Category Archives: Love

Why I don’t believe in God

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To say I believe in God makes God seem like a magical, imaginative entity I can call upon when I need a wish to be granted. It feels like putting God in the same category as the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and leprechauns.

“Believing in” God is analogous to me saying I believe in my husband. It doesn’t make any sense because he’s a real dude. I know my husband, and I live and engage my marriage in a way that both recognizes and honors my husband’s existence, not to mention my own. The same goes for God. I know Him, and I live and engage my life in a way that both acknowledges and honors God’s presence in my life. To say I believe in God is simply an intellectual truth: “I believe in God. I don’t believe in the tooth fairy.”

I know John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But merely believing in God isn’t enough to experience God’s full and real power–to experience spiritual truth. Believing is only the first step (albeit a necessary step!) to knowing God.

How does one “know” God? I have gotten to know God through knowing his son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is both God’s son and God himself in human form. God wants us to know him so badly that he made himself human so we could reach him so as to be saved by Him. Why? Because God is madly in love with us. He adores you. He adores me. Equally and differently. It’s similar to how you love your children or how your mom and/or dad love you. Parents want nothing more than their kids to know how much they are loved and valued. Same with God for you, only the love is bigger and a billion times more intense.

I digress.

How do you normally get to know someone? By being in a relationship, right?  The way we go from simply knowing of someone to really knowing them is by getting into a relationship with them–talking, hanging out, learning each other’s stories, figuring out what each other likes and dislikes, and learning the core character of each other’s heart. It’s no different with Jesus. You can hang out with Jesus by spending time praying and reading the Bible. It feels awkward at first, but the more time you spend the less uncomfortable it becomes.

I know the Bible gets a bad rap, unfortunately, and that doesn’t help. It has the stigma of being a big boring book of controversial rules and regulations. I personally haven’t experienced this in my time with the Bible. God’s Word is the place where I learn who Jesus is, what He believes, what his backstory is, how He lived (and still lives), and His promises to me. Not only that, through Jesus I learn who I am as God’s daughter.  The trick with the Bible is to ignore the world’s negative commentary and just read it between you and Jesus only. Seek the help of trusted scholars and Christian friends who share their personal experiences with Christ with you. For me, Hannah Hurnard and C.S. Lewis are my go-to scholars who help me understand the Bible and God better.

In learning about Jesus and understanding how He loves me, I have fallen in love with Him.  He has yet to fail me; Jesus is the most loyal and faithful friend I’ve ever had. The more time I spend with Jesus, the more clearly I hear God’s voice and experience the power of His presence in my life. (I’ve recorded my experiences with God all over this blog. Just type “God” into the search bar you see at the right of your screen.) So deeply do I love Him that I seek to live my life in a way that pleases and honors Him. Not because “I’m supposed to” according to how Christian culture teaches, but because I want to out of respect and gratitude for Jesus and for continued connection to him. Think of how you love your most precious people and how/why you would do anything for them. That’s the same response I have for my love of God–it’s how God wants us to feel and respond in our relationship with him.

I don’t believe in God. He’s “realer” than that for me. I know God; I love Him; I follow Him; I experience Him; I hear Him; I obey his voice. I encourage you that if you believe in God but aren’t experiencing His presence, go deeper. He’s calling out for you to be in relationship with him. Meet Jesus and you’ll get to know God. Simple belief turns into deep and faithful love that is far more exciting and freeing than… magical unicorns with rainbow powers.

“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” John 1:18

If you feel shy or clumsy with prayer, I recommend Prayers that Avail Much by Germaine Copeland. It’s a book full of prayers for every prayer concern you can think of plus Scripture to help you learn and navigate the Bible. I love it!

Exposing the heart of all that matters

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In my last post, I lamented about how God is asking me to surrender my perfectionism. It turns out that I am not really a perfectionist, rather perfectionism is a shield I built to ward off feelings of shame when I’m just being me.

Using my experience at the Shattering Stigma conference, I told you that I wasn’t prepared. I gave my presentation without notes–without organizing my “stuff” into a presentable and tidy speech with bullet points.

I lied (without realizing it).

I was prepared. I was prepared because I had prayed, sought words and ideas through Scripture, and heard the voice of the Holy Spirit in my heart. God had prepared my heart for the day. I gave a presentation from my heart but my trust was fully immersed in notes that didn’t exist. If God lives in my heart, then I can trust God will shine through me–not my notes. Or PowerPoint. Or anything else I squeeze nice and neat into a box.

This is what I was trying to say but failed to make clear that point. I apologize.

But guess what? While this is a very valuable lesson in spiritual growth for me and an incredible step in my relationship with Christ, none of this is about me.

Did you catch the platform upon which God was teaching me? Shattering Stigma with Stories: Mental Health and the Church. He placed me with a group of other people at an event where the whole point is to be 100% vulnerable, raw, and transparent about how not perfect life is.

This conference was not about me and losing my shield of perfectionism. This conference was about shattering the stigma that shields the community from connecting with those living with mental illness. 

