Category Archives: Friendship

I am not the vine

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I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

I took on too much and fell into a depression.  I walked ran boldly forward with intent to bring heavenly Love to others by loving and encouraging  through the gifts God has given me. I seek to bear fruit–something nourishing for others and delightful to God. Yet, my desire to please my Father and to please others crashed into each other, and I fell.

I’m trying to get back up, but I am real tired. Depleted.

My desire to please is not for others to be pleased with me, but to be pleased in their own lives–to feel happy or hopeful or validated or affirmed. When people need help, I want to help; when people need love, I want to love; when people need someone to understand, I want to understand. Hear me well when I say, I do not need nor do I desire recognition or credit, but rather to remain camouflaged in the backdrop while God takes the spotlight.

I pray (a lot!) for people–strangers, friends, family–and I always ask God to give me the words to speak and write in a way that lets people know He’s got them–that they are Loved and Protected– even if they aren’t believers in Christ. I ask Him to help me be a good deliverer and steward of his message.

Yet, I never ask if he has a message for me to deliver–a word of encouragement or an act of love–and if so, then to whom. I run on the assumption that everyone who is on my heart or crosses my path must be there because God needs to me encourage them.

The problem is I run. I come to His feet in reverent prayer and then I take off running. I have this irrational sense of urgency to hurry up and love–and love well. I need to be fast enough and good enough in order to bear the good fruit–the fruit good enough to be pleasing to God and fruitful for the lives I am trying lighten.

In my haste, I run ahead of God and become emotionally invested in every person I meet; I look over my shoulder and ask behind me, “Hey Lord, what would you like me to say to them? How can I love them? By the way, thanks! They have taught me a lot.”  In my eagerness to lift up essentially everyone, I forget that I am not God. I don’t have the power or the stamina or the emotional capacity or spiritual insight to serve everyone and bear fruit for the whole vineyard. I am not the Vine. I am but a branch! Without God, the true Vine who serves the entire vineyard, I. Am. Nothing. 

Romans 12:3 says “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

I used to think this verse meant “don’t get too big for your britches,” and in a sense I think that applies; however, I see now how this might mean not taking on more than what God is asking me to handle. I am only equipped with so much, so far– I only have a certain measure of knowledge and wisdom; I only have a certain amount of energy and stamina to extend. I am a child, a young branch in the eyes of God–still growing, still tender, still small.

When I run ahead of God, leaving him behind, I cannot do anything. The fruit I seek to bear will not grow. So now what? Here I sit, on my knees in front of Jesus, humbled again in my humanness–with a load of mess that I created for myself–a multitude of commitments to honor whilst committing to my children, husband, true friendships, and not to mention–myself.

John 15:1-2 says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

I don’t believe the Lord is cutting me off, for while in my depression friends from St.Chappellewhom I’ve retreated have told me how much they love me; strangers of whom I’ve held at a distance have told me I’ve blessed them; my children and husband of whom are the most precious to me and bear the burden of living with a woman in constant motion have told me how much they love and honor and trust me, still.

I am being pruned (and it’s really uncomfortable)–cut back to where I can see the Vine, reminding me that I am not the vine; all He asks of me is to bear the fruit upon my branch. The only way to bear the good fruit (and to know how to fix my mess) is to grab Jesus’ hand with the same reverence with which I pray, and let him lead me through the vineyard–showing me whom to learn from and whom to love and whom to serve.

 

**The photos in this post were from my trip with my husband to Ste. Chapelle winery in Caldwell, ID. I refer to this place as God’s breakroom. It was here that God so tenderly answered my prayer for a wise and humble heart while giving me a moment to breath and to enjoy acres of flourishing vineyard.

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Papa's Perspective: Thoughts from a 97-year old

*Update: Our beloved Papa Sype passed away last night (Thursday, May 22 2014). His final days were anything but restful, so today while we grieve the man we adore so much we also feel great relief that he’s at peace.

I pray today Papa is celebrating in reunion with his beautiful bride,  Ruth “twinkle toes” Sype who has been waiting for him in heaven the last two and a half years.  “Gigi and Grandpapa” (as they are known to my children), have a great story which I wrote about in a post called “Going out in a Blaze of Glory” back in 2011.  I hope you will take the time to learn about them because they were pretty awesome and special people! 

Today I am reflecting on all the things Papa has taught me over over the last 13 years I have known him; I thought I would re-share with you the wisdom he passed on to us when I last saw in November. 

Peace to you and yours, dear friends. 

