Category Archives: Life in general

Why being a Christian makes me tired

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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” ~Jesus

If Jesus gives rest then why am I so tired?

Lately I have noticed an underlying, general message that Christians need to be doing better: Loving deeper. Serving more. Putting faith into action. Going where Jesus goes. The call for action doesn’t seem willy-nilly; there’s plenty of Scripture to back up the instruction. Not to mention, there is our messy, broken world filled with hurting people; the need for Jesus’ love is dire. Love is action and there isn’t enough. Since I am a Christian, I take this call to love better–be better seriously. If we need to be better, then I need to be better.

With a load of desire on my back to please the Lord, and a side pouch of guilt that I wasn’t doing enough in the first place, I seek out where the needs are and I go and I do the work. Trying to be better. Trying to learn more. Trying to love deeper. Trying to be more like Jesus. Not just out in the world with hurting people, but also in my personal life as a wife, mother, friend, sister, and daughter.

Consequently, I often have a very full calendar with things to do, people to visit, meetings to attend. If I see a bit of white space in the schedule, I fill it in because it seems wrong to have free time. Or more accurately, I could be using that free time to be serving… “doing better.” While I am “resting,” I could be emailing the girl at church who was struggling last week and offering some words of encouragement. Since I have the white space, I might as well volunteer to make that flier for the fundraiser. Since Thursday is a free night at my house, I could serve at the homeless shelter. Since that church event is happening in a couple of months, I could fill in all the white space with helping organize it… if if feels like too much, well, at least the commitment is only temporary.

Have you ever said, “Things will settle down when this, that or the other thing is over”? I have, too often. The problem is things never settle down because the white space returns and we fill it in again… overloading the schedule over and over again.

As I begin to wear out from being overwhelmed by the doing, I start hearing a conflicting message from my trusted Christian friends and leaders: “You are enough.” “All God wants is you.” “Be still and know that I am God.” “Take care of yourself.” “Just be.”

Well, now I am just confused. And tired.

I went to God with my confusion: If I am supposed to be doing better, loving more, being more like Jesus (of whom I will never be), then how am I possibly “enough”? I am tired, but I am called (and I desire) to go out and use the gifts you gave me to serve others.

He reminded me of THE most important lesson I learned in anorexia recovery: Ignore the voices in culture and listen only for His voice.  While the “be-better/do-more-for-God-and-here’s-how” messages are loud, very few encourage “listen for God to tell you what to do, where to serve, and how to love.”

There are things I want to do for God and things Christian culture expects me to do for God… none of which God has asked me to do for God. It’s when I engage in those things I assume I “should”  or “could” do because it makes sense in serving the Lord that I get completely overwhelmed. I want to discern between the call of God and the call of Christian culture. The only way to know where God is calling me is to spend time with Him in prayer and hear his voice.

He has given me work to do and the gifts and talents to do that work. The only things He’s called me to right now is to minister to my family and to serve in the mental health ministry as he instructs. Not to mention, to follow His lead each day with the encounters he orchestrates with other people. That’s it. And it’s plenty! And it’s good!

And guess what? When we say “we need to do better,” it devalues all that we have already done. God isn’t sitting on His throne with his arms crossed saying, “All the stuff you’ve done is fine, but you need to be doing better. Look at what you aren’t doing.” Nope. He’s holding us in his arms saying “I love you. Good job! Hey, let Me help make this work easier for you so you don’t get so tired, okay? In fact, I have something different for you to do.”

Being a Christian makes me tired when I am busy doing what I think I should in order to be better. Being with God gives me energy, direction, and rest in order to do the work He needs me to do. Never will He over load my plate and never will he tell me “It’s not enough. Do better.”

The girl who paid for my groceries

Basket of Groceries

As my sweet daughter finished unloading our groceries onto the conveyor belt, I rummaged around my oversized purse to find my wallet. In a sharp sting of realization, I knew my search was futile. I had left my wallet back at home. I pictured my bright orange wallet resting on the living room floor next to my laptop, right where I left it the night before after ordering the book Unoffendable by Brant Hansen.

“Oh no,” I moaned.