  • This day was about the Allen family bravely sharing their story about Andrew, a son, grandson, brother, and brother-in-law who has been battling bipolar disorder since he was in the eighth grade.Allen Family
  • This day was about a highly educated professional, Dr. Rand Michael, revealing that no amount of education or skill will ever prepare us for the beauty, challenges, and lessons we’ll experience with mental illness. Dr. Michael
  • This day was about a wife, Kelcey, living with both bipolar and schizoaffective disorder, describing how her husband has loved her “in sickness” through psychosis, mania, and suicide attempts (not because she wanted to die but because voices instructed her to).IMG_20150530_134724867_HDR (1)
  • This day was about an aunt, Tara, with nieces who suffer severe mental illnesses and how loving them fiercely wasn’t enough to make them all better.
  • This day was about moms, Tess and Casey, who battle depression and anxiety while learning how to best love their kids and navigate the journey of raising families.

Every single story was raw in honesty and emotion about why mental illness is hard and how we’ve experienced the stigma from our communities. Every single story showed what healing looks like. Every single story showed how God has made himself known in the battle despite the lack of confidence we and/or our families have felt in our journeys.

Loving God is hard when you live with the challenges of mental illness because it’s hard to know if He’s really there. Yet every story showed that it’s through love of people that God makes himself most obviously present. 

Stigmas and stereotypes act as protective barriers against understanding people who are difficult to love. For God, no one is too hard to love. We have to break down the barriers to love like God. In doing so, we show the love of God to people who believe they don’t matter. Love is the heart of all that matters.

In the name of Jesus and for the sake of shattering stigma, I proudly present to you my imperfect, note-free shattering stigma story:

*Conference photos courtesy of Sovann Pen; special thanks to my sister-friend Kelcey Rockhold for recording my talk.

Karma?

It’s time to tell him. Right now.

I stopped walking and nearly dropped my mug of freshly brewed coffee.

It’s time. Now.

“No, Lord. Please, no.” The panic started to rise from my toes, buckling my legs with weakness. I set my coffee on the kitchen table next to me. “Everything is good, now. You made it that way. Please don’t make me tell him. ”

You must. Now is the time.

I slowly headed toward the stairs leading up to my bedroom. It was 5:30 a.m. and the house was dark except for one light shining behind me from the living room. I put one foot on the bottom stair and looked up the darkened path to the top… terrified and ashamed at what I was about to do to my poor husband who was sleeping peacefully.

Ghostly figureQuiet tears began to slide down my face as I began the slow climb up those stairs. Every step felt heavy as if cinder blocks were tied to my ankles. “Lord, whatever happens I trust you. If he gets angry and leaves, I understand it’s my consequence. I deserve it. If he kicks me out, you’ll tell me where to go.”

I approached the top step and took a deep breath. Gently pushing open our door, I stepped into our darkened bedroom. Even though the room was cool, I felt sweaty and clammy; my mouth as dry as if I’d been in the desert. I sat on the edge of the bed next to my sweet husband and ran my shaky hand along his face. I didn’t need the light to see my husband; I know every inch of him by feel. I leaned in and gave him a kiss on his forehead.

“Heyhon,” came his groggy voice.

My heart pounded in my ears.

“Hey, Love. Um… I have something I need to confess to you.”

“Oh yeah? What?” his voice was a little more awake now.

“Um… so, remember two years ago when we were having trouble and you asked me several times if there was someone else and I said no?”

“Yeah.”

“Well. I lied. There was. I was having an affair. I am so sorry, hon. I am so so sorry.” I began to weep while still trying to hold myself together for what I was sure to be an angry yet well deserved outburst toward me, complete with a request for the dissolution of our marriage.

Andrew was quiet for only a moment before he tenderly replied, “You know, I wasn’t there for you the way you needed me back then. You found someone who could support you emotionally. I get that. And if you would have confessed this back when we were in counseling two years ago, I wasn’t mature enough to handle it. You probably weren’t mature enough to deal with it either. Neither of us were. This whole thing would have been different. It’s okay. I forgive you.”

Shock and awe do not even begin to describe my feelings. What followed was a deep and tender conversation about everything that happened regarding my unfaithfulness; I answered all his questions honestly; and we ended the conversation in laughter (of all things) and a deeper intimacy that has yet to wear off.

If karma were a thing, I’d have a broken marriage today. Karma would dictate that I should have experienced the devastation I feared as I trudged up that stairway. I don’t believe in karma because karma is self-inflated with the permission to expect and appreciate revenge upon others yet never accept it as something we deserve ourselves. There is zero room for grace or humility

I believe in something equally inexplicable yet far more powerful in producingphotodune-693733-grace-xs love and restoration. God. God offers grace–an unlimited supply–to those of us who don’t deserve even a drop. It’s the opposite of karma. Grace requires me to offer love and understanding to others when it doesn’t make sense–when it seems impossible, inconvenient, and sacrificial. Revenge would be so much easier. But when I look at myself in the mirror, it doesn’t make any sense for my husband to love me either–an adulteress. When I sit down and pray, confessing my multitude of sins after asking for a bunch of selfish things, I imagine how hard and frustrating it must be for God to love me, and to give me yet another chance to get things right when He’s already given me a million opportunities. It doesn’t make sense for Him love me.