Leanne

***

Papa<—- This is John, a.k.a. Papa. He is my husband’s grandfather and my children’s great-grandfather.  Papa is the most generous, honest, kind, wise, loving man I know. I adore him and love him as my own grandfather. We just got back from a special, no-reason-in-particular visit with him in Rockford, IL, where he’s lived the majority of his life.

At 97 years old, Papa has experienced a lot of life; he’s got much to share if you just ask. He’s from the era of “the olden days,” but his perspective on life, marriage, parenting, and friendship is timeless.  I peppered him with questions all weekend, trying to savor every bit of seasoned wisdom he had to offer…

Q: What do you think the key is to living a long, happy life?

Papa: Find something useful that you love to do. If you’re doing something you don’t like… don’t do it. Find something else; I don’t understand why people think they have to keep doing something they don’t like doing.  This is why school is so important.

And also, always be honest and thoughtful with others.

Q: What’s one piece of advice as a father and/or parent?

Papa: That’s a tough one because no one thing is deserving!

Q: What was/is your favorite part of parenting?

Papa: I was Boy Scout dad. We would take groups of 10 or 15 boys on camping excursions up to Canada. Not many parents wanted to volunteer for these trips, so there were only a couple of us chaperones, which meant the boys would have to carry more weight. We had to get all those boys passports, you know. That was hard! But, we taught them life and survival skills on these trips… many of the boys had never even been away from home, away from their parents, so it was a big deal.  All the boys had to earn merit badges for their uniform; they worked hard to earn those badges.

You know, a lot of the other troops were real strict about proper uniform attire, but for our group, we didn’t pressure the boys about making sure they had the proper socks and a starched shirt. For us it was more about the skills and camaraderie than it was about the uniform. I loved those trips, and my boys would come with me.

These were 10-day trips, and that would give Ruth {his wife} a break! *grin*

Q: Out of all the places you have ever traveled, what was your favorite place to visit?

Papa:  Whales because it’s a country with kind and simple people who live a simple life; nothing fancy. Also, France and Italy, particularly the countryside. We think we have preserved things over here for hundreds of years; these countries have preserved things for thousands of years.

Q: What is your favorite invention from your lifetime?

Papa:  Probably the telephone and radio.

Q: Is there something you miss from the old way of life that our KidsandPapakids will never experience?

Papa: Why yes. And it is quite simple: sitting on the front porch. Life used to be simpler and entertainment was always outdoors in your own neighborhood.

Some other wise thoughts I captured:

On friendship: Learn your points of disagreement with friends or fellows you work with and stay away from those topics. If the other guy brings it up, then go ahead and chat about it. Otherwise, there’s no reason to bring up things that cause unnecessary friction.

DSCN3287On marriage (note: Papa and his bride, Ruth,  were married for 70 years before she passed away in January 2012. Out of respect for privacy, I will remain vague on the details of the following story):

“We went through a pretty rough time later in our marriage. Ruth confessed she had a problem; I wasn’t aware of it and she had to convince me there was indeed a problem. Of course we considered divorce because that was what most people in our same situation had done. We decided not to go that route… it isn’t worth it and it’s hardest on the kids, even when they are grown.

So, we drove up to Minnesota for treatment. I decided to go with her because it was recommended that spouses go through the program too. On some level I must have blamed myself for our situation because at the end of the program I felt so much better knowing it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t necessarily Ruthie’s fault either. We had been aware of some past stuff in her family, but no one ever talked about it.

If we both hadn’t acknowledged the problem and if we both wouldn’t have invested in solving it, we never would have made it.

On modern technology:

~ “I was foolish not to get onto the internet. Now when everyone talks it sounds like blah blah blah. It sounds like a bunch of baloney to me.”

~ “Boy, cell phones really make a difference, don’t they!?”

We love your wisdom, Papa!

Papa: Wisdom is a funny thing. It’s based partly on your experiences and partly on your attitude.

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Left to right: my son, Sean; my husband, Andrew; Papa; my daughter, Haley; Me!

Friendships found and lost

*I wrote this post a year and a half ago while I was mourning the loss of a dear friendship. Today I was led back to this post so randomly, and I felt a swell of tender gratitude and understanding as I read. I didn’t understand the loss then, but I do now. Yet while life and time has changed my insight, my raw expression of perspective regarding friendship remains the same today… I pray this piece serves your heart well if it holds grief from loss.

I take my friendships seriously. I am not talking about the 200 to 1000 electronic friendships spread across multiple social media platforms.

I am talking about the in-the-flesh, kindred relationships where there is a mutual investment of hearts and a synchronous cadence of spirits. These are the friendships where we can be raw and real and honest, whether in tears or in laughter.  These friendships are gifts and they are rare. They take special care; when lost, broken, or taken, the pain runs deep.

