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Being Brazen: Leeana Tankersley Interview

Apr 7, 2016

Does it ever feel like the voice in your head is a middle school bully who takes your lunch money?

Many of us battle the voices of fear and shame on a daily basis. My friend, Leeana Tankersley, has just released an incredible book entitled Brazen, which is your permission slip to leave fear and shame behind you. I told Leeana that she is an honest, bold voice the world needs and I’m so excited this incredible conversation we recently shared over the phone. (Note: this is longer than our normal interview, but it is SO good I couldn’t bear to cut any of it!)

Meet Leeana Tankersley

Leeana Tankersley

SS: Who Is Leeana Tankersley?

LT: I live in San Diego, CA. I was born and raised here, which is rare – most people are transplants. I met my husband here at our church – he was stationed here with the Navy. (He is still active duty Navy.) We’ve been to the Middle East and back a couple times, but we always landed back in San Diego. We have boy-girl twins (Luke and Lane) – I think you (Scott) have boy-girl twins too. Ours are 7 – which is a great age. And we have a 4 year old girl, Elle.

I’m a writer, a mom and a Navy wife. I’m all about encouraging people and walking with them. Books have been companions for me when I’ve been struggling and needing an understanding voice. I’ve been there, I understand and I want to be a companion for them through my writing. I write at LeannaTankersley.com.

SS: Your website has an interesting tagline. Tell us about it.

LT: My tagline is “Always We Begin Again”. It’s a quote from St. Benedict. I’m the kind of person who likes giant writing in the sky, arrivals, and big finishes. I read the quote a lot of years ago as the twins were really little. Every day we get up, we get up and begin begin again. Things are going to go sideways and life is not going to arrive on a silver platter. And we have to begin again. God gives us the grace to and we have to give ourselves that grace too.

The Story Behind The New Book From Leeana Tankersley, Brazen

SS: This is a big week. You released your new book, Brazen, on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. What’s the big idea behind the book?

LT: The word brazen means “without shame.” I think a lot of us know what it’s like for the loudest voice in our heads to be the voices of fear and shame. We want to start a new project or a creative venture. The two loudest voices in our heads at that point are “who do you think you are?” and “how dare you?” I’ve lived under the voices a lot in my life – that’s why I’m drawn to that idea to begin again.

A few years ago, we were stationed in the Middle East for my husband’s job. We were living on this island in the Persian Gulf. And it was just beige. We had a new baby, these little twins and life was really challenging. We were in the middle of civil infighting between two local groups. It was very intense.

I was driving in my car one day. Everything was beige around me – beige sky, beige sand, beige buildings. I felt like I was beige too. It was like I had lost myself – I didn’t know who I was anymore. I talk to a lot of people who feel the same way. Because of trauma or loss or some transition in life, they say, “I just don’t know who I am anymore.”

At this stop sign, I was sitting in my car and I was staring out my window. I saw this sludgy sewer water flowing past my car. It was icky on top of beige. And then, this breeze came up and on top of this icky water, there were these hottest hot pink bougainvillea petals. They had blown off the tree and into the water. And I noticed it and without thinking, the words came tumbling out of my mouth, “How brazen.”

I don’t use that word a lot. I’m not sure where it came from. It was an idea – I want to live like that. I want to be flourishing – I want to be fuchsia, not just beige. That word led me on a journey, where God was saying – it’s time to emerge.

SS: It’s been a few years since that day on the island to launch day this week. What did you learn in the process of writing Brazen?

LT: That’s a great question! We’ve all heard the story of The Parable of the Talents. Many of us have heard it many times. I was in church one day and sensed God was tapping me on the shoulder. I sensed Him saying, read this in the Message translation.

In that story, the master gives the 3 servants money and he says, “I want you to keep my business going while I’m gone.” And the first servant doubles his money and the second servant doubles his money. In The Message, it said, “the third servant found a good hiding place and carefully buried what the master had given him because he did not want to disappoint the master.” What I’ve learned is that God has put something in our hands – big or small.

Our natural reaction sometimes is to listen to the voices of fear and shame, and find a really good hiding place and bury it out of fear. God’s invitation to us is the same one He gave to Adam and Eve in the garden – where are you? I’m tempted to bury it, shrink back, apologize and be small. Yet, God says “bring all of you into the light.” I’ve learned it’s okay to be brazen.

Leeana Tankersley on Fear

SS: What fears did you face as you wrote this book and started preparing to share it with us?

LT: One of my values as a writer (and a human) is to be vulnerable. I share very personal stories in this book. I share very vulnerably on my blog. I talk about my internal world a lot. Not just how life looks but how life feels. That’s the only way I know how to write and relate to the world. God has wired me that way to walk with people. What happens, though, is when you put that personal writing into the world. And you’re trusting they’ll get it. It’s always a fear as I launch work in the world that people will not get it. I am continuously overcoming fear.