“What’s wrong?” my seven-year-old asked.

“I left my wallet at home,” I said, scanning the load of groceries on the counter. “Ugh. I can’t believe I did that.”

“Uh oh, mommy. What are we going to do?”

“We’re just going to have to tell the checkout lady the truth and come back another day. Ugh. What a waste.”

My gut felt heavy and my spirit frustrated.

The young girl ahead of me finished her transaction and the checker grabbed the first item of our stuff.

“Um. Wait just a sec, ma’am,” I held my hand over the food to stop her, “I don’t have my wallet. I left it at home; all this will have to go back. I am so sorry.”

The young girl before me, who looked maybe no more than 18 or 19 years old, (and who I figured was off for an afternoon at the pool with her freshly purchased Poptarts, Cheez-its, Peach Snapple, and two apples), promptly stepped back over to the check stand: “Can I buy your groceries?”

Erm… blank stare.

“What? No, no. You don’t need to do that. That is so nice of you. That’s okay, though.” I said, dumbfounded.

She looked at me square in the eye, “Please, I want to.”

I had no words and the swell of emotion in my chest was threatening to push tears out of my eyes. “If you really want to. If you’re sure,” I responded weakly.

“Yes. Please let me. Go ahead…,” she made a nod to the checkout lady, who was clearly just as surprised and touched as I was.

As the items beeped through, I stood there feeling helpless and humbled and bewildered and thankful. This teen girl was buying my groceries. So I did what any mom would do in this situation, I began to cry.

I felt a light stroke on my arm; I looked down at my daughter who looked up at me with her toothless grin. “It’s okay, mommy.”

The teen girl (I didn’t even think to get her name), smiled and repeated, “Yeah. It’s okay. No need to cry.”

I couldn’t help it. I was so moved and flabbergasted. As the bill pushed the $40 mark, I turned and said, “Are you sure you want to do this, it might be expensive.”

“Yep. Not a worry.”

The bill was $42 and change. She handed over her Visa and it was done. I gave this young woman a hug of thanks and offered her blessings. Then she walked away and was gone.

The checker looked at me with a big smile. “Hey, it’s okay,” she said, “It happens. We forget our wallets. No biggie. Just be happy.”

“Okay, thank you.”

As I drove home in silence, I went to God in prayer of thanks. But then fell into the following conversation with Him:

“Why did you do that, Lord? I don’t deserve having my groceries paid for. I don’t need the help like others do.”

This isn’t about need. It is about love.

love“But I feel like I took a blessing away from someone who really needed it.”

This isn’t about need. It is about love. My love is unconditional. 

“How would you like me to pay it forward? If I receive a blessing, I should bless others too.”

How do you know I wasn’t blessing you because of how you’ve already blessed others?

“I don’t know. I just don’t feel like I deserve this, Lord.”

Let Me love you.

“But…”

Let Me love you.

I had prayed to God early this same morning, as I do everyday, for a wise and humble heart.

And I waited, as I do every day, for humiliation… to be humiliated.

Today I learned the difference between humiliation and humility. Humiliation brings shame, and God promises we won’t ever be brought to shame. Grace, an overflowing of undeserved favor, brings humility. I was humbled in a gentle yet powerful way… I have money to buy my groceries and even groceries for others, except today. Today I had nothing. It was literally by the grace of God, the Spirit prompting humble love in a fellow human–a teen no less–that I was able to go home with my groceries. He’s teaching me how to accept grace. To develop a humble heart, I have to learn how to accept grace. I don’t deserve it. I don’t earn it. I don’t need to pay it back. It’s a no-strings-attached gift. In letting Him love me through His grace, I experience the humility I desire.

This is how God works, friends! This is how awesome His love is for us.

Let Him love you.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.” John 1:16

How it feels to walk away from perfectionism

Imperfection

I spoke at the Shattering Stigma conference yesterday and have been battling deep depression since stepping off stage. I felt like my presentation was disjointed, unorganized, emotional, and inarticulate. There was a line of people who were touched by what I said and told me so afterward, but I can’t shake the shame I feel today. I am having a hard time trusting that God’s grace was sufficient and his power made perfect in my weakness.