But He does. Every single day.

If karma were a thing I would be dead. I spent the last 13 years starving my body–abusing the temple in which I’ve been given to live and breathe and bear children. Yet, God is in the midst of restoring my body and breathing new life into me, the same way He restored and breathed new life into my marriage. I simply cannot wrap my mind around this Love, this Grace, because it is so BIG. All I can do is cry in my marvel and humility.

I tremble in fear at how I will take this gift of grace for granted again today. I hate that I do it. I don’t mean to. My humanness makes me weak. I spend my days asking God to help me be better. And He does. And when I mess up, He pours out his grace again. Over and over.

If karma exists, then I may as well just give up on life because I deserve revenge every day–karma doesn’t tolerate humanness. God does exist because I have experienced His grace in mighty big ways–God’s grace not only tolerates my humanness, but loves me, protects me, strengthens me.

 

*Note: This confession happened in the summer of 2014, so we’ve had much time to process and heal. The lesson I’ve learned about grace is as recent as the date of this post, so it’s a new idea that I’m still getting used to. 🙂

Dear Friend, What is it about God…?

Dear Friend,

What is is about God that makes you so mad? The mere mention of His name causes your shoulders to tense, and your fists to curl, and your mouth to spit words of hate.

What is is about God that makes you so skeptical? The mere mention of His name causes indignant doubt and the passionate desire to prove His non-existence.

What is is about God that makes you so irritated? The mere mention of His name causes you to turn your back, to tune out your heart, to question the intention of the Believer.

What is it about God that makes it easier to believe in the universe, to believe in coincidence, to believe in “just meant to be”–all of which are equally unseen and void of visible proof and human explanation. Why is God so much more intensely unfathomable than those other things to which we have no clear answer?

I ask not to challenge, but to simply ask because I don’t understand.

The harsh heart, the angry words, the indifferent spirit towards a God who has shown undeniable presence and wielded great power in my life is crushing to my heart.

Father holding daughter in arms at the beachImagine a tiny daughter who adores her father, who grasps her father’s hand and looks up at him with adoring eyes and sweetly requests, “Carry me, daddy. I am so tired.” She asks because her heart knows that her father will lean down and scoop her up, holding her close in the strength and safety of his arms. She knows because he’s proven time and again that anytime she needs him, he’s there. And when she’s securely held high above the terrain that has made her so tired, she rests, leaning her head upon his shoulder and falling asleep in the peace of his love for her.

Now, look at that peaceful little girl and tell her that her father doesn’t exist.

Tell her the safety, rest, and love she’s feeling right now is imaginary and she was crazy to even ask to be carried. Look into her eyes and spit words fury that this father is nothing but a figment of her imagination and she should never speak of or rely upon this so-called father again. Tell her that the pressure to live a life of happiness, peace, and security lies completely upon her– upon her abilities, her intelligence, and her willingness to follow the harsh expectations of the world. You tell this little girl that if she isn’t finding happiness and fulfillment it’s because she isn’t good enough, strong enough, smart enough, and savvy enough to make it in this world. Tell her that the key to finding purpose in her life is to work hard as hard as she can and if she gets tired, sick, or disabled, well then tough luck. She isn’t cut out to make it in this world. Her future is hopeless.

You tell this little one that the father she knows so well and with whom she pleads to carry her has never and will never lift her from the terrain that makes her so tired.

Imagine how heartbroken this little child would be.

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In the eyes of the world I am just another woman. In the eyes of my Father, as my child is His, so am I His daughter.

I am that daughter of God. I am God’s child who looks up and reaches out for my Father’s hand, sometimes for the sake of my own tiredness and always for the sake of others’. I see you, friend, who is angry, skeptical, irritated, and unbelieving, as my brother or sister. It’s okay if you don’t believe. But I do. Please be careful with your words. Words are powerful and words meant to hurt… do.

Your words, however, won’t ever shake my faith. I could give you my testimony if you’d like, but it’s hard if God is so unwelcome to your ears. Would you even listen to me? My intention would never be to convert you because that isn’t my job. As Christian I am simply to share how much He loves you by being transparent about how He’s shown his love for me (despite my brokenness)–about all the times He’s scooped me up when I have been so tired.

I wish and I pray that you would have the experience of our Father scooping you up in Love because I assure you, He will and does. But I dare ask, if you won’t even allow the mention of His name to penetrate your ears, how will you ever accept even the possibility of Him as a Father to enter your life?  I wish you could give Him a chance (even in your skepticism)–to spend some time learning about who Jesus was/is for yourself. He’s more real than the universe and so much more powerful than coincidence.

There’s no doubt God is incomprehensible. His omnipotent power is beyond human sense and control. He seems scary and unsafe, but I assure you it’s broken people and the darkness threaded through this world that is scary and unsafe. God is a father who loves his children and wants nothing more than to protect you– to lift you high above the wearisome terrain of this life and give you rest.

That is what I believe to my core. It’s okay if you don’t, I just kindly ask that you please be careful with your words against what you cannot see or understand.

Much love and In His Peace,

Leanne

 

 

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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