We are brought together with people through out life for a purpose. There is work to be done, and it is through relationships God helps us cultivate knowledge, wisdom, power, humility, perspective and strength to do the work He has planned. We work in tandem within our closest friendships to learn, to share, to grow, to feel, to understand, to gain perspective, and to encourage so we can live better and more fully.

But though we invest in, sacrifice for, and honor those with whom we walk, ultimately God has control over whether these friendships are for a season or for life.

Sometimes friendships drift apart along natural paths of life–where God once had us walking together, the journey has diverged. Other times, friends are plucked right out of our lives unexpectedly. Whatever work is done during the lifetime of a friendship, the connection has served its purpose in God’s plan. This is not to say all is lost and forgotten, for God always leaves permanent footprints.

Losing friends is not a regular occurrence in my life. But when it happens, I grieve. Not only for the loss of blessed influence in my life, but also for the inability to serve back. Like I said, I take my friendships very seriously, and  my heart sinks at the thought that I might have gained more than I have given.

I know God brings people in and out of our lives for seasons and reasons only known to Him. I know God is good.

I trust God. If he says, it is finished, then so it is done. Though I know for certain how I am forever better changed because of my connection with someone, I must have confidence that I offered something of value in return. And whatever we now embody individually from living in the friendship, I must trust that it will be a blessing–that God will use it for a greater purpose somewhere and for someone else, maybe in our own life or in the lives of others.

Take special care, dear reader, of those kindred friendships. Whether for a season or for a lifetime, there is purpose in the connection. I dearly miss my friendships lost, but I cling firmly to how those friends have blessed me and to God’s plans for the greater purpose those relationships serve.

Stereotypes suck

20131013_154520Bear with me while I have a moment…

I had an interesting conversation with someone very close to me who said, “The thing about stereotypes is they exist because more often than not, they’re true.”

It’s hard to argue with that.

The problem is, where does that leave the people who don’t fit the stereotypes? The people in the minority. Or even those in the minority of the majority? What is the prognosis for the people who bear a life attached to stigmas and real truths yet don’t fit the stereotypes that society deems unacceptable to support?

Remember  the other day when I said I had something really exciting cooking? I do!

I have a friend named Tony Roberts. He has bipolar disorder. The truth is, bipolar disorder is a dark, painful and destructive mental illness. It has harsh consequences that affect his relationships and life with his kids, his wife, his family, his career, and his finances. Like many who battle with this kind of mental illness, Tony tried to take his own life. Because the truth is, living with a mental illness often times causes the afflicted to feel  abandoned, isolated, and worthless.

Tony is also a Christian. In fact, he’s a retired(ish) pastor… who served in his pastoral ministry for nearly 20 years before going on disability in 2009 for his disease.

20 years is a pretty long time to work successfully in a career when you have a mental illness. Not to mention it seems pretty ambitious for God to choose a spokesman who is prone to manic highs and depressive lows; to choose a leader for the Christian faith who has to work extra hard to manage and maintain his most precious relationships; to choose a teacher who would try to take his own life.

Why would God do that?

Because Tony doesn’t fit the stereotypes. Yes, there are some real truths attached  bipolar disorder because of the nature of the disease, but Tony isn’t defined by the disease. Nobody is defined by their physical or mental limitations. Stereotypes are man-made; God doesn’t cast aside people the way people do.

I’m guilty of this.  I’ve been humbled over the last year about my own judgement and stereotypes about ex-convicts, the homeless, and the mentally ill. I’m learning how to love those who seem the hardest to love.

Delight in Disorder cover only copy

Tony has written a memoir called Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission. It’s his story about living as a pastor battling bipolar disorder; it is the most powerful testimony I’ve ever heard. Beautiful and tragic in transparency; enlightening and life-changing in spiritual reflection. It’s raw in expression, honest in confession; hopeful in message. And it’s not the kind of trite hope that, again, fits snugly into a stereotypical, hope-shaped hole.

I’m scared not many people will get to read it.

The book has been painstakingly written, professionally edited, and delightfully designed. It’s ready. Tony needs the funds to have it published and printed. We put together a fundraising campaign over on Indiegogo explaining his message and the mission behind his efforts in telling his story in hopes to raise the funds necessary to publish. You can view/support it here.

I say we because I am a part of the mission. This is exciting news with a book-length back story that I will spare you–for now. ;) But hear me well when I say, I believe in Tony’s story, I believe in the mission he’s been given, and I am honored to a part of it–even though I see the ginormous mountain in front of us.

I know we won’t capture the hearts of many people because there are walls built of stereotypes about “people with mental illness,” supported by stigmas about “people who are Christians” that won’t allow even the desire to know to enter.