I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t supposed to be this time. No notes. No PowerPoint. No bullet points on index cards. Preparation feeds my perfectionism and God didn’t want me to be perfect. He wanted me to be me. Experiencing me without organizing my “stuff” so it’s presentable is agonizing.

//

When I was 15, I had language arts class with Mr. Logan. We were to write a poem and create a visual to go with it; we would present our poems in class. I was deeply inspired by a song called “The 7 Stars of the Big Dipper” by Mannheim Steamroller. I decided to write a visual poem that went with the song. The story and cadence of the poem matches the story and cadence I hear in the song. I worked so hard on this poem and was fueled with creative fire. When the poem was finished, I was so excited to present. I eagerly brought my page with words and the cd (no iPods in 1996). I read my poem with passion as the music played the story.

When it was over, there was silence. Mr. Logan’s response: “Interesting. Did someone help you with this?” I was honest and said my mom helped me find the names of the stars, but the whole project was mine. He asked me to sit down. As sat down feeling awkward and embarrassed, ashamed that I must have messed up the assignment and stupid for following the passion I had felt in my heart.

Bulls eye Target Showing Focused Accurate Precision Shot

What my perfection looks like.

I have many more projects-gone-bad stories from high school, including one where everyone’s project was displayed on the wall except for mine. Shame was the undercurrent of my high school career. With the baggage from these experiences I went to college. Working for a double-major in marketing and management, I was assigned countless presentations. However, rather than going from the passion of my heart as I had done in high school, I crafted my presentations from a place of manufactured perfection, because I’d be damned if I was going to feel shame again. I poured into my projects with perfect precision, research, and practice. And I nailed every. single. one. I received high praise, the highest scores, and the suggestion from one professor that I might consider public speaking as a profession.

///

To not be perfectly poised in preparation is to risk feeling shame.

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What I look like.

As I tried to prepare for this conference yesterday, I heard God quite clearly in my spirit: Trust Me. You have Me and you have your story. That is all you need. I marched up on stage feeling nervous yet confident that the Holy Spirit would provide me with exactly what to say. As I spoke into that microphone, I felt like I was free falling, flailing about in choosing my words, failing in sharing my story in a way the people could truly understand. I crash landed into depression.

I woke up at 3:30 this morning in tears. I came downstairs, and, discovered a text from a dear sister-friend of mine that said, “Watch this video. It’s God’s message to you.”

I hope you will take the time to watch it; there’s a message for you too. Here are the two things He had for me:

1) God is asking me to let go of perfection. It’s a giant wall that keeps me from being fully embraced in the Spirit. Yesterday was my first step; I let go of the wall I’ve been clinging to for nearly 20 years. I am like a toddler taking her first steps on wobbly, unpracticed legs and God has his arms open wide with excitement, coaxing me forward to Him. I am going to fall. It’s the only way to learn how to walk.  I fear feeling shame when I fall, so I want to do it perfectly the first time, every time. It’s not going to happen… and this is why I am depressed. Thing is, He doesn’t need me to be perfect because He’s already so. And, like any parent teaching his child how to walk, God will scoop me up and hug me when I tumble. He’ll tell me how much he loves me and put me back in place to try again.

No more manufactured perfection. I am perfect as I am, in my learning, tumbling, fumbling ways. This is hard to accept. Really really hard. Falling hurts. Shame penetrates.

2)  I’ve been at the airport, giving the illusion that I am going somewhere, when really I am hanging out in baggage claim watching my bags filled with shame go round and round on the carousel.

All the while, Jesus is waiting up in ticketing with brand new luggage and ticket to somewhere new… all I have to do is leave the baggage claim and my old bags behind.

Noticeably Imperfect

The reality of recovery is this: The healthier we get, the more noticeably imperfect we become. This is really uncomfortable for me, and today I find myself sitting in depression because of this truth.

