houses settled in for sleep.

You know what feeling I’m talking about?  When all just feels, right and you soul takes off.  The hope and future that God promises us suddenly feels around the corner rather than 7,462 miles away.

I know this feeling eluded you on earth but I bet you take baths in glorious hope nowadays, wholeness becomes you.

Yet for me, earthbound and striving, the hope on my tongue melted sweetly.  It was more delicious than the peanut butter cupcake I ate after the kids dozed off… or at least equally as delicious.

As I cling to hope and learn to pray I realize that as I hold hope in my folded hands, it melts and becomes the glue that holds me together.  Hope and prayer fill in the cracks and make me stronger.

I don’t feel like I’m bragging, because this is what we all want for our children isn’t it?  Eyes to behold the wonder created just for them, revelatory moments where they realize that the simple is the profound and eternal.

So I think that this, truly makes you smile.

I love you, I miss you,

LeaRae

Unravelling a Relationship with Jesus

Ah the simplicity of flannel graph Jesus.

So I have a confession to make

I’m a pastor’s wife, a 27 year Christian, and I still don’t really understand what the phrase “Relationship with Jesus” truly means.

I know the part about modeling my life after him

I know the part about him saving me

I know the part about God loving us so much he sacrificed his only son, something I can’t ever fathom doing.

But the word, relationship keeps hanging me up.   We don’t have coffee face to face, we don’t text, we don’t do play dates.  I mean I know he’s there in all of those times but I don’t know the nuances of his face, his quirks or what makes him laugh.  I mean I don’t even know, what does he order at Starbucks?

There is something about questioning this phrase, that feels wrong, subversive or heretical.

I’ve been turning this question over like a rock in a tumbler over the weekend.  Trying to spin out the beauty and truth underneath the crusty phrase.

I may not be able to explain it for you, so I’ll tell you how I’m explaining it to myself

It’s one part rock star crush, the kind where you think you know someone personally even though you’ve never met face to face.

It’s one part meeting him in other people who show you who he is by modeling his way of doing things.

And It’s one part becoming him, acting him out the way my child models the actions of a chicken or a baby puppy.

These parts, the cumulative effect of all the small things sudden rush over you like a wave and realize that “relationship with Jesus” is confusing because the phrase itself cannot contain him.

He’s more than the New Testament Miracle Guy who died on a cross.

He’s the conductor of the creation symphony, the genius behind everything we touch.

He is the love I experience in my husband and children and the love I give away.

He is the one who takes my breath away in corporate worship, when I realize that I am standing in a room full of broken people who have a hope because of him.

He’s there when my son starts to echo my singing, “you can have all this world, give me Jesus.”  He is the song on a toddler’s lips.

Can you tell me, how could it be, any better than this?

Suddenly I get it, the word relationship is just a starter word, and perhaps even a hopeful prayer we can breathe over our person to person interactions.

Do you have a relationship with Jesus?  I’m starting to think I have more than that.

Have you gotten hung up on this phrase?  Did it make you feel naughty too?

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.

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Sucker for Hope- The Pirate Elephant Saga

This is my one year old son’s little toy elephant.  When you pull his tail he plays a lullaby and our little man can’t nod off without him.  He was intended for a soft snuggly life of comfort and happiness.  The only problem is that when I was painting my sons room “peaceful meadow” green a few months ago, I dropped a big drip of  paint directly on his eye.  My son wasn’t even all that attached to him before I maimed his eye with “peaceful meadow” but after I blinded him in one eye I started putting him in bed with our son every night, to try to make up for maiming him so badly.  I feel very real guilt over what I did to this poor elephant, so much so that I’ve spent real time thinking about ways to make it up to him.  I feel like in his current state he’s probably the creepy guy of the playroom, that when we all leave the house and the toys come alive that he’s probably singled out and alone.  The thought of this breaks my heart, so I have decided to give him a cool orange eye patch and give him a sort of “dos equis most interesting” toy in the world persona.

I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about why I got so broken up about the one eyed elephant.  I came to understand that it touched on something deep inside me, I have a real passion to see people realize their created potential.  My heart breaks for those who experienced pain that has stunted their growth and screwed with their hope.  I hate the thought of orphans across the world that go uncared for, unloved and unfed.  And yes, I experience real guilt when I maim a stuffed elephant.

I am a bleeding heart when it comes to hope, restoration and redemption.  I love to go out to the salvage yard and give an old chair a new chance to bring warmth and comfort to our home.  When a marriage fails, a diagnosis is terminal, a small business doesn’t make it or a friendship cannot be reconciled something aches within me.  All that hope down the drain instead of growing and bringing beauty to our world, it’s just not the way it should be.  Our world and lives are full of moments where hope doesn’t pan out, where potential isn’t realized but rather squandered, every moment holds potential for beauty but as we grow up we stop seeing the world for all that it could be and we start to give up hope.

This passion for hope and restoration is something that God put inside all of us, in my world sometimes it comes out in silly ways but mostly it defines my calling.  I feel called to help people restore their hope, to unload their brokenness and exchange it for the easier yoke of God through Jesus, whose entire life’s purpose was to bring restoration to everything.  When you see something broken, full of unrealized hope and potential and something stirs within you, that’s God using you to bring about his redemptive work.  His business is to restore, renew and reunite.   Romans 8 says all creation groans to be set right again, from the fields all the way up to the cosmos.  It’s funny what God will use to remind us of our calling.

All around us are is brokenness and God works through our hands and feet, I so want to be used this way today.

How are you being nudged and broken to redeem and restore?

Well I’m off to sew an eye patch for a musical elephant.  Hope you get after something quirky and wonderful of your own.