It’s  not fair to give up on someone before we even try to love them… every person’s story is different despite the stereotypes that say otherwise. We cannot know, judge, or decide someone’s story until we break down the walls  and open our hearts to one another.

But we do it anyway. Because we’re human. All people are beautiful; the stereotypes suck.

They leave behind the people who don’t fit the mold… and yet those who supposedly do fit stereotypes probably wouldn’t actually fit if we took the time to really know them.

Seek. Know. Love. I know I’m working on it and taking responsibility when I fail. Because I do fail. As for my friend  Tony, I know we aren’t going to reach everybody and that’s okay. But, I trust God. I have faith that as long as we do the very best we can, reaching out in love where we can, God will bring down the walls where they need to be brought down.

TonyBookCover2In the meantime, I’d love for you to meet my friend Tony. He’s a witty, friendly fellow with an unquiet mind and a way with words. Tell him Leanne sent you. 🙂

You can meet him via:
His blog: A Way With Words
His Facebook page: www.facebook.com/awaywithwordsforyou
Twitter: @indy_tony

Last but not least– our campaign: http://igg.me/at/delightindisorder/x/5050970

Random act of #music

NicolewritingLike an aged wine, these lyrics were worth waiting for… This is what writing songs is all about. We share life. We connect with people who seem unreachable to us. We share the good news about God’s grace.” ~Nicole Wells

It’s amazing to me how random connections with strangers turn into some of the most profound relationships.

I first met Nicole Wells through her music. My parents handed me one of her CD’s and I put it on for my children one day. Haley, who was two or three at the time, LOVED dancing to Nicole’s music. She would twirl and step around the livingroom in her own little world, taking in the melodies coming from the stereo. I liked Nicole’s music because my daughter loved it.

Several month’s later I sat in my parents’ church. Nicole Wells was leading the music in worship that morning, and I was struck by how pretty her voice was. I remember thinking, Recordings don’t do people justice sometimes. But, I also noticed something about her spirit. Watching her face as she played the piano and sang the worship songs, her heart beamed… I could see it. I could feel it. This woman loved God and these weren’t just worship songs, they were love songs. I could sense something beautiful and authentic about Nicole– I didn’t know her, but I liked her.

About a year or maybe longer down the road, I see “Nicole Wells started following you on Twitter” scroll across my phone. Say what?? I specifically remember thinking Whoa! Random. I totally know who that is. How does she know me? It turns out my best friend was teaching Nicole how to use Twitter and had included me on the list of “finding good people for Nicole to follow.” (I have no idea how those two met.)

 I reached out and said hello to her over Twitter. I explained I knew of her through my parents’ church and told her how much my daughter loved dancing to her music.

And then I clicked on Nicole’s blog.

Nicole is a singer/songwriter. Nicole is a writer. I became enchanted with her words, her perspective, her story. I began sharing her blog with others, pulling out quotes from her posts and sharing her over social media. 🙂

God had my full attention now, so…

It wasn’t long before I was sitting across the table from her in a Starbucks getting her story first-hand. She shared with me her heart, her journey, her desires, and her ultimate dream. Over the last many months I’ve had the honor of encouraging her to pursue a dream that her mind says is crazy but her heart desires so deeply–because her heart knows why it matters. There’s profound purpose behind the dream… I have faith and trust that God will give her what her heart desires and it happen in a beautifully unexpected way.

Now I love Nicole’s music because I love Nicole– beyond the music (which is incredible by the way), Nicole embodies and expresses a joyful light. It’s warm, energetic, curious, eager, contagious, and real. I relate to her as a sister in Christ, a fellow mama, and a writer. Most importantly though, she inspires me and reminds me to persevere through the obstacles we face in life. There’s always a way through, but you have to be willing to fight–to do what it takes to reach what lies on the other side even when you don’t know what’s over there.

I would love for  you to meet her. 🙂

Before you go to her blog and learn her story… click on this link to hear her newest song. It is so beautiful and moving. I cried. If you like it, will you please click on those five yellow stars and vote for her to be the opening act at upcoming summer event? It’s an outstanding opportunity for her, and I’d love to see her win.

You will be prompted to create an account so your vote will count, but it takes seconds and you can un-select to receive news. Be sure to vote for the other artists, too. 5 stars means you want to see them open for the show, 1 star means you don’t. Voting ends July 5th!

When you go to her blog you can hear more of her music there… one of my personal favorites is called Just Like Coffee. It’s an ode to coffee yet a statement about love. 🙂

Of course you can also find her on Facebook– click here

And on Twitter you can follow her @NicoleWellsPDX