Addiction of any kind, but specifically, for me, anorexia (the addiction to starving my body), serves as a sort of protection against being noticeably reflectingimperfect. I’ve been imperfect my whole life, and unfortunately in my formidable years, was bullied into believing that because of my imperfections I was ugly, invalid, unworthy, and unacceptable. I was outspoken and brave for a little while, which made things worse for me, and by eighth grade I placed myself along the wall where I wouldn’t be noticed as much.

As I entered into my adult years, the bullying ended but the world supported my invalidity and ugliness through cleverly disguised messaging : “Oh it’s okay. Nobody is perfect, but here are 500 billion ways to be perfect.” The world is filled with information, diets, medication, tips, products, and “secrets” that will make me better, to perfect those things that supposedly aren’t so great. So sure, I am not perfect but I am not good enough as I am either.

It’s maddening.

I had coped with the madness by developing an eating disorder and an obsession with perfectionism, hiding my imperfect self behind what I thought was more acceptable according to the way of the world–a super thin perfectly beautiful body, with a quiet and agreeable disposition and orderly lifestyle. This (seemingly) served me well for the last 13 years or so, until I reached a fork in my journey and was faced with two choices: die or recover.

I chose recovery. With recovery comes the revealing and rediscovering of the girl I had hidden away and had mostly forgotten about. As she begins to emerge, I find myself ashamed and uneasy about my imperfections and my voice (the part of me that speaks my place in this world); I am scared to death to let me show and be heard… because remember, I’ve been told my imperfections are ugly, invalid, and unacceptable by a harsh world. But I can’t have recovery and hide at the same time–if I choose recovery then I choose to be noticeably imperfect.

IMG_20150317_090306I’m discovering and learning to accept that I have a normal-sized body with curves (that thrives on food with carbohydrates, sugar, and fats), dry skin, an insatiable sweet-tooth, and a trick stomach that’s easily upset; I have a type-A personality that notices details, anxiously desires order, and doesn’t handle stress well; I am a woman in love with Jesus and hears/obeys his voice on a regular basis (this alone makes me wacky in a worldly sense); I adore the people who sit sheepishly alone on the wall whom the world deems as strange and useless; I have a nasally voice that, when I’m feeling brave, speaks strongly against the tide of popular thinking for the sake of Truth; I’m a mother who doesn’t like volunteering in her kids’ school (there, I said it.); and I’m a writer who constantly trips over the line into verbosity because I have a lot to say about stuff.

When I get scared and feel completely unworthy of boldly taking my place out-of-place in the world, like I feel today, I am tempted to run back into the disorder–to go back to the hidden path I walked so certainly for the last 13 years. But it leads to death. I can’t go back to that. I don’t want to go back to that. But I don’t want to be noticeably imperfect either because it makes me vulnerable.

So I sit down in the middle of the road, depressed, and cry.

It’s then that I am comforted by my (seemingly wacky) friend, Jesus, who says:

Remember that it’s the world that tells you your imperfectness–your unique humanness as Leanne–is not good enough.  But, My grace is sufficient for you for my power is perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) I know the plans I have for you… plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11).  He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6), [so] do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

 

In for a root canal, out with a husband

Today I am entering rehabilitation for my eating disorder, but I cannot help but notice that today marks a very special anniversary.

I don’t know when I will be back from recovery, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this story about the very same man who walks faithfully beside me in sickness…

***

November 3, 2001

Awesome. I have nothing to wear. What does one wear to a root canal anyway?  Pft. It’s not like I’m trying to impress anybody. With that thought, I threw on an oversized, men’s corduroy button-up shirt, some old jeans, and tennis shoes, all of which were strewn about my bedroom floor.  Running my fingers through my hair was the final touch on the day’s look. It’s a root canal, not the prom.

Walking into the dental office, the stormy morning had blasted wind and rain against my face, causing my hair to paste itself to my cheeks. “Hi, I’m here for my emergency root canal,” I informed the receptionist while trying to gracefully pull hair out of mouth.

I sat in the waiting room hoping the flutters in the pit of my stomach would settle and wishing I hadn’t made my appointment so early. An 8am appointment left no time for pre-root canal coffee.  

“Leanne?”