As I said earlier, there’s a refrain in my head – “who do you think you are? how dare you?!” I think a lot of people feel that way. “I think God has called me to do something, but who am I?” We’re like Moses – “take my brother, I’m not equipped.” And God is tapping us on the shoulder, He doesn’t want us to hide anymore. I have to trust that what He has put in my hands, He has equipped me to do. It’s trusting, vulnerable work.

I write in Brazen about my habit of being apologetic for myself. I’m standing at the grocery store looking at grapefruit. Someone comes and stands next to me, I say, “oh I’m sorry.” Or if I’m at the airport and my bag comes near someone, I start apologizing. I started noticing I was apologizing for myself. I’ve been leaning into my fear that I’m in the way or too much or needing to apologize for who I am. I’m disciplining myself to stop apologizing and embrace my personhood instead.

SS: What did you discover in writing Brazen that you didn’t know when you first started? What did you learn yourself in the process?

LT: I learned I really do believe God wants us to live without fear and shame being the loudest voices in our ears. I learned that as much as I’ve learned to confront the voices in my life, they are still alive and well, that I still live under them more than I need to. God is asking us to get up every day to confront the voices in our heads. I call them “soul bullies” – they’re bullying the truth of who we are in God’s eyes. I learned I am a victim of fear and shame, as much as I’ve worked not to be.

I wrote about this early on in the book, but I’m really making progress with believing it. Part of the Christian message I hear at times is the most essential thing about us is our sin – that we’re flawed. I am learning and living into the idea that this is actually false. The most essential thing about us is that we are created, created in God’s image, that there is God in us. If I’m living each day out of the idea that I’m flawed and I’m living primarily out of my issues, I go about things very differently than if I believe that God created me and called me good. So, how do I return to that and live out of that? How can I walk with God in that place where God put His hands in the wet concrete of my soul and said, “this is good”? It’s not just the new forging ahead but it’s also returning to what’s always been there.

Leeana Tankersley and Her Dream for Brazen

SS: When you’re standing there at a store, and you know someone is going to buy your book, what is one thing you’re hoping they’ll do because of reading it?

LT: First of all, my dream and prayer is that they would feel seen. I think a ton of us go through life feeling isolated and we think we’re the only ones. My goal as a writer is to have people say, “Did she look through my window? Did she read my journal?” That’s the biggest compliment. We all need to be witnessed.

What I hope someone will do is to take a brave step towards what they’re avoiding in their life. Maybe there’s a creative endeavor that God’s been prompting them. Maybe they’ve been thinking of seeing a counselor. Maybe they need to go have a conversation with someone whose been bullying them for years. I want them to step into their brazenness. Not in a boisterous, obnoxious or juvenile way. We’re talking about in a discerning, Spirit-led way, to step into the invitation that’s been sitting in front of them.

SS: Last question. I want to imagine you’re sitting down with one of my readers like you would sit down with one of your friends in San Diego. You’re on your back porch having a heart-to-heart talk. They know the step they should take, but they feel scared. What would you say to them?

LT: First of all, I would say I believe in you. Because we don’t believe in ourselves. I believe God is with you in that and you’re strong and intuitive and wise. You need to trust that. We have so many people who tell us we cannot trust what we see or feel. I tell my friends the exact opposite. I would say, “let’s talk about what the soul bullies are saying in your head. Let’s identify what the resistance is saying.” We thought all along it was the the voice of God or truth. As we see the voices telling us we’re not smart enough or good enough, that’s a mistake. It’s never the voice of God. God is never condemning. He’s convicting but never condemning. My friends and I talk about that a lot. Let’s talk about the dialogue and say, “is that something God would say to His daughter or son? Let’s talk about what He would say and move out from there.”

Leeana’s Next Brazen Step

SS: Okay, I lied. I have one more question. You may get mad at me for asking since you’re in the middle of promoting this book. But your heart has been stirred as you’ve written this book. What’s your next brazen step?

LT: That’s so good! My next brazen step is to keep stepping into this calling as a writer. I’ve been writing for a decade and I’ve been kind of quietly doing that in my corner of the world. I’ve been somewhat reluctant to put myself out there more and show up in a brazen way in this calling. It’s so funny – I wrote this book about emerging, stepping out and being you – and I feel like this is the area where God is calling me. What’s next is to keep writing, of course, but do so in way with no shame about that with the world.

Can you tell why I’m such a big fan of Leeana?! She’s incredible. You can get a copy of her book, Brazen, at leeanatankersley.com/brazen. It’s available in bookstores everywhere. Please grab your copy soon and share it with someone who needs the permission to be brazen. You can read more from Leeana here and you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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