Category Archives: New Experiences

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.

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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.

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

IMG_20150530_131922951_HDR

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.

The tattoo God designed for me

 

TattooFeature

 

Once upon a time, 16 years ago (at the ripe old age of 19), I had a vision for a tattoo. I didn’t know that I wanted a tattoo because somehow it seemed against the rules… of both my parents and I think maybe God. But I wasn’t sure.  However, I was intrigued enough with the idea that if I got one (someday) it would look like this:

Think of a picture of the world, globe-style, in three puzzle pieces. All three pieces look like they are about to come together, but they don’t quite do so. Superimposed behind the world is the cross.

The image represented a broken world that could possibly come together in harmony if we chose to live with Christ at the center of our lives.

I thought about this tattoo idea for years, and, once in a while, revealed my idea to a friend or two if the topic of tattoos came up in conversation. As I thought about this image, I felt like it wasn’t complete. It needed something—words, but I didn’t know which ones. There was a deep feeling in my gut to wait and listen.  Surprisingly, I also found myself at times praying to God for both permission to get a tattoo, and the words this image needed.

Last summer (July 2014), my husband and I were listening to my workout playlist. The song “City on our Knees” by Toby Mac came up, which I had heard a zillion times. But, on this day, in this moment in the car with my husband, the lyric “One choice from together” resounded like a clanging cymbal in my ear so loudly that I felt it moving in my heart. I gasped, “These are the words! These are the words for that tattoo I’ve been thinking about for the last kazillion years!”

There was a funny feeling, though, that this image still wasn’t complete.

As I continued to think more seriously about actually, maybe, for real putting this thing on my body, I still felt like somehow I was breaking rules. Was it okay as lover of God to have a tattoo? Would I be sinning if I got one? I consulted my friend Nikki who, covered in tattoos, has the most intimate relationship with Christ than anyone I have ever met; I read the Bible looking for a clear “yay” or “nay”; I prayed: “Lord, I feel like you are giving me this idea, but I feel like somehow it is SO wrong. Help me understand.”

So I continued to wait.

Several months ago, one of my pastors was digging deep into the meaning of the word “Shalom.” The concept of a godly, heavenly, supernatural peace that integrates into every area of life was so beautiful to me that I was moved to tears. This time, rather than a clanging cymbal in my ears, I heard a whisper so clear as if I was the only one in the room, “This shall go on the tattoo.”

As I prayed, two more words came to my heart: “Agape” and “Life.” These three words were to be incorporated onto the cross of the image, but they all needed to be in ancient language. I prayed again and was led to learn what Jesus’ original language was and how the word Life translated. Chay. Life was to read “Chay.” And with this, the image finally felt complete.

It was time. Somehow in the deepest part of me, far beyond the doubt I felt about “breaking rules,” I knew it was time to get the tattoo. But where? With whom?

I asked God, “Lord if you want me to get this thing, you’re going to have to tell me where to go.”

Last October, I was at a women’s retreat. A young girl, named Mandi, was standing next to me in the bathroom. She had the most lovely tattooed rose vine going down the side of her torso. I had to inquire. “Wow! Your tattoo is so beautiful. Can you tell me about it?”

In the course of this conversation I learned that Mandi and her father spend time together getting tattoos. It was their thing. Her father had just had the armor of God tattooed on his shoulder. I felt the spiritual tap on my own shoulder to get the parlor and artist name: Atlas Tattoo and Jerry Ware.

In February of 2015, I walked into Atlas Tattoo in North Portland and asked for Jerry. I described the TattooSketchimage to Jerry, and for the first time ever, I saw the a rough sketch of the design that had been  in my head for so long come out onto paper. I was in love. It would be another four months before I could get the tattoo, though, because Jerry was in high demand.

Finally, on May 19, 2015, I walked into Atlas tattoo ready. When Jerry showed me the final design, it was about a bazillion times bigger than I had originally envisioned it, but I remember Mandi saying, “You don’t want to be too controlling with your design because remember, the artist is an artist. You want to let the artist have room to be inspired by the design.”

When I saw the final design, it was more beautiful than I had imagined and I knew it was perfect.

Two hours, (and a lot of pain and swear words later), I was forever committed to this image. I was elated! IMG_20150520_164804I knew in the depths of my heart that this was the fruition of a 16-year conversation with God and the beginning of my life-long commitment to God that I am all in for the Kingdom of God–no matter what.

This tattoo was God’s design, not mine. While I experienced great pain, I knew it didn’t even come close to the pain Jesus felt on the cross that day. I am now forever branded into the Kingdom of God, so thankful to have been invited, and so excited to let others know that they are too.

And when we choose Christ to be the center of our lives, we choose godly Love, godly Peace, and everlasting Life. There is nothing more special than this–no doubt.