Oh boy. My turn. “Yes. Hello,” I said to the dental assistant, forcing a smile and coating my sour attitude with faux sweetness. The combination of nerves and lack of coffee made me grumpy, not to mention the pain in my tooth.

“Come on back. How are you?” the assistant asked as we walked side by side to the operatory.

“Oh. Well. I am here for an emergency root canal, sooo, you know— I’ve had better mornings.”

The assistant smiled and directed me into the chair. “Here,” she handed me a pair of sunglasses. “Put these on to protect your eyes.”

I put them on. They took up half my face and reminded me of the goggles I used to wear in high school chemistry. Sexy.

The dentist came in and finished prepping me for the procedure, which included placing a rubber dam over my sick tooth. The excess part of the dam blanketed the other half of my face. The thought of my own mug shot—sunglass-goggles, white rubber dam, and my mouth gaping wide open—distracted me from the numbing sensation trickling throughout the right side of my face.

“How you doin’ Leanne? You ready?” she asked.

“Gngh. Ung-huh,” I said.

She must’ve deciphered I was good to go because the high-pitched squeal of the drill filled my ears followed by a vibration deep into my tooth.

After a few minutes the doctor stopped and left– leaving me to sit there vulnerable with my trap wide open.

That’s when he came in.

“Hi!” he said in a cheery tone.

His chipper greeting was clear evidence to me that he must’ve had his morning coffee. I was jealous.  He wore light blue scrubs and had weird looking microscope glasses hanging around his neck. Who is this Chippy McChipperton?

“Hah.” I said, releasing the pent up drool that had built up under my tongue. I hoped he didn’t see it sliding down my chin.

“I’m the janitor,” he informed me.

Liar.  Janitors don’t wear medical scrubs and microscope glasses. I eyed him curiously through the dark tint of my sunglass-goggles. Not sure who you are dude, but definitely not a janitor.

The dentist came back in and continued working on my tooth; obviously the cue for Liar Pants to leave. His presence lingered in my mind, though, and offered me mental distraction away from the demolition happening on my tooth.

Thirty minutes crawled by and my doctor up and left… again. This time she rested a metal thing in my mouth and halfway sitting upon my bottom lip. What is her deal? The tension in my jaw tightened as I glared at the ceiling, which made my neck muscles hurt. Weird things happen when your mouth hangs open forever.

Enter Liar Pants. Great. This guy again. I took in his facial features this time. He had big, soft eyes (the dark goggles made his eye color inconclusive), dark blonde hair, and a handsome young “baby face,” sort of like a high school senior portrait. He’s cute.

He wandered over to my dental chart and gave it a good scan. “Oh. You work at Bed Bath and Beyond?”

“Ung-huh,” I said. I knew he wasn’t a janitor! They aren’t allowed to look at charts!

“How long have you worked there?” he asked.

Seriously dude? Can you not see my mouth is occupied by a variety of dental apparatus? Clearly I cannot answer you… literally.

I held up four fingers, “ ‘oh ee-yuh.” More drool escaped down my chin.  Ah geez. The dental assistant— the one person who hadn’t abandoned me the whole morning, wiped it for me.

“ ‘ank oo,” I said quietly.

“You’re welcome,” she said, smiling.

“Four years is a long time. Must be fun,” Liar Pants concluded. He smiled at me just before he disappeared again. I followed his movement out the room with my eyes.

The dentist came back to continue working, only to leave me again a short time later. Seriously? This is never going to end.

Right on cue, Liar Pants came in the room only to turn around and walk out.

I turned my head toward the dental assistant.

“Hoo ‘ah?” I asked her.

“Oh!” said the assistant excitedly, settling in close to my ear as if she were about to reveal a juicy secret. “That’s Dr. Sype. He just started here about six months ago.”

“Oooh-uuuh. He coo,” I said to her and gave her an obstructed coy grin. I also winked, but that was pointless given the fancy specs I was wearing.

I heard a shuffle behind me. My ears turned hot with embarrassment as I realized Dr. Sype had walked in just as I had made my confession. Oh geez.

He came around the chair and gave me a wide (and very handsome) grin. “I’m Andrew. Mind if I take a look at your tooth?”