 

 

A letter to my body

What you are about to read was an assignment given to me by my dietitian, who has been an integral and God-given guide in leading me back to health from a 13-year battle with anorexia. In an effort to connect with my body, and to begin healing my distorted view of my body image, this exercise proved to be as powerful as it was awkward. While I still severely dislike what I see in the mirror, this letter was a starting point for disarming the shame associated with what I see every morning when I step out of the shower, and reaffirming me as a vessel for a heavenly Spirit. 

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Dear Body,

I wish this could be a love letter. It isn’t a hate letter to be sure, but it is more of an I’m-learning-to-like-you-as-I-understand-you-better letter.

I guess I never really understood you, how you work, why you function the way you do in all processes, and why your processes make me feel crummy. I don’t always feel crummy, but most of the time, at the very least, I feel uncomfortable in you.

Since entering rehabilitation, however, I am beginning to learn more about you, and as I do,  I find myself appreciating you more. Let me just say, thank you for always trying to protect me. I think the biggest lesson I am learning is that you are always, and always have been, working hard to protect me. Even when I was abusing you, starving you and ignoring you, you were trying to keep me alive. I am sorry for taking you for granted.

I ask for your patience as I continue trying to understand you, because while I am beginning to feel genuine appreciation for you, I simultaneously feel irritation, confusion, and discomfort toward and inside you.

For example, Belly, I have a love-hate relationship with you. I love that inside mypregnancy2 gut hosts the epicenter for my immunity. When you are feeling good and operating normally, you are working to protect me from illness. Also, I think it’s amazing how you stretched to accommodate my babies. While it was no picnic for me to carry around an extra human inside my body (twice), it’s pretty damn cool that you could house, feed, and grow my children . . . And shrink back down to a relatively normal size without too much evidence that I had babies. Pretty incredible. Props to you too, Uterus (I’ll get back to you in a minute).

Overall, dear Belly, I think you are pretty neat. What I struggle with, though, is that for some reason you often feel like a freshly pumped bike tire. It usually happens after I eat or drink anything. Now that I feed you regularly, I feel like a Huffy bike tire regularly. I understand that my brain is sort of broken and tends to distort reality; I probably don’t look as puffy as I feel. However I do feel like by the end of each day, after all the food and drink is in, my assessment of you is pretty accurate. It causes me angst to feel larger than I actually am. I want to understand why you puff up, and maybe if I understood better, I could have a bit more compassion and grace rather than shame when I wear a fitted shirt. Or pants.

Since we’re here, I may as well address my female reproductive team. First off, Sean and Haley Cookiesthank you for giving me children. Without the work of all the parts (ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus) there is no way I would have Sean and Haley today. I have friends who have had lots of trouble conceiving children, so I don’t take for granted what you have done for me.

Here’s the deal. You hurt and exacerbate the issue with my belly at least once a month, sometimes twice when we consider ovulation. Wouldn’t it be nice, now that the babies are born, if we could retire from the menstruation process. I know it’s a lot of work for you, and it’s no monthly vacation for me either. Once again, though, maybe if I could better understand why your process makes me feel so miserable, and why the protocol is necessary post-reproductive season, then maybe I could have more patience and understanding for you.

Body, there are parts of you that I really do try to take care of, but I feel like you don’t cooperate in return. Like my skin. I have come to accept that you don’t tan, and I have become less embarrassed by the permanent porcelain tint you have chosen for my legs (which, by the way, Legs, I like you). But I am constantly covered in rashes and bumps. Again, your blemishes, which randomly appear on my abdomen exacerbate my displeasure with Belly. What can I do to heal you and keep you rash free? And moist? You are always so dry. Do you need more water? I would love to show you confident and cool in shorts and swim suits, but it is tough when you are covered in itchy spots. People ask questions and I don’t know what to say.

As I just mentioned, I do like my legs and even my arms. You guys have good shape and the capacity for good strength. I love that I have all of you and you serve me well for walking, hugging, lifting, and holding. I am working to build the muscles and bone strength to keep you healthy and strong all the way through my senior years. Hands, I am so grateful for all you do in helping me with–everything. I don’t know what I would do with you. You are literally writing this letter!

Brain, I understand you the least, and I find myself frustrated with your thinking quite often. Why do you fight with my heart so much? What my heart knows to be true, you tend to negate and persuade me otherwise. You house the voices that try to convince me that I am invalid, unworthy, and ugly. Yet, you also feed my introspection, helping me process and express my truest thoughts that have nothing to do with those false voices. I know if I didn’t have you, my body would be lying in a hospital bed, completely dormant. You are a little bit broken, but I feel you yearning for healing and working to accept the new beliefs that debunk the lies you’ve been holding.

DearBodySo you see, Body, I am trying to improve my attitude toward you. Everything you have and do has a function. As I figure out what is harming you, like I did with gluten and starvation, I desire to heal you–to engage in better behaviors and habits that will help you thrive. I want to love you. All parts of you. Even when I don’t feel good, I know that as I learn the whys and hows around how you work, loving you will become easier.

Last but not least, in fact, most importantly, you are a home for which the Holy Spirit dwells. This is a new perspective that I hadn’t considered in earnest until today. In honor of the the One who created me, this home called Body, I simply want to respect you with care, compassion, nutritional fuel, so the Spirit can work as it was designed. I pray as we continue to heal together, the image of the God shines through.

In growing understanding,

love,

Leanne

Heading into the Desert

Mountain on sunsetThere is a story about a woman named Much Afraid who follows her best friend, the Chief Shepherd, to the High Places. The High Places, which is a real place here on earth known as the Kingdom of Love or the Heavenly realm, are represented by glorious mountains glimmering with the beauty of a new day’s rose-golden sunrise kissing the pure-white snow covered peaks.

As Much Afraid traverses the journey to these mountains, she runs into all sorts of hardships and trials, often causing her doubt of whether she should have followed the Chief Shepherd in the first place and if he could really be trusted to get her to the High Places as he promised.

There’s a scene where her path comes to an end, and the only other path available actually leads into the opposite direction–away from the mountains. Confused, she cries out for the Chief Shepherd’s help.

“Where shall I go? The only direction available leads away from the mountains. Surely you don’t mean for me to go down that path.”

Indeed. He did.

Not only did that path lead in the opposite direction, but it lead right into the desert. As you can imagine, Much Afraid is horrified and dismayed. After traveling all that way and through the trouble she’d experienced so far, to now journey away from the mountains was more than a little disheartening… and her trust in her friend was obviously put to the test.

“Do you trust me, Much Afraid? Do you trust that I will lead you to the High Places as I promised?”

Hinds Feet

Even if you aren’t into God, if you are a writer and/or lover of stories, this is one of the best allegories ever written.

At the risk of spoiling the whole book, Much Afraid does indeed make it to the High Places, with many more detours. And when she arrives… well, I’ll let you read what happens.

I was so inspired by this story last summer that I prayed the Lord would take me on the very same journey to the High Places–to make me a citizen of the Kingdom of Love and to give me a new name. My name is not Much Afraid, but rather Much Anxiety. 🙂

As I have been recovering from anorexia, my therapy team has recently deemed me well enough to begin participating in a support group. Actually two: one is a meal-therapy group where we eat as a group and therapize through the experience; the other is a simply a support group. While evaluating the days and times of these groups, I realized that my therapy would actually be increasing as I would still be seeing my dietitian and therapist as I am now, plus the groups. Not only that but the intensity is amping up… meal-therapy? I cannot imagine anything more uncomfortable! I’d rather eat a plate of Lima beans. I hate Lima beans.

Color me confused, because I am healing. Isn’t therapy supposed to become less and easier as one recovers? Not only that, but the addition of these two groups (for the next eight weeks) will strain my daily schedule as I consider them in conjunction with normal family life and kidlet-activities.

Surely, God did not mean for me to go down this path.

I took the situation back to God and was like, “What do you want me to do? Do you really want me to engage in more therapy… engage in a schedule that will/could potentially cause me more stress and potentially trigger me in my disorder? Maybe I should just do one group. Which session do you want me to go to?”

Desert

“… in all the world only one thing matters: to do the will of the One she followed and loved, no matter what it involved or cost.”

All of a sudden, startling as popping balloons inside a hushed library and clear as the sun after a brutal storm, came the words and vision of Much Afraid’s plight the day the Chief Shepherd confirmed she was to go in the opposite direction.

My heart fell into my stomach and my legs got weak underneath me: “Oh no. You are sending me in the opposite direction. Though I am recovering, you are sending me into more and more-intense therapy. There is so much work to be done.”

Now,  I must also tell you that just last week I had asked God where in my journey I was… to give me a sign or clue that showed me what part of my journey resembled Much Afraid’s. Usually I can tell, but lately I haven’t been able to. Call me crazy, if you haven’t yet already, but I believe I got my answer.

While my initial response was similar to Much Afraid’s–horrified and dismayed–I actually take comfort and find joy in four things:

1) There are really cool things that happened for Much Afraid in the desert.

2) I can hear God’s voice so clearly.

3) God is answering my prayers/whining–constantly, even though I don’t always like the answer.

4) Much Afraid makes it to the High Places, and it is as awesome as the Chief  Shepherd promises.

I find myself today on my knees, humbly laying down, yet again, my will (and understanding) to follow my Chief Shepherd in what feels like the opposite direction–into the desert of more waiting and learning and refining. As Much Afraid says at her altar in the desert, “I am thy little handmaiden, Acceptance-with-Joy.”

I will close with this: The Chief Shepherd says to Much Afraid so tenderly “Always go forward along the path of obedience as far as you know it until I intervene, even if it seems to be leading you where you fear I could never mean you to go.

So here I go, into more therapy… straining through my days for the next eight-weeks and willing to honor what comes for the glory of my Chief Shepherd.

And the Lord says, “You shall see what I will do…” (Exodus 6:1)