Um. Do I have a choice? I am kind of trapped in this here chair with my mouth hanging wide open.

“ ‘hur,” I said, noticing he’d just introduced himself by his first name.

He poked around in my mouth with a metal instrument. Please don’t drool. Please don’t drool. Please don’t drool. I held my breath hoping that would keep the pool of building saliva from escaping down my chin.

“Looks good,” he said. “You’re almost done.”

“ ‘ank oo.”

Thank you? For what? Complimenting my sick tooth? Geez, Leanne. C’mon!

Finally the procedure came to an end. I removed my super cool sunglass-goggles and rubbed the sweaty indents that had formed on the bridge of my nose. Standing up, I felt a bit woozy and could tell my rain and wind-battered hair had matted nicely to the back of my head.

“You okay?” asked the assistant.

“Yeah. I’m alright.” I couldn’t feel the right side of my face and talking was hard. It felt like there was a golf ball shoved down the inside of my jawline. I rubbed my lower jaw just to make sure it was in fact normal size.

As I emerged from the dental operatory, I nearly smacked into Dr. Sype.

“Hi!” He said, grinning and looking at me with (what I could now clearly see) his beautiful blue eyes.

“Oh. Hello.” I think I smiled back, but I was uncertain since I could only feel half my lips. I reached up to the corner of my mouth to check. Yep! All smiles!

“Everything go okay for you?” he asked.

“Um. Yeah. You know. For a first root canal, I’d say the experience was okay.” Gah. Where is my mouth? Oh no! Are you drooling? Check! Check!

I raised my hand to tuck my hair behind my ear, giving the side of my chin a casual swipe on the way up. Whew! Dry. Okay. Fluff the back of your hair while you’re at it. I gave the back of my head a quick finger sweep, getting one of my rings stuck within a knotted tangle. Seriously? A fast and painful tug released my fingers from the mop atop my head. I smiled at him. Man he’s cute.

“Good. Glad it went well. Here’s my card in case you’d like to call.”

I accepted the card and gave it the obligatory glance, “Oh. Thanks.”  My eye caught a faint scribble in the upper left hand corner. It was his home phone number written in pencil. There was a cool prickle over the surface of my skin and my heart jumped. Oh. Mah. Gah! Liar Pan… Dr. Sype just gave me his number?

Looking back up at him, he was staring at me with his smile. “Talk to you soon. Have a nice day!”

“Yeah. Cool. Thanks.”

The assistant, who was still by my side, gave me a grin.

“I cannot believe this,” I told her, bewilderment in my voice.

“What? I think he likes you,” she stated.

I carried his card with me the rest of the day, pondering the events of the morning. That evening when the feeling returned to my face, I paced in front of my telephone flipping the card around in my fingers.

What do I say? Do I call him Andrew or Dr. Sype? Is it too soon to call? How does this even work? Did I seriously pick up a guy during my root canal? How do I even start the conversation? ‘Hi. This is Leanne from this morning. You know, the one with drool sliding down my chin?’ Or how about ‘This is Leanne from the dental office. I was the one with rubber and plastic covering my entire face. Remember?’

Finally I mustered up one nerve and used it to dial his number.

Ring. Silence. Ring. Silence. Oh no! What if he isn’t home? Do I leave a message? Ring. Silence.

A mechanical voice sounded over the line: “Hi, you’ve reached Andrew…” Shoot! Don’t panic. Just hang up. NO! Don’t hang up. Leave a message. What do I—

BEEEEEP

“Oh hey, um, Andrew. This is Leanne…um… frooom… the dentist office this morning?” I paused and winced at myself, gripping the phone for dear life. “Just thought I’d give you a call and, um, say you know, hey. Feel free to call back.” I left my number and hung up the phone. No way is he ever going to call you back.

The next evening we had our first date.

August 21, 2004

Andrew and I faced each other, standing at the altar and exchanged wedding vows in front of over 100 friends and family. By 2008 we had two beautiful kids who, today, drive us completely crazy. I’ve since had two more root canals, but I don’t mind because I totally love my dentist!

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